not many who listen to raised by swans know this, but i’ve only ever written my songs alone – every part for every instrument, every word, every beat, every note and chord and sound. from Codes and Secret Longing to No Ghostless Place to ‘sightings’ to Öxnadalur, everything you hear when you listen to those recordings – everything, spanning 17 years now, and 41 released songs thus far – is only mine. not because raised by swans is or ever was a band with one person dominating the songwriting and decision-making, but because raised by swans is and always has been a solo artist, as both lonely and pompous as that term somehow sounds all at once. because raised by swans is me.
as outside of the internet as i live my life, i’m still haunted by the pronoun choices i made in the midst of a couple of manic interviews many years ago, and a few early bios as well, about raised by swans – things i said out of feeling not much love or appreciation for myself, and a sort of crazed, ultra-gratitude towards the people who accompanied me during live shows back then, and here and there on my first two albums, playing parts they’d learned from recordings i’d made. i deeply appreciate everyone who plays with me onstage, always have, and andy continues to be a dear friend and vital partner in terms of helping me get what’s in my brain on tape. but this is about my songs, and the fact that before ‘sightings’ in 2013, and a post i wrote to accompany its release, i didn’t ever take proper credit for all i’d done, for how much i’d fucking bled for every moment of every song, the agonies and ecstasies and thousands of hours of hard work and sleepless nights. being as private and hidden away as possible has always tended to be my default setting.
and now, those errors i made feel immoveable and eternal, as if they’re fixed to the ether simply by virtue of how long they’ve been there, and can therefore only be true. in the rare instance that i’m directed through a notification to a song of mine on a seemingly disowned youtube channel that confidently defines raised by swans as an “indie band”, or as a “they” and not a “he”, when each of my albums has nearly killed me to create over years of effort and sacrifice and constant obsession, i feel a kind of helpless sorrow, shocking in its intensity. this is usually followed by a ferocious, mother bear-like protective instinct, that probably means something is very wrong with me. but i’d rather people think i’m deranged or falling apart than have the truth held under any longer by too much humility or the weight of too many years. if i disappear forever, all of sudden, all i want is to have my songs’ births curled up tightly against my chest, where they belong.
of course i know and hold the truth already in my heart, and of course that should be all that matters, and when i’m climbing mountains in Iceland, or pushing my face into Number Six’s fur, it is. but raised by swans is also what tethers me to the rest of the world, earns me a warm little hollowed out spot in the universe where i feel like i’ve truly given everything i have, contributed something that’s perhaps even valuable and beautiful and brave in its way. it feels like it’s why i’m here. it’s certainly what’s keeping me alive.
a sentimental sort of night provoked this. last night i was working on my upcoming album, and as i was recording a raw version of one of the new songs, i realized with a sudden surge of affection that the entirety of the guitar and drum parts – everything you hear on all three albums and ‘sightings’ – was originally written and recorded using only two cheap and decidedly unassuming instruments: a dented Japanese telecaster with three holes drilled into its body, and an early 90’s drum machine that’s somehow survived hot candle wax, two minor floods, and so many spilled drinks that i’m surprised it hasn’t died from alcohol poisoning. sitting there on the floor, bare feet tangled up in cords for the billionth time with these lovely, flawed things that have been with me from the start, my heart went out to them, and to all the years i have spent bent over them, ears ringing, heart racing or breaking or both. and i felt the weight and lightness of all those thousands and thousands of hours at once, and broke down. and decided i needed to write this.
as time goes by, the more i realize that i might never get to say some of the things i wish i could about all i’ve put into raised by swans over the years. about what it is, and was, and will always be. not that i want to disclose too much; i just want to feel that the truth is out there. so maybe this one post is enough. i’ve given my whole life to music. and an extension of that commitment and its accompanying sense of utter, glorious freedom, and of all that music has given me in return, is the overwhelming love i feel for these old, wrecked instruments of mine. and in a shy, but particularly beautiful way (to me at least, and hopefully to you as well), this also extends into the love i feel for all of you. it’s because this is all so very, very personal to me that i write such intimate and emotional posts now and again, in spite of being such a private and solitary creature the majority of the time. it’s why your letters and comments and emails so often move me to tears, and why they are among the most precious gifts i’ve ever received. maybe knowing what raised by swans is makes it easier to understand just how much all of this means to me.
thank you for all of your support and love over the years.