To The Moon and Back with Patrick Sweany

“To the moon and back,” Patrick likes to say when talking about touring. It’s the distance he’s spent on the road since he’s been playing shows regionally in Northeast Ohio, and he’s done it twice. To put that into perspective, it’s over one million miles to date.

Patrick was helping out with the family golf course growing up in Massillon, one of those Ohio blue-collar courses. During this time Pat filled every spare moment playing guitar. He learned his dad’s fingerpickin’ style and brought his own influences into the mix, of which there are MANY. He blames his short attention span for not sticking to any one style. That’s obvious in his recordings and being at his live show is almost like seeing a case study on American music.

Of course it was an honor to be invited into Patrick’s childhood home where he’s no doubt practiced guitar a thousand times before. We cut an interview in his dad’s guitar room where Pat delves into stories of some of his favorite musical collaborators and influences, from Northeast Ohio and beyond. It’s clear he’s as much of a music fan as he is a music maker.

Pat was a mostly local musician in the Akron and Kent areas. He played a weekly residency at Zephyr Pub in Kent for ten years. He saw the Zephyr transition from restaurant to bar, as his live show would transition from blues covers to originals. During this time he reached out to everyone involved in playing blues guitar in the Kent and Akron areas. It was a supportive scene that brought Sweany a loyal crowd.

Things changed when Patrick’s song “Them Shoes” was added to The Black Keys Pandora station, and even more recently to the Queens of the Stone Age and Wolfmother Pandora stations. The more people listen to the song in its entirety, the more it’s finding its way onto other artist’s stations. Patrick calls it the “Pandora Phenomenon” and it’s certainly brought his career to a whole other level. The exposure brought Patrick from being a predominantly local musician to selling exponentially more song downloads and tickets to shows all over the country. It’s a solid example of one of the positives that controversial radio streaming services can offer.

Patrick is currently working on a new album with producer Joe McMahan at Wow and Flutter Recording Studio in East Nashville, where Patrick also recorded Close to the Floor and That Old Southern Drag. Joe will also play steel guitar on the new album. Ron Eoff will play bass, Bryan Owings will play drums.

Above is a video with some highlights from our conversation this past winter. One of the most interesting things to talk about with musicians from this area is why this music is such a mainstay in Northeast Ohio. As Patrick points out, the industry that once thrived in Ohio attracted workers from southern states. They brought with them blues, jazz, and ragtime. That music was popularized in the region in part to local radio and a widespread busking community. An emphasis on a steady backbeat drove musicians who worked repetitious factory jobs, and when this industry left the blues got that much more real for the rust belt cities of the north. Add brutal winters to the mix and folks go into the basement and play all this influential music, often with a rock and roll credo that goes with youth culture. You get this sped up jump blues stuff coming from unexpected rust belt cities. That’s an interesting phenomena in music and American culture that is perhaps totally underappreciated and often misunderstood as something inauthentic. But this isn’t a case of something old being new again. This is the evolution of traditional American music. These are musicians going to the moon and back only to find the same absolute truth that they left home with; that authenticity is the way to making art that resonates with people, not an obsession with being the latest version of original. If your authenticity happens to be original, that’s excellent. And if it’s something a bunch of dead folks played generations before you, that’s excellent too. That’s American music. That’s the story of people playing what’s real to them.