I love discovering new music. Not through seeing some new band performing on The Today Show or hearing some friends talking about how much they love one particular artist, but rather through exploring music via streaming. I know there’s lots of love for Spotify, but I’m forever devoted to Apple ever since they introduced that revolutionary thing called an iPod. Apple Music is a place where I can do deep dives late at night and discover new artists.
This was how I came across JOHNNYSWIM.
In the summer of 2014, I was finishing the third book in my teen series The Books of Marvella entitled Awe. Since that YA series has a love story involved, I did what I always do—let music inspire and inform the tale. So I explored Apple Music. Not the playlists selected by someone else. No way. I found albums that looked interesting, that were in selected genres, that were related to other bands I liked. This is how I found beloved acts like London Grammar, Phantogram, SOHN, and yes, JOHNNYSWIM. (All caps baby.)
I fell in love with JOHNNYSWIM the first song I heard. It was probably the song I chose to use as part of a playlist for Awe: “Closer” off their 2014 album, Diamonds. It’s an emotional ballad where Amanda Sudano seduces you with her raw passion singeing her voice and her lyrics. But then I discovered “You and I” where Abner Ramirez leads with his soulful sound and blends perfectly in with Amanda. And then I found “Don’t Let It Get You Down” and it was suddenly a feeling of “Oh ooh oh ooh oh ooh oh, Oh ooh oh ooh oh ooh oh.” Like so many people, I couldn’t believe these two were husband and wife. What?? Then I saw pics of them and noticed that they looked like models out of a fashion magazine. They’re too good to be true!!
Little did I know how accurate that statement would be.
Lollapalooza 2014 in Chicago. The place where 100 bands come for 3 days and nights and perform in front of thousands of sweaty concert goers in sweltering July heat. One band I absolutely had to go see was JOHNNYSWIM. They were performing on Friday afternoon, so I found their stage in the sanctuary of a wooded section of Grant Park. I arrived early enough to be close to the stage. Amanda and Abner blew me away. The energy and excitement in the pair made me fall in love with them. Out of all the bands I saw that weekend, they were my favorite.
Fast forward to November 2019. An agent sent me an email with the following question: “We’ve been working on a major trade book with the band JOHNNYSWIM in recent months. Have you heard of them?” I sent the agent a video of the band I’d taken at Lollapalooza. Of course I’d heard of them. I LOVED them! Working with them would be an incredible opportunity and an absolute thrill.
That opportunity and thrill ended up coming true. I was able to meet Amanda and Abner and help them with their book, Home Sweet Road. Being the true artists that they are, they wrote every word of the book. I helped with the shaping and organization and structure. Getting to know them didn’t feel like work. It felt like a fan who had won the opportunity to hang with JOHNNYSWIM.
I still feel like that.
One of the best moments during the process of working on the book was when they texted me a pic they had taken at that Lollapalooza show. It was a selfie they took at that show with the audience in the background. They joked by saying “Our first picture together,” that I was somewhere in that crowd. It took me 3 seconds to find myself.
As the pic shows, I was definitely having a great time and loving every second of this show.
Home Sweet Road just came out. Check it out. Buy a copy. And listen to their music. They are an incredible band. They are authentic and emotional and utterly talented. In the process of helping them write their book, they became friends and kindred spirits. I never would have imagined texting Abner in the middle of night about shows dealing with time travel, but then again I never would have dreamed of working with them in the first place.