The Swon Brothers discuss debut album, Carrie Underwood & Lady Antebellum collaboration: Exclusive

The Swon Brothers

The Swon Brothers offer up their best summer-y (and romantic) anthem with their debut single "Later On," a sweeping pop-rocker that speaks to radio's target demo. As the lead-in to their highly-anticipated post-Voice debut record, Colton and Zach are certainly making their mark, as the song itself sits just outside the Top 20 at both Billboard (Country Airplay) and Mediabase (Country Aircheck).

"It’s unreal man. Golly. We’re just two blessed, very grateful guys," Colton shares with NashvilleGab, exclusively of their success so far. "It couldn’t get any better. We’re just enjoying it, man, just trying to take time to soak it in. Everybody tells us, ‘just take time to breathe and think about what’s going on.’"

"Wait…we have a single out?" Zach quips, with his signature grin and chuckle, of the song, which was co-written by Ryan Hurd, Joey Hyde and Justin Wilson. He then explains why they landed on an outside cut as their first radio single. "We got a lot of songs pitched to us. When you sign a record deal, everyone wants you to sing their songs. Originally, we had planned to write some for the album. We still have a song on there, but the thing is, we know that there’s just great songwriters in Nashville, better than us. We wanted the album to be the best it can be. There’s some hit songs out there that we just gravitated toward."

He adds, "When we got down to the nitty gritty, and started eliminating some that we had on hold. We picked the best of the best. Best song wins and songs that really stuck in our heads are the ones we kept."

Colton admits that fans had a huge hand in deciding the first single. "We really didn’t know that that was going to be the first single. We got invited back to do a song on ‘The Voice,’ and we did that song because we knew we were cutting it. We got a great response from it," he recounts. "People were like, ‘this has got to be your first single.’ The listeners kind of helped pick the single. It was pretty unique and cool to me."

But what was it about the song that won them over? Colton weighs in: "It was the harmony-driven lines. That’s what our sound is. We didn’t know exactly how great it was for us until we started singing it. We were like, ‘man, this fits us.’ We just couldn’t get it out of our head. It puts you in a good mood, and it’s kind of an addictive song to listen to. I didn’t write it, so I can say that," he laughs.

The Swon Brothers Later On Single Cover Art

With signing with Arista Nashville (home to Carrie Underwood), they confess that they are feeling the pressure. "We took a different approach than the guys who have been writing a lot longer than us," Zach says. "They save up all this great material for their first record. That’s where that expression ['you have your entire life to record your first album'] comes from. They put together all this awesome songs and writing their whole life. Then, they don’t have another lifetime to write for the second one."

"For us, it’s all a learning experience. We’ve never written with anyone else besides ourselves before this year. We’re getting into co-writing," he notes of the songwriting process, revealing a few of their collaborators. "In fact, one of the songs we wrote on the record, we wrote with Charles [Kelley] and Dave [Haywood] of Lady Antebellum. That’s a great stepping stone for us. No matter if we wrote it or someone else wrote it, I want to pick the songs that are going to make the best project."

"It comes down to listeners. It’s about them, not your ego or what songs you did or did not write. We learned that awhile back, just being around people and other artists that have succeed," Colton asserts.

On working with Lady Antebellum, Zach details the experience: "Dave and Charles were awesome. It’s really funny, I met Charles at an Eagles concert buying a T-shirt at Bridgestone Arena. He was just the nicest dude. He was like, ‘hey man, let’s get together and write.’ I thought he was just being nice. We exchanged info, and I got a text from him. Next thing I know, we’re at Dave Haywood’s house and up in his little studio. We wrote a really cool song that we love doing live. The fans really like it. Those guys have so much experience and so much professional under their belt, that makes us better writers. We might get to a point where we write the whole record, but not until we learn from these guys that have done it for years."

Being a sibling duo, it's certainly harder to balance their professional and family life. "We realize now that it’s a business. It’s a corporation that we’re running, and we’re doing the best we can together," Colton says. "We bump heads, argue here and there and have the brother fights. We’ve always had a grasp on if it gets in the way of being brothers, then you don’t need to be doing it. That’s when we need to hang it up. That’s the most important thing in life: family. You just have to take time to be brothers and laugh and have a good time."

Zach jokes, "This is gonna sound cheesy, but we don’t really fight a lot. We get along pretty well. The biggest thing we fight over is I like to spend money, and he doesn’t spend any. That’s just different personalities. We found a way to regulate that, and we’re good to go."

And creatively speaking, Zach and Colton's viewpoint usually lines up perfectly, but there are those instances where they have a vastly different idea of what they should be doing. "Sometimes I hear stuff differently, and sometimes he hears it differently. The big thing is he thinks he’s always right," Colton smirks.

"Well, I am always right," Zach champions.

Of course, with their new-found fame, dating has become even tougher. Zach exclaims that he certainly has better luck finding love, "That’d be me, for sure. I mean, look at us!"

In all seriousness, he notes that "honestly, we don’t have time right now. Neither one of us are thinking about that."

Colton then reveals an interesting tidbit about their romantic life: "Not a lot of people know this, but we were in serious relationships before everything happened. I was with a girl for six years. Then, I got real busy and didn’t have the time. It’s hard to keep a lady happy from a thousand miles away. It’s going to take a special girl to want to date a musician."

Possessing good looks and syrupy charm, it isn't any wonder the duo were recently featured in People Country, in a spotlight of "Country's Sexiest Men." Check out the behind-the-scenes photo shoot here.

The Swon Brothers In People

Previously, both singers pursued various opportunities on their own, but ultimately, they settled on forming this off-beat duo. "I don’t think we’re talented enough separately. We were just born into it," Zach says of their partnership. "We’ve always played together. There’s just something about being brothers and the harmonies and the fact that he knows what I’m going to do onstage before I do it…and vice versa. It’s what we need to do. I wouldn’t want to do this without him. I’m very glad I could teach him enough to do this together."

Colton adds, "Really though, if I was on the road all this time by myself–even with the band members, you have a good hang, but it would be a lot to take on by yourself. I applaud these solo artists. I don’t know how they do it. I’m glad we have each other during this whole thing."

With their ever-growing fan base (the Swonterage), The Swon Brothers have even developed their own secret language, popularly known as Swonguage. "It kind of snowballed," Colton explains at how it came to be. "Once we said it on ‘The Voice,’ it went on from there. Blake [Shelton] started with his swining and you could say you swon it all. Then we just started getting tweets with different words. There’s some funny ones."

With duos taking the format by storm (Florida Georgia Line, Thompson Square, Dan + Shay, Love & Theft), Zach and Colton find that they truly standout from the pack. "Our harmonies–I wouldn’t say they’re tighter–but they blend the way they’re supposed to," Zach says.

"Some people can do it naturally, too, but there’s just something about family harmony. It’s just blood harmony that you can’t replace. You know it when you hear it. I hope that’s a good thing," Colton relates.

Upon signing with Arista last fall, they find it a bit of a small-world-syndrome, especially since longtime friend Underwood is also under the same umbrella. "Believe it or not, she’s always been pretty much the same person. She’s great, what a supporter. It’s kind of intimidating at first to talk to her about the business, because she’s such a superstar. She’s been there for us; she’s been in our corner," Zach praises. "She’s been really awesome. What’s crazy is we’ve probably seen her more now than we did back then. The fact that we ended up on the same label is one of those small world situations. We’re on the same label, and we have the same producer. It wasn’t planned like that. It just sort of happened. From the music side but also a s friend, she’s taken us to a hockey game or two. She’s been really cool to hang out with her and get to know her more."

Could an Underwood collaboration find its way onto their debut record? "I don’t know, man…," Colton says, sheepishly. Zach also dodges the question, laughing, "Next question."

On their debut record, expected later this fall, they work for the first time with a producer–enlisting the talents of long-time Underwood collaborator, Mark Bright. "This is our first time to work with a producer. We’ve always done our stuff ourselves at home or an independent level," Colton says. "Working with him was exactly what we needed to get our personalities across and our voices across the right way on record."

Of course, "we met with a lot of producers, but he was the one that didn’t play pokerface. He was like, ‘pick me. I want to do this record.’ What’s really cool is that he doesn’t have to do this: he’s letting us co-produce. That meant a lot to us because we have to live with these songs on the record for the rest of our lives. If we do it, we want to make sure it has our stamp on it, instead of someone coming in doing it. Mark has been open to song selections to hearing parts here and there."

"What a great guy to work with. I can’t imagine working with anyone else," he concludes, also teasing several other "surprises" on the album.

It's not lost on the brothers that country music is as diverse as ever, something Colton says is a "great thing" for the format. "everyone’s different (listeners)," he says. "They deserve what they want to hear, when they want to hear it. Whether it’s classic country or whatever, I’m not one to label something. It is what it is. If it gets played on country stations, great! People know what they like to listen to. I think it’s great. As artists, it’s our job to connect with everyone and leave no one behind. It should hit everyone at some time."

From a very young age, the two singers were involved with their parents' gospel band, an experience that taught them a lot about musicianship and performing. "It was definitely playing instruments. I started playing drums when I was seven years old. They always had great musicians in their band. I never took lessons on guitar or piano. Just being able to sit behind these guys and watch what they were doing, that’s how I learned," Zach recalls. "I picked their brain. I’m sure I got on their nerves. I’ve always considered myself a musician before a singer. I’m just now getting to really spread my wings. Colton has always been the performer and singer out front."

Colton adds, "Traveling to all these churches, we were grounded and rooted in our faith. We learned a lot of life, too."

Don't forget to grab a copy of "Later On" on iTunes now!

 

Enjoy this interview? Feel free to email me to keep the conversation going!

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