Wes Swing began playing violin at the age of four. By the age of six, he was performing in front of audiences. He grew up to be a classically trained cellist and accomplished composer, working for years as a professional musician, creating arrangements for NPR shows and modern dance companies. Music had always been the driving force of his life.
It was a period when the music completely left him, however, that inspired the songs on his new album ‘And the Heart,’ out June 2.
Several years ago, Swing left his home in Virginia for a new life San Francisco, where he began to feel the creative burnout set in. When he suffered a wrist injury that left him unable to play the cello for weeks, he was forced to stop performing entirely. For the first time, Swing found himself without purpose in life.
“I started to struggle with depression, and I decided that I was going to quit music,” he recalls. Over time, his depression grew more severe, and soon became debilitating. “Months went by when getting out of bed was difficult, and I was completely overwhelmed with sadness throughout the day.”
“I realized that so much of my identity was tied to myself as a musician,” he says. “I had been performing for people since I was a kid, and that was where I found my own self value, in the feedback of others.”
Looking for ways to reconnect with the outside world, he sought out treatment for depression. He also immersed himself in the community around him in San Francisco, and forced himself to try new things. He took long walks around town, started writing a book of short stories, studied french, and learned how to dance – everything from ballet lessons to Beyonce choreography to “Sexitude” classes in The Castro.
“It took a while, but I slowly started to feel normal again,” he says. “I started to look around me and see other people, noticed the unique qualities of buildings and plants, and felt my body in space.”
“And all of a sudden, the songs just started to come out again, dark and light in balance,” he says. “I realized that my thinking brain is my biggest enemy in life. I have to get beyond thought, and let music come from wherever it comes, at its own pace.”
The revelatory nature of Swing’s journey shines through on the album. Dark, foggy soundscapes and subdued cello melodies slowly focus into moments of clarity, overtaken by a symphony of vocal harmonies, strings, synths and pounding beats, before receding back into an instrumental dreamworld.
“I hope that the music can create an introspective space that allows folks to rest and connect to themselves and their bodies,” Swing explains. “I hope it can bring people some comfort, while still acknowledging the dark parts of life.”
‘And the Heart’ was recorded in Berkeley, CA, Austin, TX, and Charlottesville, VA, and produced by Paul Curreri. Devon Sproule provides backing vocals.