Now located in Louisville, he is the bass player in a band The Ladybirds, works at sonaBLAST! Records and is one of the founders of the Louisville Music Awards.
The son of Tammy Kratzer and Mike Swain, he grew up in Syracuse, graduated from Wawasee High School and headed south to Lexington, Ky., for training in audio technology. Swain studied piano and played the alto sax in the Wawasee Middle School Band. He noted, “My Mom encouraged me. MTV and I were born at the same time.”
Leaning to play the guitar, he started performing in a band while in high school and has been at it since. “I’ve been in bands more than half my life,” he explained. He now plays bass guitar because no one else wanted to. He said, “It’s amazing how the piano translates to other instruments and writing songs.”
According to sources, the Louisville music scene is definitely happening and from all accounts Swain is in the thick of it. He explained, “We have so much great music here, so many diverse and distinct talents. People are so passionate about it.” He cited the city’s record stores as the incubator.
The band The Ladybirds includes Swain’s wife Sarah Teeple on vocals; Max Balliet, Anthony Fossaluzza and Brett Holscla. The group focuses on rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues and rockabilly. The band has played a couple of times at the Huntington Street Bar & Grill, Syracuse, and has quite the local following.
A high spot is that The Ladybirds have been backing up Wanda Jackson, the queen of rockabilly. Several shows were performed with her in the spring and summer and more are scheduled soon.
The Ladybirds just released a new track called “Belle 100: Steamboat Songs,” to commemorate the Belle of Louisville 100th birthday and to coincide with the Centennial Festival of Riverboats. For the uninitiated, Belle is a sternwheel paddle boat plying the waters of the Ohio River.
Other outlets for his musicality include a Pogues cover band, The Fauxgues, that plays once or twice a year. Sarah and he have also played with The Junk Yard Dogs and hope to do more.
Asked the age old question of songwriter-musicians, do the lyrics or music come first, Swain answered, “I’m a lyric writer first, sometimes I have a chorus and go from there.”
He is one of the three people who came up with the idea for the Louisville Music Awards. His employer Gill Holland, Kathy Hinkebein, LMA co-producer, and Swain were the trio originating and putting it together. The second edition of the awards was held in September.
Favorite bands on Swain’s list right now include The Delphines from Milwaukee, The Real Kids and The Reigning Sound. In his down time he listens to classical and world music.
What else does he like to do? “I’m kind of a history person. I love ancient Egypt, ancient art, art history, artists, musicians.”