When a country artist wants to give back to their community what can they do? According to Colton Swon of The Swon Brothers, they offer what they have – music. The Swon Brothers are true “Okies from Muskogee” and have returned four years in a row to their hometown of Muskogee, OK to play a benefit concert supporting the local chapter of The Salvation Army. “It’s just so necessary for the community,” said Colton Swon when I asked him why they chose to get involved with The Salvation Army. The first one they did was a small acoustic concert with just the two brothers, and as their show and popularity have grown, so has the audience and the opportunity to give back.
You could say I’m kind of an über fan of The Swon Brothers. I have seen them play seven times in the last year, and each time I see them they get better and better. This show was no exception. They played their heart out and made their hometown proud by putting on a great show. But this one had some new things I hadn’t seen from them and some really special surprises too.
The Swon Brothers opened the show with a new song called “Throwback” and throughout the night they played several more new songs they have written including “Just Another Girl,” “Killin’ Me” and “Nobody.” They released an acoustic video of “Nobody” a couple weeks ago on their Facebook page and it has had over 70,000 views to date. I’ll admit I’m probably responsible for at least 50 of those views. It’s that good! I had the chance to sit down and talk with them after the show about their new album and they said they hope to have a release date for it early next year. That makes me very happy to hear. The new songs are fantastic and I have high hopes for the rest of the album.
One of the best surprises of the evening came when Jermaine Mondaine joined the brothers on stage to play the saxophone on “Nobody” and the Bill Withers classic “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Zach and Colton have known Mondaine since they were teenagers, when they met at a singing competition in Muskogee. Mondaine told me Colton sang “When a Man Loves a Woman” at 12 years old and he was blown away. He introduced himself to the brothers and they have played together ever since. Let me tell you, Mondaine can play the heck out of that saxophone. During “Ain’t No Sunshine” he had the whole crowd on their feet as he and the whole band jammed together. Normally, the ending to this song is Zach’s time to shine with his incredible voice but Mondaine battled him for that ending. “I’m not getting into this with you,” Zach said. Mondaine retaliated with a saxophone rebuttal and he conceded with “you can have it.” Mondaine then proceeded to take us to church with his sax. It was incredible!
Since they are brothers, of course there is a built-in sibling rivalry. The Swons have taken this to a new level. They have made shirts that say #teamzach or #teamcolton. One fun moment of the show came when Colton called a girl up to the stage after she yelled “I love you Colton!” He proceeded to give her a #teamcolton shirt and encouraged everyone else to go buy one of his so he could beat his brother in their friendly competition. Zach typically refers to Colton as “the boy” and to himself as “the man” so he asked everyone in the audience to yell if they were 15 or under. Since there were a lot of young girls in the crowd the place went nuts. Zach then said “yeah, you’re probably going to win” and the whole crowd laughed. I love to see the banter between the two of them. It’s one of the great things that they do in their shows that make it more personal. I am always looking for that something extra in a concert that makes me smile, laugh, or cry, but most of all makes me want to go home and say “this happened at the show tonight.” These boys do that every time.
In addition to their own songs, The Swon Brothers played several covers including The Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane” and Merle Haggard’s “Workin’ Man Blues”– which they used to introduce their hard-working band members. Colton took over lead vocals during Keith Urban’s “Somebody Like You” and The Doobie Brothers’ “Listen to the Music.” They paid tribute to their days on The Voice by singing Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” while Jeff Coleman impressed on the lap steel guitar. They also did a pop medley where keyboardist and guitar player Seth Costner had the crowd dancing to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” while Zach took a turn on the drums. Zach then followed that with Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me” and Colton showed his self-proclaimed “old soul” with The Temptations’ “My Girl.”
For the encore they acknowledged that they are there for The Salvation Army and how great of an organization it is to help people get back up when they are knocked down. In tribute they did an acoustic rendition of Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” that segued into their smash hit “Later On.” The crowd rushed the stage and sang and danced along.
The range of music The Swon Brothers play is astounding to me. They can go from honoring the members of the military with the heartfelt country ballad “Pray for You” to rocking it out with some great classic rock songs that show off Zach’s incredible guitar skills. Their harmonies are spot on and the crowd interaction and charisma they have on stage keeps you entertained. They just announced they are going on tour with fellow Okie and friend Carrie Underwood in 2016. I encourage everyone who plans to go see that show to not be late. The Swon Brothers are one opening act you do not want to miss.