Oklahoma Magazine met with them at The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in Muskogee. Zach was immediately drawn to the black baby grand piano on the dimly-lit stage and began filling the air of the old building with music. Surrounded by the massive portraits of former inductees – many of them, in a way, mentors – he was soon joined in perfect harmony by brother Colton on some spur-of-the-moment classics from a variety of genres. It was magic, really, and genuine. The Swon Brothers were home, and it showed.
We were treated to a private concert – complete with plenty of comic relief.
“We’ve been chasing this dream our whole life. We started making music as soon as we started making noise,” says Colton. “I’m serious – we were rockin’ in the womb, pretty much!”
“We really don’t have womb for jokes like that in this interview,” Zach, the older and seemingly quieter of the two, says.
The brothers started performing as children. Colton mentions that since “day one” they were raised on a tour bus as they traveled with their parents, Kelly and Tammy Swon, and the southern gospel group Exodus. By the time Zach Swon was 9 or 10 years old, he was playing drums for the band.
In 2000, when they were 12 and 15 years old, they began venturing out in venues on their own as The Swon Brothers.
“We never really had a backup plan,” Zach says. “We didn’t know to what extent we wanted to do this, but since we were little this was what we wanted to do. And, luckily, we get to do it as brothers – and, hopefully, not kill each other.”
[pullquote]Our lives have definitely changed – I don’t know if I would say overnight because we’ve been doing this since we were little kids,” Zach says. “To most people it looks like overnight, but, you know, I think it changed us in other people’s eyes more than in our own.”[/pullquote]When Oklahoma Magazine first interviewed the brothers in 2011, they were hanging on tight to that childhood dream and were in the process of mixing a live album, recorded at the historic Roxy Theater in Muskogee. They were also busy writing for a new studio album in Nashville.
They had previously released an independent CD, Another Day, in January 2009.
The singing, songwriting duo can’t help but lean towards a country genre but say they will never limit themselves to any one category.
“We draw inspiration from a lot of music,” Zach says. “I know it’s kind of a cliché answer but growing up we listened to southern gospel, we listened to ’70s rock a lot – I mean our favorite band is the Eagles.”
The list of greats went on with Colton chiming in: Michael Jackson, George Jones, Ray Charles, Merle Haggard, Earth Wind and Fire.
“You name it, we’ve done it. But I think that’s kind of cool. It gives us a wide variety. Our dad told us when we were first starting out, ‘The way you please a crowd is you do something that everyone is going to like – at some point,’” Zach says with a laugh.
To the worldwide audience, who met the brothers for the first time in April 2013 via their televised audition for NBC’s The Voice, it appeared as if these young lives were changing overnight. The Swon Brothers performed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “American Girl,” turning the chairs of judges Usher, Blake Shelton and Shakira. Not surprisingly, they chose Blake Shelton as their coach and that, combined with their talent and America’s vote, eventually led them to the finale and third place in the competition.
One of the many highlights of the season was when the brothers chose to sing Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road” as a tribute to victims of the May 2013 tornado in Moore.
“Our lives have definitely changed – I don’t know if I would say overnight because we’ve been doing this since we were little kids,” Zach says. “To most people it looks like overnight, but, you know, I think it changed us in other people’s eyes more than in our own.”
“Our experience on The Voice was amazing,” Colton says. “We got to work with fellow Okie Blake Shelton and had a blast. It was like working with a big brother, really. I mean, the first thing that he said to my brother [Zach] was ‘Your brother Colton has one of those faces that you just want to punch!’”
“I said ‘I agree, and we’re going to be great friends,’” Zach chimes in.
Shelton still mentors the brothers and gives them advice. “He lets you spread your wings and fly and figure out stuff for yourself at the same time. But he’s always been in our corner and he’s always a text or a phone call away. He’s treated us like family,” says Colton with a genuine sense of gratitude.
“The show as a whole, though – I mean, what an experience,” Colton says. “Kind of like a boot camp for what we’re doing now as a career. And I can’t say anything bad about anyone involved in that production. They really want to see people succeed – it was a big game changer for us.”
Soon after appearing on The Voice, The Swon Brothers signed a recording contract with Arista Nashville and, under producer Mark Bright, released their self-titled album that included their debut Top 15 single “Later On.”
In October 2015, the brothers parted ways with Arista as a result of the company’s restructuring.
Now, there’s the recently released Timeless. Not only did the duo write every song on Timeless, but they also played most of the instruments on the recording. They also coproduced the tracks themselves with assistance from renowned producer/songwriter Derek George, and up and coming producer/band mate Joe Henderson.
Did we mention talented?
“We’ve put our heart and soul into this thing trying to give the record our very best,” Colton says. “I mean, fans give us their very best – they deserve it from us too. We took our time and tried to make it perfect for them.”