The Indiana-based country/rock group the Keith Swinney Band mixes covers and originals in its set list.
When it comes to answering the question, "What does it take to make it in the music business," Keith Swinney recalled advice given to him several years ago.
"Neal McCoy told me once that to make it in this business, it takes 1 percent talent and 99 percent luck," Swinney said. "There are so many talented people out there, only a few of them get the big breaks. Whether it's the right song, or the right backing, or the right label, there's a whole lot of luck involved in making the big time."
The Keith Swinney Band has been playing at various venues throughout Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio for the past six years. The Indiana-based country/rock group mixes covers and originals in its set list, indicative of the members' musical influences that range from Merle Haggard to Jimi Hendrix to the Rolling Stones.
The members of the Keith Swinney Band - Keith Swinney on guitar/vocals, Jack Addison, lead guitar/vocals, Ron Pickett on bass, drummer Josh Taylor, Mike Richmond on keyboards and the newest member of the band, guitarist Joe Tillis - have over a century of experience in the music business between them. While they may not have made the "big time" yet, these guys still enjoy playing music for people, whether it's in a hole-in-the-wall bar or on the side stage at Verizon Wireless Music Center.
NUVO: When was the first time you performed on stage? Do you remember the first song that you did?
Swinney: It was at the Ripley County Fair in 1997. I was 15 years old at the time. The first song I performed on stage was Keith Whitley's "When You Say Nothing At All." We only knew three songs, so when the crowd asked for an encore, we were stuck because we didn't know another song. We went ahead and did a version of Deanna Carter's "Strawberry Wine," which was a hit song at the time. We've learned a few more songs since then (laughs).
NUVO: On your band's Web site (www.keithswinneyband.com), you list a number of "big name" country artists that you have worked with, including Toby Keith, Merle Haggard, Kenny Chesney and Lee Ann Womack. How have these headline acts treated you?
Swinney: The majority of the "name" acts that we've worked with have been pretty cool. Neal McCoy has been the coolest so far. Whether he really remembers me or not, he acts like he does each time we've run into each other.
NUVO: You mentioned Neal's advice to you, about it being "1 percent talent and 99 percent luck" to make it in the music business. That seems to put a lot of musicians at a disadvantage, regardless of how much talent they have.
Swinney: You can go down to Nashville, Tenn., and see the same guys playing the same bars for years. We've talked with the people who run Tootsie's Orchid Lounge in Nashville. They've started up a record label and we did an audition for them. They told us that if we wanted to move there, they could find us some cheap apartments, and work during the week. There's decent money to be made there, but it's not a steady thing. You take a big gamble making that kind of move. The big thing is you need a group of musicians who will stick together. We all have full-time jobs where we can call in sick. But you can't do that being in a band.
NUVO: How long has the current version of the Keith Swinney Band been together?
Swinney: Mike, our keyboard player, and Josh, our drummer, have been with me for six years, ever since the days of Keith Swinney and Highway 50. Jack has been with me for four years, and we played together in Hoosier Daddy for two years. Ron has been with me for about three years. We have a new guy, Joe Tillis, who plays guitar and does harmony and lead vocals. He can pick up and play anything. He just got a steel guitar, and he's going to throw in some steel guitar before too long. At one time I was playing with so many new musicians that we didn't learn too many new songs, because before you knew it, we had to start over with a new guy.
NUVO: A look at the band's tour schedule looks like you're playing somewhere every weekend.
Swinney: Last year, we had three weekends off: one was in June, for my wedding anniversary, and we had Thanksgiving and Christmas weekends off. We played every Thursday through Saturday in August last year, and all but one Sunday during that month.