Island artist inspired by deep south

Oliver Swain and Glenna Garramone perform under the name Tower in a Song on May 4 at The Haven on Gabriola Island.

Oliver Swain performs with Glenna Garramone as folk-roots band Tower in a Song on Gabriola on May 4.

Oliver Swain performs with Glenna Garramone as folk-roots band Tower in a Song on Gabriola on May 4.

It was more than a decade ago when Victoria native and singer/songwriter Oliver Swain fell in love with the cultural orgy that can be found in Southeastern United States.

“As a young artist from Canada I found myself becoming completely enthralled and fascinated with the rich musical traditions of the American South,” he said.

Eventually, Swain, who had been a member in a handful of bands, got to the point where he had to travel to the Southeastern United States.

“I went down there on a typical six-month sojourn into the mountains and I travelled all down the Appalachian Mountains and into the Delta playing music.”

The next thing Swain knew he was a member of a Cajun band and a resident of Breaux Bridge, La., which is known as the Crawfish Capital of the World.

“When I was down there I got inducted into the Redstick Ramblers,” Swain said. “So all of the sudden I went from a Northerner with a banjo and a dream to being bass player in one of the top Cajun and swing bands out of Baton Rouge. It was really exciting.”

Although Breaux Bridge is located about two hours west of New Orleans, the community is the birthplace of a wide range of talented individuals including musicians Branford Marsalis and Hunter Hayes.

“The thing that was so lovely about it was it is such a very diverse, liberal mindset,” Swain said. “This is the cultural centre of the South.”

Swain remained in The Pelican State for a year before deciding to return home to Victoria. Upon returning to B.C., Swain embarked on various musical adventures as a solo artist and as a member of artistic collaborations.

Recently, Swain paired up with fellow singer/songwriter Glenna Garramone to form folk-roots band Tower in a Song.

“She’s one of my favourite vocalists and we both had worked with each other before … we just have always loved singing together and through our love of singing harmonies and playing music together,” Swain said.

The duo recently released its first album, City in a Forrest. The album covers a wide range of Leonard Cohen songs.

“There is a lot of sensual and romantic content and there is an incredible amount of spiritual content,” Swain said.

On May 4, at 8 p.m., Tower in a Song performs at The Haven on Gabriola Island as part of the Big Fish Music Festival. Tickets are $20.

For more information, please visit