This Thursday at 7:00 p.m., folk-rock duo Sway Wild will take on Bang the Drum Brewery. Mandy Fer and Dave McGraw’s high-energy, rock-star folk sensibilities appeal to anyone who has ever salivated over a passion-fueled guitar solo. Fer, lead guitarist and songwriter of Sway Wild, spoke to KCPR about her songwriting process and life on the road.
Sway Wild records are filled with incendiary guitar riffs, performed by Fer. The instrument holds a lot of personal importance — while she was growing up, there were limited amounts of young women who played electric guitar.
“It was very heavily male influence in that sphere, and I just got this kind of stubborn Italian drive to be like, no, I’m going to get up there and I’m going to shred guitar because there’s not enough people doing that,” Fer said.
And shred she does. Her guitar skills are palpable on every song on the album, — it comes as no surprise that the instrument has been a facet of her life for almost two decades. She has been touring with the same Mexican Thunder Strat guitar that she has played since she was a teenager.
“My friends from high school and their parents surprised me with it when I came out from volleyball practice when I was 16, and I’ve toured with it all over the world ever since.t’s been a workhorse,” she shared.
Fer’s guitar is a key element in creating Sway Wild’s folk-rock sound. Combined with vocal harmonies, diaristic songwriting and dynamic melodies, the band pushes the boundaries of the folk genre. As music continues to evolve, Sway Wild continues to redefine a folk sound while remaining loyal to their roots.
“Everything that you’re seeing and hearing is what’s being played at that moment. I’ll play an octave pedal on my electric guitar, which basically is a pedal that can drop my low strings on my guitar an octave and it sounds like a bass,” she said.
As for songwriting, Fer said that everything comes from being present in the moment and that having a dedicated and inspiring space is key in grounding herself.
“A lot of the really focused writing that I do is at home, actually, in a converted school bus that we have in our driveway, that we’ve converted into a writing studio,” Fer said.
Finding time and space to write is crucial not only musically to Sway Wild, but essential to Fer on a personal level. The practice of songwriting is a critical element of Fer’s creative expression and process.
Sway Wild are an unstoppable force when it comes to touring, playing shows globally and often. Fer and the other half of Sway Wild, Dave McGraw, have been touring together for over 13 years. When it comes to their relationship with the music and each other, they have evolved and intertwined immensely.
“I feel like every bit of our music and our connection, it’s all interweaved. It’s like, what affects your breathing more, your heart or your lungs?”
To her, music is about more than notes on a piece of paper; the vulnerability required for performance is a gift.
“The thing that I love the most about art and music is that I feel like I’ll never be at the place where I’m like, there’s no more space to grow,” Fer said.
When an audience hears Sway Wild’s melodies, they are instantly granted the opportunity and space to tend to the saplings of growth within themselves.