Field Notes: An interview with composer, David Swensen


Much like breathing, music is an innate ability for composer, David Swensen. And when it comes to writing songs for Swensen, it's all about constant movement and keeping things interesting for himself. 

Swensen's unique folk-pop tracks are compelling and uplifting, leaving any listener with a smile on their face. Even when working with filmmakers, his work wildly shines through. In our recent collaboration with producer, Katie Reardon on an animation for Nike+, we learned that David's original composition was the perfect pairing for the project. He also provided an amazing soundtrack to the Levi's Eureka short film.

David Swensen is not only a blue-collar musician, he's a family man and a hard worker. We caught up with Swensen and chatted about his relationship with music, being a father, a husband and what a day in the life of a full-time composer looks like.

M: When did you start writing music?

DS: I guess I started writing music when I was a little kid. My brother took guitar lessons and I would try to mimic what he was playing then I'd try to make it into something of my own. In sixth grade I remember writing a song with a friend about Colonel Custer for a history project and performed it at an assembly. However, I didn't really start writing my own music until I was in college. I used some of my student aid money to buy a beat up 70's Gibson SG and a cheap recording interface for my computer. Then I was finally able to listen back to some of my ideas which was both exciting and humbling. Later, I think I finally found my stride a bit better after living in LA and playing with the Parson Red Heads (Evan Way and I have played music together since we were about 13). After playing and touring with them I finally had the courage to sit down and write an album. 

M: What does a day in the life of a working musician look like for you?

DS: I try to start my day by waking up before everyone so that I can have time to myself to drink coffee, pray, and read. Then I usually make breakfast for my wife and two boys and make sure my oldest son gets to preschool on time. If I have time, I take my dog for a walk before going into the studio. I usually get into my studio somewhere between 9:00 and 10:00 and start working on whatever that day's work might entail. I take a lunch break around noon and pick up my son from school. I usually work until about 5:00 or 6:00 (or later if the deadline is tight). Have dinner then get kids ready for bed. I try to go to the gym either before or after working for the day. I feel very fortunate that I can spend so much time with my kids and my wife and still do what I love. 

M: What direction were you going with when writing music for "Your Year With Nike+"?

DS: They had actually liked a track I had done in the past so I was trying to capture what they liked about that track while creating something new that represented the mood of the animation. I suppose I was kind of going for a soul/motown-ish vibe in the rhythm section to capture the attitudes of the characters while adding some quirky/psychedelic elements to compliment the otherworldly side of the animation. 

M: How do you feel your song complimented the animation?

DS: I think the swagger and intensity worked well against the characters. I also think the quirkiness of the track suited the style of the animation well. The monster scene was particularly fun to score. I had a lot of fun with it and think the final product turned out awesome!

M: What are you excited about for the future?

DS: I'm excited to see what God has in store for me and my family in this new year. Music is a beautiful thing and it has allowed me to meet some truly amazing people. I'm excited to continue to write new music and continue to tread into unfamiliar waters to push myself to become better at what I do.