By Bob Hemenger
Special to The PREVIEW
The Americana Project class at Pagosa Springs High School is proud to host Sway Wild (featuring Dave McGraw and Mandy Fer) Thursday, April 11, in the Pagosa Springs High School auditorium. The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are only $10 (12 and under free).
Students from the Americana Project will be opening the show. Tickets are only available at the door and the doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Sway Wild will also be teaching an all-day songwriting workshop on April 10 at Sonlight Camp for the students. Sway Wild is their own unique blend of indie-rock, folk and pop, influenced heavily by all the wild things around and within them.
Pacific Northwest-based songwriter duo McGraw and Fer voyaged even farther out to sea on their latest self-produced/recorded release “Off-Grid Lo Fi.” Recorded entirely with solar and wind powered electricity on a nearly uninhabited, remote, off-grid island in northwest Washington state, McGraw and Fer have ventured into new territory, both geographically and artistically.
McGraw and Fer were invited to a seaside farm to caretake for four old donkeys and a flock of chickens for three months on a non-ferry serviced island with a winter population of fewer than eight people. Seizing the opportunity for a solitary writing residency, the duo loaded all of their instruments, minimal recording gear and groceries into a tiny 16-foot aluminum boat and crossed the channel towards the U.S./Canadian border for what they called their “feral” adventure.
Pushing wheelbarrows full of provisions in their rubber boots, they made their way to a hand-built cabin where they recorded “Off-Grid Lo-Fi” in a living room overlooking the Pacific inland sea. The recording setup was basic. No computer screens or editing. No auto-tune. All real takes. The result is a 12-song album drenched with rich vocal harmonies, poignant songwriting, Fer’s potent electric guitar playing, acoustic guitars, percussion, cello and newly prominent banjo and piano (all played by Fer and McGraw). “Off-Grid Lo-Fi” is an intimate, authentic and refreshingly honest exploration into the genres of folk, rock and roots music.
Known as a standout electric guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, Fer is unafraid to dominate the stage for an extended guitar solo,defying long-held gender barriers for female guitarists. McGraw’s emotional songwriting riffs on natural elements of the world around him. McGraw spent a decade as a wildlife biologist, studying endangered birds in remote locales from the deserts of Mexico and the Grand Canyon to the mountainous rain forests of Washington. McGraw and Fer joined forces in Flagstaff, Ariz., in 2010 before relocating to the Pacific Northwest in 2012.
The duo’s 2014 release “Maritime” charted at No. 1 on the EuroAmericana Chart for two consecutive months and was praised by The Telegraph for “… soulful songs, intuitive musicianship and fine singing.”
Together, their exceptional vocal harmonies coupled with Fer’s pioneering electric guitar work have become a vehicle to carry them around the world. The pair has honed their skills touring extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe, sharing stages with such artists as Iron and Wine, Glen Hansard, Gregory Alan Isakov, Charlie Hunter Trio, Lake Street Dive and many others. Winning over audiences anywhere from Alaska to Amsterdam, McGraw and Fer perform a heartfelt and dynamic blend of innovative folk, rock, pop and funk.