With the release of Brandon McSwain’s first solo project “The Breaking” in early 2015 we are able to witness an artist coming into his true elements before our very eyes and ears. The album’s eleven tracks collectively are as bold an offering as McSwain’s expertly crafted vocal range.
Consider that for the last decade, McSwain has been cutting his teeth touring the southeast region with his self-titled “Brandon McSwain Band,” a group of high-end musicians that acrobatically danced notes across stages a la Dave Matthews Band and O.A.R. But in “The Breaking,” McSwain has found a freedom both vocally and musically that brings to light a creativity not achieved on previous recordings.
Add to this, that a Brandon McSwain solo project can finally be the complete enclosure of an outpouring of emotion represented in lyric and performance stemmed from a childhood stripped away by the confusion of mental illness suffered by members of his immediate family in his most formative years. McSwain has both channeled these emotions into his art in addition to being an outspoken advocate for others who are going through, or have experienced similar trauma.
Take, for instance, the Nashville-influenced and reflective tones of “If You Can Still Hear Me” from “The Breaking:”
Your suffering was never faced alone / I felt every tear as if it was my own / I never thought in death I could find joy / But all your pain is gone and now you’re home. // I need you to know your life, your love taught me to live / So I can let you go / I know you’re here through all the days and all the years / When the laughter fades and all that’s left is tears
McSwain’s mesh of music and philanthropy is extended through multiple organizations one being: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), with whom he has partnered with in helping dispel the stigma of mental illnesses to audiences everywhere.
“NAMI is an organization that is saving lives and families through education, community and advocacy. I believe that had my family had support from an organization like NAMI many years ago, my father would still be alive, and my family would not have been torn apart because of the affects of Mental Illness. My heart is to change the course for other families and individuals and let them know there is help and support.” –Brandon McSwain
Continuing with message, this project has propelled McSwain’s skills as a lyricist, but “The Breaking” also emits a perfectly punched pop palette while still satisfying the most discerning creative itches.
“My vision for this album was to relate to my listeners on a very human level, to write about experiences in my life and have something to say, but have it conveyed in a concise, catchy and memorable manner. The result being these songs found on “The Breaking.” –Brandon McSwain
Beginning with the title track and first song on the record, McSwain states his case immediately with:
You’re fragile, you feel betrayed / You’re not who you were, and now you’re a stranger to yourself, you’re someone else / Desperate, there’s a disconnect you can’t look away / It’s like watching the train wreck of your life / Paralyzed, you’re broken / But there is beauty in the breaking
“I want to communicate the idea that in the fact that we are ALL broken, we are ALL the same. Regardless of race, background, beliefs or social status we live in a broken world and all deal with the same issues in life. I want people to identify with being broken – to be able to stare their issues and problems in the face, and understand they are not alone. That there is beauty in our brokenness and that there is healing, redemption and hope.” –Brandon McSwain
McSwain seemingly breaks the rules by showcasing a vocal virtuosity not common in the current landscape of Contemporary Christian music. This is also a tip of the cap to the team of Tyrus Morgan (Newsong, Unspoken) and Jay Speight (Josh Turner, Travis Tritt, Trace Adkins) who co-wrote and produced “The Breaking.” The marriage of message, mainstream musicality, and vocal magnificence is a feat to be recognized.
Music has been a constant in the life of Brandon McSwain. Growing up in a household of musicians, both mother and father were classically trained and McSwain began performing at a young age with the direction of his parents in church. Music became an outlet for processing emotions internally through the chaos and misunderstandings that come when a parent struggles with mental health issues.
Music has taken McSwain all over the world to perform in over 15 different countries, put him on stages with some of the worlds’ most recognized performers such as John Mayer, Sister Hazel, Nickel Creek, MercyME, Casting Crowns and Jeremy Camp as well as work with renowned hit-makers such as Grammy award winning Producer Andy Kravitz (Imogen Heap, Sting, Billy Joel, The Rolling Stones, Will Smith) be invited to perform privately for the Ambassadors of the United Nations in NYC and be featured on the PBS Special “Playing for Change” alongside performers such as Bono from U2.
But……at the heart of it all is McSwain’s belief that music is a vehicle for change, that it can change someone’s heart, and make a lasting impression on their lives forever.
“I believe that music is powerful, that it resonates in our souls. My vision for my life is to change others lives for the better, to introduce hope, bring people together and accept that there is beauty in the breaking.” –Brandon McSwain