An emerging young artist takes us down her sometimes the rocky musical path
Music has always had a strange influence on us throughout time. It helps us work through our pains and sorrows. It opens our hearts to dream and love. It allows us to relive our memories. Music is a feeling, but for Sammi Swenson, it is so much more.
Sammi Swenson is a local Boise musician who released her first album in February, entitled Silver. The album was created as a memorial to a terrible tragedy that resulted in a loss of a friend. During the hardest time of her life, as she struggled with coping with her loss, she secretly voiced her pains, one by one, to the world. People listened. They shared her pain and they shared her music. She found a growing audience, but this was not the beginning of Sammi Swenson.
Sammi was a little girl like many other little girls. She dressed up, danced, and sang for her family and friends. She was sugar and spice with sass and class. Her parents were a huge influence on her life. Realizing her love of music, her father, a Boise High School choir teacher, fostered her love of singing. When she was five years old, her mother began teaching her to play the piano. As she grew, her life was amassed in music. Still fairly young, she discovered a love for Opera. Her fondness for performing developed into a drive to compete and share her talent with a larger audience. Her adventurous nature started to gain some notice. She realized “This is really fun for me. I was that seven-year-old that sang arias,” she laughed.
When Sammi was about eight years old, her curiosity spread to other forms of music. She became influenced by the world around her, taking it all in. One of her big influences was The Wizard of Oz. “After watching it, my musical journey really took a turn. There was something about the way it was being sung – I started to turn more towards jazz.” She continued to compete locally implementing her new singing style until she caught the ear of Justin Nielson, a teacher, and recording artist. The two started working together and Sammi played gigs with local jazz bands as a singer. Life was fun and she continued to sing with the free spirit of a child, taking any challenge head-on. Then came high school and the fun had to stop.
High school was a different world and she recalls that the change in environment was a difficult adjustment. “When you grow up performing, you get into the mindset that you need the acceptance of other people. In a high school environment, you can be really good at something and not be embraced. ”These changes in her atmosphere planted the first seeds of fear and doubt into Sammi’s heart and it took the rest of her time in high school it to let go. The attention she received during those four long years was not always positive. “At that time I cared so much about what people thought that I really held back on my own development.”
Teenagers can be incredibly cruel. We have all been there. Having no experience with these kinds of interactions, we tread cautiously. Through watching, we learn. Those who seek attention risk punishment. Our self-esteem wanes, so Sammi kept her musical passion a secret. Without even realizing it, Sammi led a double life. By day, she was a mild-mannered high school student, and by night, a practicing musician. Though she was not open about her craft, her drive would not allow her to stop.
She spent a lot of time in her basement, writing and playing music. She started learning guitar and became greatly influenced by R&B. She had an incredible support team of musicians who shared her love of music and was signed by a local music label. She had even been contacted by producers from American Idol and America’s Got Talent. “I had a difficult time figuring out what I was going to do,” she said. Though this part of her life was a secret, it did not stay that way for long. The word got out through the grapevine. She pushed through and continued to make plans for her first album release. Nothing could stop her, not even a pandemic. Then the unthinkable happened. Something stopped Sammi Swenson.
Driving home one night, a drunk driver hit her car. Her sister was badly injured and her best friend was gone forever. Sammi was lost. As she mourned the loss of her friend and focused on being with her family, the rumor mill was abuzz. “After the accident, I even had people saying to me ‘Oh we’re going to get some really good music from this.’ I was bitter and really angry.” Sammi stopped writing music.
But life stops for nothing and for no one. Eventually, she needed an outlet for her pain. She picked up her guitar and wrote. And she wrote and recorded some more. She quietly released her pain to SoundCloud. Unbeknownst to Sammi, this one action received a huge reaction. She had direct contact with her fanbase. She could read the comments of those with similar experiences, who deeply felt her music. “It was so powerful for me to see.” She realized, “That’s what it should be about.” Soon after, she was contacted by Interscope Records, one of the biggest music companies in the world. Olivia Rodrigo, Kendrick Lamar, and Billie Eilish are all signed with Interscope Records. With some life experience under her belt, Sammi thought long and hard about what she truly wanted. She could have been the next big pop star, but her home is where her heart is. There was also an underlying knowledge she could lose creative control over her music if she signed with a big record company. Though she has the highest respect for those who choose to sign with big labels, she did not want to feel like she was “just part of this factory of musicians being manipulation into a predestined future.”
The choices she had made in her professional life had given her time for self-reflection. She rekindled a relationship with a childhood friend, Brandon Anderson. They fell in love and married. As a woman, she has found the courage to be who she is, and the prowess to chase her dreams. She feels she has already succeeded but wants to continue her musical journey. She enjoys her home life with her supportive and loving husband. He loves watching her, “I’ve seen her in her element, making music, and it’s amazing. And I don’t think she’s shown me everything she’s done,” he says with a smile. Sammi Swenson looks forward to touring and making her next album, but until then, she wants to spend time with her family and stay grounded.