Photo by Katie Larocca (@katielarocca)
Meet Mandy Fer. Mandy is currently the guitarist for 3x GRAMMY nominee Allison Russell, as well as one half of the duo, Sway Wild, alongside Dave McGraw. You may have recently seen Mandy appearing alongside Allison on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, the GRAMMY Awards, or at festivals like Luck Reunion, SXSW, and more. “I have an immense feeling of gratitude, paired with disbelief with all of these opportunities that have come my way, but at the same time this feels like this is exactly what I was called to do. It felt so powerful to be with Allison, SistaStrings and Joy Clark at The Grammys, and to perform with all of these women on international, late night TV (including Larissa Maestro and Beth Goodfellow). We want young people and folks of all ages to see all kinds of representation on TV and out in the world”. While many band members come and go, Mandy has known Allison for over 10 years, back when Russell was in Birds of Chicago. “It’s a dream to watch one of your friends finally get something they deserve, and it’s so incredible to see all of Allison’s hard work paying off. Over the last 12 years Dave and I have crossed many paths with Allison and JT in Europe and the U.S. and have shared many shows with them and my band Sway Wild (formerly known as Dave McGraw & Mandy Fer)...and about 5 years ago I also toured with Allison and JT as their lead guitarist in their previous project, Birds of Chicago”. Mandy is playing a bunch of shows with Allison Russell later this year, check out the dates on Allison’s website.
When Fer is not rocking out on late night TV, playing the GRAMMYs or major festivals with Allison Russell, she is on the road with her own project Sway Wild (or at home, creating music on San Juan Island in the Pacific Northwest) with Dave McGraw, Sway Wild’s other half. The duo recently released their song “Highway 89” and is currently wrapping up a 5 week U.S. tour; check out upcoming tour dates here. “Playing live is my favorite. Especially right now, after lockdown, sharing in live music feels so special…when defining the genre of Sway Wild, we can’t really place ourselves under one genre label…we love to rock out and get funky as well as touch on more of the folkier/more intimate moments during our live shows.”. Mandy has been making music with Dave since 2010, but officially became Sway Wild in 2019. The duo has opened for acts like Rising Appalachia and Lake Street Dive. Music has always been a part of Fer’s life. She played piano from 6 to 15, and then picked up the electric guitar. The electric guitar led her to self-expression and discovery of who she is, and what her musical identity is. “I think I’ve known since 15 that I wanted to do this. I went to school, got a degree, and always knew that this was for me. I noticed a lack of women in the shows I went to every weekend during high school and it really stirred me up that women were not given a platform or a chance nearly as much as men were, and that is where I am now, aiming to make a change in this industry alongside some of the most powerful women and musicians in music today, Allison Russell, SistaStrings, Joy Clark, and all other women, past and present, paving the way to be heard”.
Keep up with Mandy on Instagram at @mandyferguitar and @swaywild and for all things Sway Wild, check out their website.
Denitia has officially announced her next project! “Highways”, a country album, will be out later this year. "I went from Texas to Tennessee to New York and now I feel like I'm coming home. Home is where you want it to be, and this album is a collection of letters tracing my past to my now - the Highways of my life. Hearing other folks relate to my journey is really special because it's just more evidence of how music brings people together. And that's a special thing to be a part of. Music makes me feel connected to people and to my humanity too. And I'm excited about the ride I'm on and the road ahead." The singer-songwriter put out the title track, “Highways”, as a single in March 2022, and another single, “White Lights”, is out today.
The Texan born artist started writing the title track at the beginning of the pandemic, when she started writing in her notebook and playing her favorite records. “I hit up Brad Williams, a good friend of mine who is an amazing guitarist and producer. We started writing songs together years ago and the songs we wrote - I always felt like they were country songs. “Highways” is my first release in the genre. My whole family is from the Houston area in Texas, and we love country music. Today, with the presence of more country artists of color, I feel like the genre has the potential to better represent how it started. Between the Black folks with the Blues and Gospel and White folks with Celtic and Appalachian music, they all interacted with each other in some ways and the genre was born from those crossroads. This music is for everyone.”
Denitia listens to every kind of genre, but when talking country, her favorites at the moment include Midland, Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, and Brittney Spencer, and her overall favorites like Dolly Parton and Joni Mitchell. “I also love Joni Mitchell. Joni takes you with her in her pocket. Her sound and her voice are so distinct. With Dolly, she has this poetic feel in her lyrics. She paints these pastoral music landscapes... I do think it is important to know the history of this music. And this was the first genre that I was inspired by”.
Denitia grew up in small rural towns all around Texas. She started writing songs at just 12 years old. “My family and I went to the Houston rodeo every year. It was my first cultural obsession. I was just so obsessed with the music that I got a Walmart guitar and a keyboard. The singer-songwriter eventually packed up, and was headed for Nashville, Tennessee in her late teens. “I played all around town and would listen to bands up and down Broadway.” She was in Music City for 10 years, and now resides in New York City. “When I got to New York, I experimented with sounds and electronic music, but I always had country in me. People have asked me “Why are you switching genres? I tell them, “I’m following what feels right. And it feels like I'm coming home. Music feels spiritual to me and the experience is not about me or y’all, it’s about the songs."
Stay up to date with Denitia on Instagram at @denitiadenitia and check out her website for all other information here.
Danielle Ryan recently released her debut EP, “Middle Of The Madness”, you can stream it here. “This project felt like it was a lifetime in the making. I am so excited to be able to finally share it with everyone. These songs go through different moments in my life. You’ll hear different emotions and different stories. I hope that they can resonate with the listeners and that they can play them over and over again”. Danielle’s favorite song on the EP, “Middle of the Madness.”, was written after her first time going to Nashville after a record deal fell through. “I felt as though I had lost quite a bit of confidence and I was unsure if I was even a good songwriter anymore. “Middle of the Madness” was the very first song I wrote with Jimmy Thow. And it turned out to be, what I think, is a beautiful masterpiece”. The EP was mostly produced by Brian Howes (Serena Ryder and Eric Etheridge). “Brian is an absolute rockstar. He really helped bring these songs to life and had such a vision and passion for the project. I had a great time working with him”.
Ryan grew up on a third generation dairy farm in Pitt Meadows, BC with her parents and three siblings. “Music was always something that we loved and studied. I just happened to stick with it. My brother does a lot of songwriting with me which is very cool”. When Danielle was around 12 years old, she decided that she wanted to be like Taylor Swift, so she taught herself how to play guitar and started writing her own songs and telling her own stories.“I think there’s so many artists that inspire me in different ways. From the old country classics to the women with the pop hits. They all influence me in different ways whether it be a melody, a lyric, or a song title”.The album cover does have a personal touch to it, Ryan and her brother took the photo on the cover of the EP in their backyard! “As cheesy as it sounds, country music is in my blood. I grew up on a farm loving country music. I love the storytelling and the sound and I never thought of doing anything else. I want aspiring artists to know that I think the biggest thing is to be true to yourself and honest. Someone told me this when I was starting out and I’ve always kept it close to my heart. It’s very easy to get caught up and I’ve always tried to make a point of being a genuine, good person”.
Stay up to date with Danielle on Instagram @danielleryanmusic, and check out her website here.