Hi Dirk, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Glad to be here. I am good. You are beautiful.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “The River”?
Sure. To me, that song is a spiritual. I feel a profound sense of connection when I walk to the water. I hear my ancestors; I feel the earth and I sense a place in the flow of the universe. I feel the quiet wisdom in the trees that choose to live there. That song is just a glimpse of the bigness I feel when I walk down to the water.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
You will make me sound even crazier than I am. There was a huge, ancient, barely alive stump at the edge of the swamp that I used to go climb up on when I was lonely. I miss that place now. That’s what I was thinking about when I wrote the song; that’s what I see whenever I sing it..
Any plans to release a video for the single?
I would like to. I would love to put a visual to the magic I see in those places. Visual art is not my strength, though, and I find it hard to put out things in that arena that match the joy/love/respect I wish I could project.
The single comes off your new album Along The Road – what’s the story behind the title?
The main factor in the choice of name is that my son was the artist that did the cover art, and he had a strong vision about the road and the desert and the sunset and that name fit. It draws from the fourth song – Along the Road She Comes – which is a song about the rescue and redemption of woman that chooses a man despite his flaws. But it also really fit with where I am. I have done a lot of things since I was young, marriage and law school and a profession and public service and a little politics and sports – but it has always come back to songwriting. This record is part of that multifaceted journey.
How was the recording and writing process?
It was a rich learning experience where I learned more than I can possibly explain about how great professional musicians, producers, etc. are at their craft. Matt Ascione, who produced and played much of the record, heard my songs, took me under his wing, pushed me toward something better. He refined the songs; found the musicians; and pushed me to be better. He is now my best friend that isn’t my wife. I am hooked on music and incredibly grateful for this record.
What was it like to work with Bob Dawson and how did that relationship develop?
Matt Ascione is the guitarist for the Air Force rock band Max Impact. For anyone that has not been exposed to our US military bands, they are comprised of the absolute best imaginable musicians who take their military discipline and apply it to making music. Matt is a great songwriter in his own right, and with the Air Force bands had done lots of recording with Bob. When we were ready to move from demo to recording, Bob was his only recommendation. Bob has a top flight room, equipment, ears, instincts and pretty much everything I now know about recording, I learned from Bob and Matt talking about how to make things sound good.
How much did he get to influence the album?
Bob has two Grammy awards, and multi platinum records with Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Dave Matthews Band. At the time I was at Bias, I was a songwriter than NO ONE had heard of. He didn’t write or arrange the songs, but he is an incredibly accomplished professional and I am just some guy. You can hear his work in everything on the record.
What role does Annapolis play in your music?
I love Annapolis and I have lived most of my adult life here on the Chesapeake. I love it for it’s intense blend of the North and the South. I love its entirely unresolved relationships with George Washington and the beginning of the United States, the slave trade and Alex Haley’s Roots, its historical neighborhoods, and immigrant communities … everything. It has a vibrant arts and music scene that is pretty much a secret still. It could hardly be more representative of my life as a born-a-yankee; yacht club; up the Republic; Southern Rock loving; let’s go fishing kind of guy. It’s just who I am.
How The Eagles and The Band has influence your writing?
American music has the most incredibly rich traditions of anywhere in the world. We draw from the Irish, from many African traditions; from Gospel and German polka and from I don’t even know how to describe the the groovy thing that is funk. The Eagles and the Band – they drew from all of those, but found their special beauty in harmony built on 2/3/4 part men’s singing. They coupled that with thoughtful lyrics and occasionally raging rock grooves over acoustic guitar. When I love a song in my head enough to put it down as mine – its those factors – harmony and a bit of acoustic rock that really drive the train. Those two bands had incredible grooves; incredible singing; amazing lyrics and absolutely otherworldly songwriting. That is what inspires me.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
I was born lucky, when it comes to words. I am lawyer and a songwriter because words come pretty easily. My songwriting process is to hear a little something – guitar, melody, or groove – that really hits me. Then expand on that, and find melodies and related parts that really hit me. And at some point in that process, the song will start to tell me what it is about. Then I just dump down the lyrics, refine the music, run it by the band and see where it takes us.
Any plans to hit the road?
I would love to do that at some point. I’d especially like to tour in Europe. My kids are about grown, and my law practice is pretty mobile, so maybe that can happen. My bass player, Kevin is fantastic with logistics and is about ready to retire from his day job, so….
What else is happening next in Dirk Schwenk and The Truth’s world?
For me, the profound change since the record has been the change from being a solo artist to having a band that is amazingly capable of executing what I hear in my head. The Truth is a much more powerful force than just me, and we are making incredible music that the world has not heard yet. We are constantly writing, developing, refining and improving and I can’t wait to start sharing some of the stuff that will be on the next record.