It has been clear for some time that the tiny hamlet in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where Travis Swanson grew up would not hold him. He first commanded attention in high school as first-chair trumpeter and as star captain of the basketball team. More recently, it has been impossible to ignore his explosive work with several local bands, including the swing- roots-blues ensemble Mike Letts & The Marquettes, the funk-R&B-jazz-rap combo Step Love, and his own trio, Travis & The St. Lous.
Swanson’s progress has been rapid indeed. Having already learned the value of dedication and determination, he was more than willing to apply those lessons when he discovered the guitar and the blues. Early inspirations such as Jimi Hendrix fell by the wayside after Swanson absorbed the recorded legacy and youTube catalog of Sean Costello, whose music illuminated a way to approach the work of blues and R&B pioneers that made sense and brought those touchstone artists within reach. Today, Robert Lockwood, T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Rogers, Wes Montgomery, Lowell Fulson, Eddie Taylor, Gatemouth Brown, Tiny Grimes, Steve Cropper, B.B. King, Robert Ward, Johnny and Oscar Moore, Guitar Slim, Grant Green – a who’s who of blues, soul, and jazz greats, along with the work of such icons as Hank Williams, James Brown, and Bob Dylan – continue to fuel the young artist’s listening and practice regimens. He recognizes Ray Charles as America’s greatest musical genius.
During 2011 and 2012, Swanson appeared with Dave Herrero and Felix Reyes in Chicago, and backed the great Billy Flynn. His music has drawn favorable notice from established players like Tom Holland and Barry Levenson, as well as from Austin’s Shawn Pittman, who invited Swanson to join his new band in Los Angeles. Swanson spent the summer and fall of 2012 playing there, where he sat in with Rod Piazza and James Harman. He backed Pittman on dates around Southern California, across Arizona and Texas to Florida, and north through Missouri and Iowa, and performed in Europe on one of Pittman’s European tours. During a brief stay in Austin, Texas, he accompanied Erin Jaimes and has played with many of Austin’s finest, including Greg Izor and Mike Keller.
Swanson is presently back in Michigan while he completes his university studies in American History. He is gigging at venues throughout Marquette County and beyond, with The Marquettes and with his dynamite new blues-and-soul showcase, Travis Swanson and The Midnight Movers.
Contributing Editor, Blues Revue