Indian summer on the horizon for Derry rockers Swanee River

Derry rockers Swanee River
Derry rockers Swanee River

Derry’s hardest working rock ‘n’ rollers are about to go truly international.

Fresh from the summer festival circuit - which included three shows at three different festivals all in one hectic day - Swanee River are now preparing to take their thumping fusion of soul, blues and rock and roll to the Indian city of Kanpur.

Stevie Horner, Swanee River frontman rocking it out at Glasgowbury 2011

Stevie Horner, Swanee River frontman rocking it out at Glasgowbury 2011

That October gig will see Derry’s finest play to an audience of around 12,000 fans as the headline act of Synchronicity, India’s premier rock festival.

“It’s certainly the biggest gig we have played but I wouldn’t say it is daunting, Swanee frontman Stevie Horner told the ‘Sunday’ this week.

“If we play to two people or to 2000 the effort we put in is exactly the same,” he says.

That ethos has served the band well.

Swanee River guitarist Graham Baldrick on satge at this year's Glasgowbury Festival

Swanee River guitarist Graham Baldrick on satge at this year's Glasgowbury Festival

With 3 EPs in the can and debut album ‘Smoking Jacket’ proving a hit with fans and critics alike, and having written and performed the soundtrack for Irish animated film ‘The Birth of Rock’, Swanee River have fast cemented a reputation first garnered in the bar rooms of Derry.

The band - Stevie on vocals, Graham Baldrick on guitar, Michael McCafferty on bass and Fionnbar O’Hagan on drums - have seen their stock rise quickly over recent years.

“In many ways 2009 was the breakthrough year for us,” says Stevie.

“We supported The Answer on tour in England, supported UFO and Taste and had songs on Classic rock magazine’s and Hot Press’ cover mount CD’s. It just seemed things were taking off for us.”

The band’s evolution to international festival headliners is a far cry from Swanee’s genesis in 2005 and a debut low key gig in the River Inn in Derry.

“At that stage I wasn’t working and the idea of forming a band seemed the right ting to do, says Stevie.

“About a year in we hit on the sound we were looking for, it really all came together with the ‘Baby Better Lady’ EP.”

But he says no band can expect to achieve even a modicum of success without putting in the hard yards.

That dedication to their cause has seen the band play countless gigs in every rock and roll nook and cranny across the north.

“We just kept chipping away, trying to play good live shows, trying to give the people who came to see us what they wanted. Slowly but surely the crowds started to get bigger. We would go back to places and see that more people had come out to see us.

“I suppose that’s down to getting the head down and keeping on doing what we do,” he says.

Their raw bluesy rock sound has left critics drooling while comparisons have been made to rock behemoths Rory Gallagher, Cream , Led Zeppelin.

For many, the central tenet of their success to date is their all encompassing live show.

Guitarist Graham agrees.

“I suppose many people see us as a live band. We don’t go much for effects in the studio. There’s no point recording something that you can’t reproduce on stage and we’ve always tried to stay true to that bluesy rock sound.”

With seven gigs planned before they head off to India in October, there’s no resting on any laurels for Derry’s hardest working rockers.

But says a philosophical Graham, as long as they keep enjoying it, Swanee River will keep on rocking.

“For us it’s not about seeking fame or fortune. If we can just keep doing what we do, if we can get our music out to more and more people, maybe even earn a living from it, then we would be very happy.”

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