Concert Spotlight: Interview with Johnnyswim

Folk-Soul Duo Float in on Georgica Pond, Play WHBPAC

There are countless musical acts with love stories attached; however, so many shy away from attention surrounding love. And many could learn a thing or two from Johnnyswim’s Abner and Amanda, whose music on 2016 Hamptons-themed album Georgica Pond clearly reflects their love for one another, their music, and their family.

Their folk-soul sound comes from deep roots, as Abner was professionally trained in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, while Amanda, daughter of singer Donna Summer and composer Bruce Sudano, was raised in both Los Angeles and Nashville, the city where the duo ended up meeting at Sunday church and later in a songwriter’s workshop back in 2005.

The songs genuinely sound like summer, whisps of voices, breaths, noises you might hear in a house returning summer after summer, with timeless melodies, romantic lyrics, and an uplifting delivery. Johnnyswim play Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on June 24 (and they will play in New York City at Irving Plaza November 6 & 7). Abner and Amanda spoke with Hamptons Monthly about how the region is a kind of sanctuary for relaxation, shared the one song that has stuck with them from falling in love to giving birth to son Joaquin, and why they continue to pursue their dream of music.

Since you are not only musicians but also husband and wife, what’s a song that holds significance in your own relationship?

Amanda: Probably “La Vie en Rose” because we fell in love with Edith Piaf. It’s powerful and passionate, and because he proposed to me in Paris. He flew me to Paris on a day’s notice. That’s the song we chose for our first dance when we got married. Coincidentally, I made this 300- song playlist, and that was the song our baby was born to. Whenever we hear that song we look at each other and melt a bit.

Abner: It was long enough to go through all of labor. There’s literally video of the birth and she’s crying and I said, “Do you hear what song is playing?”

Do you have a song on the Georgica Pond record that reflects a story of your romance over the years?

Abner: For us, it really was “Summertime Romance.” We wrote that in the summer. We built a whole life, not just a whole career and family. We dream about the future together. So it’s a bit of our soul for sure. Every time we sing that song we think how great it is and how it’s like a fling in the summer and how it can make your whole life better.

Whether playing at your own beach party or listening solo on ear buds, what five songs would make your summer playlist this year?

Abner: “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” for our son ’cause it’s his favorite song in the whole world. I think there’s a song by a gospel artist named Will Reagan and it’s called “Not in a Hurry,” and it’s been our get-home-and-chill song. “Still Feel Like Your Man,” that new John Mayer song. Chilly Gonzales’ “Kenaston;” the instrumental is like the perfect get-home-and-chill song. “First Try” is going to radio; we just re-recorded it for radio.

What do you enjoy most about The Hamptons?

Abner: You know how you see a movie and it’s so great, it now becomes the standard for every other movie? We have a measuring for peaceful places. We compare every place to East Hampton, to Georgica Pond. The Hamptons for us is the quintessence of peacefulness and relaxation. Our lives are pretty all over the place, our schedules are crazy, shows come up, engagements come up. But every year we make sure we’re home on Christmas and we try to make time to spend in East Hampton because we need it.

How have The Hamptons and Georgica Pond informed the entire concept and collection of songs on your album?

Amanda: The connection I think is really about legacy and about love and also about loss. My mother was out in East Hampton with her best friend who had a property in Georgica Pond, and not far was Shelter Island. My parents had a dream of a vacation house. We’d all take the ferry over, have holidays and weddings, and it was a beautiful piece of land. They were never able to put a house on the property, but we’d stay with my mom and friends in the East Hampton, and I had so many memories of my mom.

After our son was born, we brought him and I started singing. When you’re a mom, you make up lots of things when your kids go to sleep, and it was about our relationship and my relationship with my mom and this legacy and this place where I’ve had a good time over all these years and how we’re all connected. We thought “Georgica Pond” really encapsulates everything we have to say.