The husband-wife folk duo Johnnyswim met more than 10 years ago and began writing songs while their personal relationship blossomed.
As their journey together took shape, Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano Ramirez shared landmark life moments, big and small. The couple’s music reflects them all, with pain of losing parents, the joy of having their son, and love of family at its core. The result is a chronicle of heartfelt lyrics and soulful melodies on their new album Georgica Pond, out October 14 on Big Picnic Records.
Sudano sings their stories with a voice of angelic emotion as Ramirez balances with comforting strength — a match of perfection in life and in song. Ramirez and Sudano wrote the album’s centerpiece track, also called “Georgica Pond,” on a trip to the site located in East Hampton, Long Island. “It is a place my mother loved. It is a place we daydreamed to one day take our family,” Sudano said. “When she passed away we would still go back to visit but last year we got to bring our son Joaquin there for the first time. It was a very special moment of the legacies that we come from and the future that we, for the first time, had eyes on for our son.”
“It made the most sense to call the record that because it is a little bit of loss, a whole lot of love, and a little bit of struggle,” she added.
Ramirez and Sudano met in Nashville in 2005 where they began a creative collaboration of songwriting. Ramirez had other ideas from the start. “It was a ruse. The music was all just a cover on my part so I could be alone with Amanda,” Ramirez said. “We were both musicians. We were both artists and we were both pursuing that independently but as soon as I saw Amanda all else, everything in life, was a sidebar to her.
“I have no idea what it would be like if we were just collaborators, just purely musical. It has never been that way for me,” he said.
The couple married in 2009 and moved to Los Angeles. Ramirez’s father, Cuban poet Omar Ramirez, passed away July 2011. Sudano’s mother, disco legend Donna Summer, died soon after in May 2012. Their first child, Joaquin Ramirez, was born in February 2015. Through it all, the musicians were struck by the legacy their parents left and faced a swell of emotion thinking of the legacy they would forge for Joaquin.
“The writing shows how Abner and I were both feeling in this period of time where you realize how much you are drawn to the things you came from, you are drawn to this unknown in the future,” Sudano said. “They both guide you. They both speak to you going forward. They both have a say in what you are doing and who you want to be.”
The duo also worked through heavy grief. “A big part for us was going through the all the emotions of loss of our parents and gain of our son, of loss and of life,” Sudano said. “It was realizing that we couldn’t be parents properly unless we both dealt with the loss of his father, the loss of my mother. That is where the song ‘Let It Matter’ happened. We realized the only way we could be healthy is if we let ourselves feel everything that we’re feeling.”
“I don’t want to feel better / I don’t want to feel good / I want to feel it hurt like losing someone should,” Sudano sings on “Let It Matter.”
“I want to hear what the angels played when they walked my daddy home,” Ramirez sings on “Drunks.”
Johnnyswim worked with several collaborators on different songs, creating a record with an array of styles. Country music icon Vince Gill brings a touch of twang in “Lonely Night in Georgia.” Violinist and composer Anton Patzner brings a springy pop vibe to “Summertime Romance,” a portrait of the couple’s relationship. “Touching Heaven” features the Lakewood Church choir of Houston singing a gospel of hallelujahs. It was written for 19-month-old Joaquin, who sings along at the end.
Johnnyswim has released three EPs, a Christmas EP, and a live album, abd has appeared on television shows, performed at major festivals, and toured extensively. Nowadays Joaquin is along for the ride, and has accompanied his parents to 29 states and four countries so far.
“It seems like such a flow of life and life doesn’t feel like working,” Ramirez said. “The concerts feel like a part of our relationship, they feel like an extension of our living room. Having Joaquin with us sitting in his little carseat on his way to shows, on his way back to the hotel room, it is all habit. It is a nice life we get to live.”
Johnnyswim, Penny and Sparrow
Great American Music Hall
October 18, 2016
8pm, SOLD OUT
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