Headlining one’s own show is no small accomplishment, but a couple of weeks ago Dana Swarbrick did just that.
“It was quite the challenge,” Swarbrick said of her Jan. 14 performance at the Casbah, marking another step forward in Swarbrick’s small-but-growing musical career.
Swarbrick’s story begins with her aspiring to sing with the high school vocal jazz group Bluesettes & Co. Despite being the only grade nine accepted into the group, it was not as though her vocal abilities did not sprout overnight.
“I did not have a very good voice [then],” Swarbrick said. “I owe everything to that group in terms of where I get my voice, because of all the practice.” She would perform with that group throughout high school.
Despite all this experience, people are still often surprised by Swarbrick’s age. “People often find out that I’m nineteen, they are appalled, probably because of my confidence,” said Swarbrick.
If you’ve seen Swarbrick live, you’ll know she makes the stage her own with her countless puns and silly jokes. “Being part of a group of people that love music and that perform together does a huge thing for your confidence,” she said. “I encourage everyone to find something they are passionate about and get involved.”
Swarbirck found many such opportunities for involvement at McMaster, where she is also a psychology and social cognition major. “Last year I just did a lot of coffee houses on campus” Swarbrick said. “I joined MacBEAT and I fell in love with that club.” She’s not exaggerating, she’s married to it on Facebook.
The group meets Thursday’s in MUSC and just jams. “It was cool because it was everything I was learning about, playing music with a group fosters social cohesion,” she said.
Swarbrick’s first paid gig, in early September, was also an exercise in social cohesion. “I got $20 for opening for my friends, Boy With an Atlas,” said Swarbrick. “I think it was a pretty good show, so good in fact that the guy who manages the Casbah, Brodie, tracked me down a couple months later on Facebook, and sent me a message saying: ‘Hey I saw you open for Boy With an Atlas, do you want to open for Hannah Georgas?’” Swarbrick was ecstatic.
When asked how she was approached to headline a show, Swarbrick credited her “huge support system at McMaster.”
A venue only allows someone to headline a show if enough people will attend; the impressive numbers that Swarbrick brought to Hannah Georges showed she had not only the talent, but the support as well.
“I was so filled with love, and all the support was amazing that night,” she said, looking back on her first headlining gig.
Swarbrick recently released her first EP, called Fireflies and Starlight, and is continuing to play small venues around Hamilton. She will open for The Treble at the Casbah on Feb. 11.
Photo by Ted Buck/My Shot in the Dark