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Goodbye Road Brings Together JOHNNYSWIM, Drew Holcomb For Collection Of Socially Conscious Songs

Courtesy photo

The Goodbye Road tour is a collaborative effort between the husband and wife duo JOHNNYSWIM, Drew Holcomb (Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors) and the duo Penny & Sparrow. Goodbye Road is the name of the debut EP which saw Holcomb team with JOHNNYSWIM's Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez. Sudano had known Holcomb's wife while the two were in high school which ultimately led to a friendship with the acclaimed singer-songwriter.

The EP is the result of writing sessions which took place at the couple's home in the aftermath of the Charlottesville, Virginia rally, the death of Tom Petty and the attack on fans at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2017.

Sudano and Ramirez spoke via phone from the home they share with their two children.

The Goodbye Road tour stops at Wichita's Orpheum Theatre on Tuesday, July 3.

Interview Highlights

Everything that I've read about this EP, the writing of it, the making of it, it all went very fast.

Abner Ramirez: Oh my gosh. I'm trying to find an accurate way to say this without embellishing. I don't think there's been any other professional experience that's gone faster for us. I think it's been one of our more fulfilling projects as well. We put ourselves on a crutch. Kind of on purpose. Drew flew out to LA for 48 hours. We were going to write the whole EP and we didn't know what was going to happen. We didn't even know if we'd get one song out of it. But Drew came over to the house and stuff just started flowing out of us. The first day we wrote together was the day after the big Charlottesville incident.

It was a super sad moment but also a bizarre moment as a country and as people, as songwriters and as people that like to consider ourselves active in wanting to make our communities better and safer and all that. So, the song "Ring The Bells" just kind of came out of us.

We talk about Charlottesville, we talk about the country as it is and friendships and people that we love, people that we disagree with and how to navigate conversations. It seems like everything has to be political these days. This song basically erupted out of us.

The two of you are inviting Drew not just to collaborate but into your home. The two of you are musical partners but you're also married. Is it strange to invite somebody into that process or were you welcoming of that?

From the beginning, Amanda and I have found it more productive to write with a third party. We don't disclose this information to that person but typically they're our marriage counselor. When we write alone together we'll disagree and we both die on whatever hill appears first. With the third party, we have to be more cordial because otherwise somebody's going to remember writing with us and it being a disaster. But it also helps us make decisions faster.

Amanda and I have been writing together for 10 years. We've found that it's always more productive to have somebody else to write with us. And with Drew being a buddy it was like somebody just hanging out with us for drinks. Which, honestly, is a lot of what writing with us is.

I wanted to ask about your version of Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down." Had he passed around the time you were writing this?

Amanda Sudano: Yes. We were feeling the burn of his loss and also the weight of what he left us in his music. It was the perfect song for the EP, the perfect tone for the EP and our way of honoring him.

How much talk has gone into exactly what's going to happen on this tour in terms of who's going to play what and when and all that sort of thing?

Abner Ramirez: The cool thing we all make music, whether it's Drew.] or us or Penny & Sparrow, that idea of free and loose, we'll figure it out when we get there is kind of like butter in cooking. Whatever you're making might not be that great, but if you just add more butter to whatever you're making it's going to be alright. We're doing a lot of planning, a lot of preparation, but there's also a lot of butter. Not everything's going to go perfectly I'm sure. So we'll have to figure it out when we get there.

But we've talked a lot about it. We want to Penny & Sparrow to have their moment, they'll open the show up. The idea is that Amanda and I and Drew will come out of the gates together. We'll do some Goodbye Road songs, we'll do some Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors songs all together. We'll do some JOHNNYSWIM songs. People will hear Drew singing on our songs for the first time onstage and us singing on some Drew songs for the first time. But we'll also have moments where it's just Amanda and I or just Drew, then back to collaboration. We honestly want people to come to the show and feel like they're a part of the process that began at a diner in Nashville over breakfast. That was when we decided, "Let's just get together. We'll figure it out later. We'll book your flight to LA we'll see if we can get a song out. Let's book a show and have all these people be part of this collaboration along with us."

Do you foresee a night when you'll bring both your kids out on the stage?

Amanda Sudano: We created a monster with our three-year-old. Every night he puts on his pajamas and expects applause. I'm being completely serious about that! I think we're going to start toning it down just so we don't create the world's most attention-seeking child.

Abner Ramirez: But probably. We're probably going to have them both onstage at some point on this tour.

Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.