Five Minutes with... The Swingles

Last week, The Swingles were performing as part of the Cork International Choral Festival and we were lucky enough to catch Oliver Griffith and Joanna Goldsmith-Eteson for a chat before their concert. As the first Irish International A Cappella Festival is getting nearer, we wanted to find out what they were most looking forward to in July. Have a read below for the full interview - Big thanks to Oli and Jo for meeting with our team and looking forward to hosting The Swingles this summer!


The Irish International A Cappella Festival is the first event of its kind in Ireland. As the headline act of such an unique event, what are you most looking forward to and why?

Jo: Yeah, it's really exciting. We love being a part of things that are starting out. There has been a few festivals where The Swingles have been the first main act, a couple in Italy and even our own festival in London. There was nothing like that in London until we started our festival, which runs every January, so it will be really exciting to see the kind of audiences that will come and hear the all choirs that will be performing!

Oli: Just on a purely selfish level, I've never been to Dublin. So I want to go there and just be a tourist! Haha

Your concert as part of the Cork International Choral Festival is the first time The Swingles have performed in Ireland in over ten years and a lot of the members have changed since then. Is this personally your first time in Ireland?

Oli: For me, it's my first time ever in Ireland!

Jo: I've been a few times.. in fact, the last time I came with the group was to Cork over ten years ago when I had first joined.

Oli: It's been a while definitely since The Swingles were in Ireland. Another of The Swingles, Ed, his grandmother is actually Irish and was from Cork. He actually went to visit her house this morning which was super cool!

Your new album Folklore has so many different cultural influences. Are there any Irish influences on your new album?

Oli: There was… we have a song which we’re still going to record. The way that this album came about was that we asked our fans and friends to suggest famous songs from where they live. We had an Irish song suggested and I'm not going to even attempt to pronounce the title as it’s in the Irish language but that was meant to be me on the lead. Unfortunately,  it was one that within the time scale we had, we just didn't have time to do it. But it's certainly on our agenda to do because we have many ‘vocal friends’ over here. We're good friends with Michael McGlynn and Anúna and we’re very inspired by that Celtic sound and very much it's on our radar to do but sadly, nothing on folklore this time.

Jo: The Dutiful Daughter has lots of Irish references from being all over the UK but it's ended up being known as an English folk song but we don't really know… Haha

(FOLKLORE is now available on iTunes, Amazon etc. More info here

Who are your own A Cappella Influences?

Jo: A Cappella-wise nowadays, I'm really into the Scandinavian group who have a really, very Nordic, raw way of singing, sort of like wailing - I really love that stuff! Growing up, I used to listen to The Real Group. They are from Sweden as well. I remember listening to them while I was travelling to college and thinking ‘if only there was a job just like that out there for me somewhere!’ So it’s really Sweden, Finland and Denmark and all those types of countries which are the ones that I lean towards.

Oli: Yeah and similarly to that, I really love Postyr Project! They're from Denmark and partially for what Jo was saying, there's a real rawness of communication when they sing. They are also doing lots with technology and they travel with this rig which they’ve that's made up of different lighting and LED lights that are timed with the looping pedals and all sorts of really cool integrated technology in their set.  I really enjoy and am inspired by that, and it makes me want to really up our game with The Swingles on that level. We use some looping etc. But I'm very inspired by them. I also LOVE Solala. I don't know if you've come across them. They're also known as The Swedish Fishermen who sing A Kiss From A Rose. They play on all sorts of kitchen implements and they're beautiful so I really loved them as well!

And lastly, as a member of a multi-award winning ensemble, have you any advice for our competitors preparing for the second Ireland’s A Cappella Competition?

Oli: We travel all around the world watching groups and one thing I would say, with a cappella, because so much of it is online, we’ve noticed that groups pick up and copy habits/ideas from each other. So we see the same choreography movements and ideas. I would say that we are always most moved by groups when they are doing something that feels unique to them rather than try to copy the style of someone else. I sort of feel like it's important that they don't look at the likes of Pentatonix and think that's the way it is, but actually they should try find their own sound and do their own thing.

Jo: Absolutely! Try and do something different and be yourselves. I would really encourage groups to do things that work for them and play to their own strengths rather than feel they have to sing a certain way or in a certain style because they feel that's what other groups are going to do.

Oli: When audiences are moved and when they connect with what the product is, that's when you have the moments of magic! It's not that the formula is ‘sing 4 pop songs in a row that go fast, slow, mid, fast and end with a bang and a key change. That's how we win!’ - It's not that! It's when people are moved by a performance and that comes when there's a sense of connection and authenticity from what's being presented. So don't copy other people, try find your own thing!

The first Irish International A Cappella Festival is coming to Dublin in July 2017. See The Swingles LIVE on Sunday 16th July at The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. Click here to buy your tickets!

Festival manager Leanne Fitzgerald with 'The Swingles' singers Joanna Goldsmith-Eteson and Oliver Griffith last week in Cork.   

Festival manager Leanne Fitzgerald with 'The Swingles' singers Joanna Goldsmith-Eteson and Oliver Griffith last week in Cork.