Look up present day Johnnyswim and what comes through is an impression of a band rolling on the larger-than-average-life side of the music industry: Los Angeles living, three albums in, Grammy award-winning production support, and accolades that include becoming literally ingrained in households across the country thanks to theme song sync placement with HGTV’s popular series, Fixer Upper.
Those unfamiliar with the “Backstage at the Ryman” series might anticipate a sonically explosive and visually frenetic experience after the flashy video introduction backed by aggressive guitar and thumping drums. If not for the candid greeting by Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano, Johnnyswim’s latest video – premiering today on American Songwriter – might seem like a set up for something with as much of an extroverted energy as Johnnyswim’s current activities and accomplishments.
However, what Johnnyswim delivers is anything but brash or aggressive. The band by no means takes the opportunity for granted.
“We were so thrilled to record [‘Long Gone’] at the iconic Ryman Auditorium,”said Sudano and Ramirez.
Performing an unplugged rendition of this single off the band’s 2019 LP, Moonlight, the couple ruminate over how to best convey their feelings of love and commitment in the historic space, as told through “Long Gone’s” imagery and metaphor-driven lyrics. “[Long Gone] is a song we don’t get to sing often so, what a dream to get to record such an intimate song in such a rich and holy place.” Ramirez and Sudano said.
“When odds are stacked high brick on brick,” sings Ramirez on a darkened Ryman stage beside Sudano and behind a single Josephine condenser microphone.
Though the Ryman is often visualized with bright lights, large crowds, and roaring applause for its performers, the conversely private, dimmed, and instrumentally minimalist setting of the video feels fitting for Johnnyswim, given that the two first came together not in their current home of the City of Angels but rather, in Music City.
“We roll the dice to shoot the moon,”Ramirez continues, ending the verse with a declaration of confidence. “If love’s a game I place my bets on me and you.” While the song’s middle set of sailing and water metaphors appears random amid others imparting fearlessness in the of face gambling, in a performance that feels like a genuine return to the humble beginnings of Johnnyswim’s story, the lyrical shift sounds instead, like a nice nod to the aquatically-themed foundation of the band’s name.
Taking all of this in with Johnnyswim’s perfectly harmonizing voices as the near sole drivers of “Long Gone’s” emotional power and the duo really underscore just how much their greatness is built on the trust and beauty of two individuals making something even better, together.
Watch “Long Gone – Backstage at the Ryman: Unplugged” below: