Swamp Mama Johnson - Seattle, WA

Swamp Mama Johnson - Seattle, WASwamp Mama Johnson
Seattle's All-Female
Funky-Bluesy Groove Thang
by HotBands Editor - Pat Ferris

Swamp Mama Johnson is a band that I've had the opportunity to see mature over the past several years.  I saw them in the early 90's before my travels took me away from Seattle, but upon returning, I saw them last summer at the Seattle HempFest and became a renewed fan. 

This was followed up with a review on them last fall when we got them hooked up to our directory, where they have steadily been the #1 referring band to our website since the end of October.

When I first saw them I liked them and thought they were a good, solid blues/soul band, but with the addition of their new bass player, they moved into uncharted territory and new dimensions of funk/blues, and became a band that I think is on the way to much bigger horizons.

They can be seen at venues all over the NW, and their latest CD, Fresh,   Raw, and LIVE! really allows the listener to hear what these gals have to say and does a fair job of giving you an idea  of what their live performance is all about (but the live shows are still where it's at).  I look forward to seeing this group move toward national and international touring, and their CD in-the-works will be sure to be another hit if it is based upon their growing following's appetite for them!

I was able to get a moment of their time for an ICQ review and this is what they had to say.

L-R - Leah, Laurie and Lisa<HotBands> Hi there

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Hey, we're marginal typists at best. That's why we're musicians

<HotBands> No problem. Who all do I have on line at this time?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> You have Laurie Miller and Lisa Mills.

<HotBands> You gals have the honors of being the #1 referring band to our site for the last 3 months in a row.

<Swamp Mama Johnson> What do you mean referring?

<HotBands> More traffic has come from your website than any of the other bands listed on HotBands.

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Cool

<HotBands> I guess you get a lot of traffic yourself, or you talk a lot about it to your fans to point them to the photos we have on file.   As you know, I saw your band last October and wrote a review on you, and was overly impressed with how you sound NOW as opposed to 7 years ago when I saw you the last time (I moved away, so it's not that I didn't WANT to see you). What would you attribute the change in style to? Maturity, change of band members, change of attitude, or something else?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> I would say it 's maturity.  In a way, we're always looking for ways of expressing ourselves, and those ways have evolved as we have evolved as musicians.  Also, a change in membership took us along new paths.  Things our new bass player was interested in we could explore too. We all dig a lot of diverse music styles.

<HotBands> I've seen a lot of press on your band recently. You seem to be all over the local Seattle area music papers and even on the radio. What would you contribute this to?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Hi Pat, Lisa the singer here. Well, I am a woman of many talents.....Lisa Mills

<HotBands> Hi Lisa!  You type also... good!

<Swamp Mama Johnson> We have steadily gotten press over our entire career, and the quality and quantity goes up and down, with (hopefully) a  tendency to incline.   We also have been getting radio airplay on various stations for some years now, most notably on KISM 92.9 in Bellingham. It has really helped our infamy.

<HotBands> You gals were based out of Bellingham to start, weren't you?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> We still are!

<HotBands> Is that where you are at this time?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Well currently we are locked in cyber space, but....

<HotBands> okay...fair enough . I had you listed on HotBands as being from Bellingham, but changed it after I saw you in October because I thought you had migrated to Seattle.

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Our members are scattered throughout 2 states, and we tour constantly all over , but the business is based in Bellingham.

<HotBands> TWO States?? which two?Tracy Ferrara

<Swamp Mama Johnson> WA & OR

<HotBands> Wow!  Since you are in Bellingham and close to the Canadian border, do you get the chance to tour and play in Vancouver, Victoria or Whistler?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> We actually tour quite a lot in Canada. We have been to all those places several times, and many others in BC, as well as the Northwest Territories, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

<HotBands> Do you do much touring down the West Coast, and do you have plans of touring through the Midwest, East Coast, or South?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Being based in a corner of the country makes touring a long haul sort of affair, but we have toured down to Cal, and . Just this past fall we did a Midwest jaunt to Memphis for Bluestock, hitting something like 11 States on the way there and back.

<HotBands> Great! I'm assuming you went over well and got a lot of new fans?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> We had a great time! I think we were the only band of doing our particular genre: Funky-Bluesy-Groove-Thang. The audiences seemed to really enjoy it.

<HotBands> Do you get asked if you are from Louisiana much? I would guess that you do just because that is what your band name conjures up.

<Swamp Mama Johnson> People think from our name on the marquis that they're gonna be hearing some Katie Webster-style blues so they are surprised sometimes to see 5 chicks up there and no gold teeth

<HotBands> Too funny! I had a band recently (or maybe it was a reader) that wrote in and noted that several years ago (early 90's)  the music market was dominated by grunge and men, but in the last 5 years, it has been dominated by women. Do you see this as an on-going trend, or do you even pay attention that to that sort of thing?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> My patootie! I wonder what your reader is basing their opinion on?

<HotBands> I think they are basing it on things like the Lilith Festivals

<Swamp Mama Johnson>  I think the music business is and always has been dominated by men. Listen to any radio station. Do they have more than one female DJ in a row? Do they play more than 1 or 2 female artists in an hour? I think what you are seeing  is a few more women than you saw in the 80's, but I definitely wouldn't say they are dominating  the market.

<HotBands> Another reader pleaded with me to get more women bands on featured on our site, and even though Seattle is the only city to have more than 1 featured band in a year (1999 had two), your band was the first band that came to mind that I felt was a good representation of an all female band that knew how to not only sing, but knew their instruments well enough to put some serious kick-ass in the music.  I guess that your music will satisfy her wants.
Fresh, Raw, Live CD

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Thank you. I hope it does.

<HotBands> Do you have your CD's for sale through Amazon or any other major on-line venue, or are you selling them through your site only?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> We sell our CD on our site via Amazon and CDNow. We also have national distribution through City Hall Records in the US and Festival Distribution in Canada.

<HotBands> How do you feel about MP3 and the ability to sell DAM CD's without up-front costs of production?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Hmmm-of course there are recording costs, and honestly, the people who should be happiest about it are little bands like us. Think how sad The Big Guys are knowing they won't be making $14.50 a CD anymore.

<HotBands> That's probably (in my opinion) why RIAA is suing MP3.com!  I'm so sick of Corporate America walking all over artists! This was one of the main driving catalysts for creating HotBands.com

Laurie Miller<Swamp Mama Johnson> Sore Losers

<HotBands> Time to level the playing field and put the money back into the people creating the product rather than creating a false market.

<Swamp Mama Johnson> You don't think Brandee should get money for her boob job???

<HotBands> well....maybe if I was the one enjoying the boobs! But not for the music...no.

<Swamp Mama Johnson> I hear they don't feel real.

<HotBands> Oh boy...that's an whole different interview....

<Swamp Mama Johnson> One I'm not nearly as well-versed at

<HotBands> Me either....I've never had a boob job myselfLeah Hinchcliff

<Swamp Mama Johnson> :-)

<HotBands> I wonder if I should keep this in the interview? :-)_

<Swamp Mama Johnson> What the hell!

<HotBands> So what IS the bass player's name?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Leah Hinchcliff

<HotBands> She's been with you for a year now. Do you think your sound changed a lot with her?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> A little more than that- it's a love fest!  And yes...she has brought new pathways to the band that have been a soul filling experience. It's the exploration, really... She doesn't suck

<HotBands> She is definitely the funkiest bass player I've seen in the entire country in the past 2 years! I'm also a bassist and can tend to be more critical than most people about how a band sounds, but I was more than humbled by her playing , and the sound of the entire band in general.

<Swamp Mama Johnson> .. She humbles many a player. I hope to humble somebody some day.

<HotBands> You are something! I'm not sure how to respond to a lot of what you say! I bet you were a handful as a child!

<Swamp Mama Johnson> We both were.

<HotBands> What are your plans for new CD's, tours, etc? You currently have 3 or 4 CD's? Last time I spoke with you, you were planning on releasing a live CD of your music. Is that finished yet?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> We have 4 recordings, three on CD, one on tape. We released Fresh,   Raw, and LIVE! last Summer and we are beginning pre-production for our 5th which will be entitled...but no, I can't tell you that... And regarding MP3,  we will with the next album.

Lisa and Tracy<HotBands> What is the biggest crowd you've played for? Hempfest last year?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> It would be a toss between Bumbershoot and the Waterfront Blues Fest.  I guess 30,000.

<HotBands> HempFest last year had 55,000 peak and 35,000 turn-around for a total for the day of 90,000. It had to be up in the 30,000+ range when I saw you there last summer.

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Really? Hmmm. Must have been the clouds of smoke obscuring my view.

<HotBands> Are you scheduled to play Bumbershoot, HempFest, or the Waterfront Blues Fest this year?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> I don't know about those...Julie would.

<HotBands> What are your plans this year for touring. Can any of the readers in the US Canada or Europe plan on seeing you in their locale this year?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Well, unfortunately there are no plans for Europe at this juncture, however there will be an LA show in May and some midwest plans for the fall...we'll be back in BC this summer for sure; Whistler, Harrison, Roberts Creek....

<HotBands> One of the things that I always ask the bands I interview is for the sake of the reader of our site. I know that a lot of the people that read our publication are either IN or are STARTING a band. Some of them or even most of them don't have the experience that you or the other veteran musicians we've interviewed have.

<Swamp Mama Johnson> It is the Northwest. Isn't everybody in or starting a band?

<HotBands> What would you suggest to the readers as the way you have reached the level of success you area at currently?, and what recommendations do you have to them as far as their pursuit of music?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Zowie!! Do you want the one word answer or the whole encyclopedia?

<HotBands> what...??? "Don't quit your day job" ?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> It really has been a long process , full of mistakes and successes. I don't think there is one or even a dozen ways to be successful as a band. I don't even think there's one definition of successful. You know, you just keep at it, keep believing, take care of your fans, put on a good show, be professional and on time, do what you say you're going to do, don't under sell yourself, and after a while you've lost any real world work skills, so you just desperately hope you can keep doing it.... and that's all.

<HotBands> well....it's worked for Ray Charles so far.Kim Carson

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Whew! SMJ and Ray Charles!

<HotBands> Do you have any last remarks you want to say to the readers out in cyber space?

<Swamp Mama Johnson> We're glad y'all are enjoying our music as much as we are. Stay tuned, it's always evolving.

<HotBands> Thanks for taking the time for this interview....I hope it wasn't too painful for you!

<Swamp Mama Johnson> Thank you for the interview!   Tata

You can find out more about Swamp Mama Johnson's touring schedule, upcoming gigs and other band information by visiting their website at http://www.swampmama.com