Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to sit with Thomas “Zeke” Krouskoff, the founder and songwriter of the rock band Swahoogie. Swahoogie is a local band in the New York City area and performs live as well as in the studio.
Saneteachers: I’m assuming that you were born with a guitar in your hand. In case that’s an exaggeration, did you start out as a garage-type musician?
Zeke: Ha! The main goal for every band I’ve been in since I was 14 has been to play live music before an audience. We have never stayed in the garage too much. If anything, we may be under-rehearsed.
Saneteachers: When did you start composing songs and what groups influenced your songwriting the most?
Zeke: I started writing songs consistently when I was 14 or 15. I was heavily influenced by The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. Classic bands that I still like today.
Saneteachers: Are there any newer bands that you are currently listening to?
Zeke: I’m a big fan of Blitzen Trapper. I even flew from NY to LA for one night just to see them at the Troubadour in Hollywood.
Saneteachers: As I writer myself, I’m always interested in not only what someone writes but what drives them to write. What started you on your journey down the songwriting road?
Zeke: I have always approached songwriting as a vehicle for expressing who I am and where I am at a particular moment in my life. My songs are not necessarily autobiographical, but they reflect people I know and experiences I have had.
Here’s an example… One of my songs, Last Chance Guadalajara, is about dealing with addiction and alcoholism and references “living in the southwest in a haze of cactus.” However, I have never been to Guadalajara or lived in the Southwest.
Songwriting has always helped me make a connection to the world and make sense of what is happening around me. I feel a good song should tell a story or paint a picture for the listener.
Saneteachers: What is it like to write a song, and I’m sure you do lots of editing….actually, do you? I shouldn’t assume that.
Zeke: I am a big believer in editing and rewriting. Very rarely does a song come together in one shot for me. I might have most of a song and then spend a long time revising the rest. Sometimes it’s one phrase that doesn’t feel right. When I get lazy with editing, those parts always bother me when I hear the song in the future. Recently I have gotten into the habit of writing half songs and mixing together phrases from several different unfinished songs.
One of the best feelings as a songwriter is having a song come to life. I love to hear people singing along to a full band version of a song I originally wrote alone with an acoustic guitar in the middle of the night.
Saneteachers: The music business has been heavily impacted by social media and music sites. What has worked well for you? Can you share some of your links with your old and new fans here?
Zeke: Its great to be able to get my songs heard around the world. I find it interesting to see that some people in Denmark listen to Swahoogie. Our music is available on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud. It’s fun to play a show and then be able to post a YouTube clip that night for people who couldn’t get to the gig. That’s a big difference from when we played in the 90s.
Saneteachers: Here is a personal favorite of mine…..
Zeke: I have been blessed to make incredible friends because of the music. I’m playing with friends I’ve known since I was in my teens and early twenties, as well as friends I’ve made in the past few years. The best part of Swahoogie is that it brings people together. Each performance feels like a celebration of life. Each show feels like it is the continuation of a lifelong passion.
You can see Swahoogie live, this Saturday, August 12th at Dudley’s in New Rochelle, NY.