Donna Holmes Interviews The Swinging Belles
By Donna Holmes
We asked local singer/songwriter Donna Holmes to send along a few questions for visiting Deep Roots Festival artists The Swinging Belles. Here’s their resulting chat.
Donna Holmes is a local singer/songwriter who hosts a weekly open mic, sings with the Annapolis Big Band, and directs a seasonal variety show called Broken Leg Theatre. Donna also appears as a featured artist on Let the Good News Ring: Christmas Songs from the Annapolis Valley, an album recorded with the Hupman Brothers. The Swinging Belles (Laura Winter and Erin Power joined by guitarist Duane Andrews) are a swing band for kids from St. John’s, NL, are intent on getting both kids and adults to kick up their heels and have a swinging good time with the whole family!
Donna Holmes (DH): I love that you are a “swing band for kids”. What made you realize that kids needed more swing music in their lives?
The Swinging Belles (TSW): Well, we believe everyone needs more swing music in their lives! The swing style happened very naturally as we are all in love with swing jazz and western swing-style music. Duane is an exceptional guitarist and loves the jazz stylings of the great Django Reinhardt. He really drives the swing groove while Laura and I love the interwoven harmonies reminiscent of the swing sounds of the ’30s and ’40s. And let’s not forget that that swing style is great for dancing, which is what we’re all about!
DH: Congrats on the Juno for Children’s Album of the Year! What inspired the title song “More Sheep, Less Sleep”?
TSB: Thanks, Donna! When the idea for this project first started, we had planned to do an album during the RPM Challenge, which is a global challenge to write and record an album in the month of February. It’s an intense month and on top of it all we were already doing the challenge as part of another group so we were writing and rehearsing as well as teaching Kindergarten and Grade 1. There wasn’t much time for sleep. “More Sheep, Less Sleep” came about while Laura and I were chatting about how tired we were but how the excitement was keeping us awake at night! So we had to write a song about it! We didn’t get the Belles album done in that month but we took those songs and added a few more and a few months later had our first show! It was the beginning of The Swinging Belles!
DH: How do you incorporate other elements, beyond the music, into a stage performance?
TSB: While the show is mainly music driven, we like to add other elements as well. It’s good to keep it fresh and interesting for the audience and for us! We tell interactive stories and also showcase puppets, hula hoops, and bubble blowers throughout the show. We bring a little bit of home into each show with a NL set dance that we do with the audience!
DH: Do you only do family/kid shows? What kind of music would you perform, for instance, at Paddy’s Open Mic (populated mostly by university students & middle-aged locals)?
TSB: The Swinging Belles are a band for all ages and we find that our music sits well with a variety of audiences. We pride ourselves on writing music that both kids and adults can enjoy. I mean, I would imagine that the patrons of Paddy’s Pub would be delighted to find out where all their matching socks go in one of our favourite tunes (“Sock Gnomes”) and who doesn’t love to tap their toes to a little “Attitude of Gratitude”?
DH: When not performing, what kind of music do you like to listen to?
TSB: Our musical tastes are all over the place! While there might be some cross over, our playlists are all pretty different! We might be listening to Django Reinhardt, The Secret Sisters, Poke LeFarge, The Byrds, or Beyonce!
DH: Have you ever been to the Annapolis Valley before? Is there anything in particular you are excited about seeing or visiting here?
TSB: Duane actually played the festival a few years back and is looking forward to eating at The Noodle Guy again! Laura lived and worked in the Valley for several years after finishing up at Acadia and is always excited to go back for a visit. This will be my first time there and I have heard such wonderful things about the people and the place!
Friday, September 22, 12:00pm: Artists at the Library (Wolfville Memorial Library) – Donna Holmes, Jonathan Byrd & The Pickup Cowboy
Saturday, September 23, 9:30am: Deep Roots at the Market (Wolfville Farmers’ Market, 9:30am-12:30pm) – Donna Holmes, Sarah McInnis, Kaia Kater, Naming the Twins, Pretty Archie, Jill Boudreau Band •
Saturday, September 23,1:15pm: Kids Music Show (Festival Tent) – The Swinging Belles