Tidings Café: Elly Swift

Many musicians have enjoyed playing at the Tidings Café, but for Elly Swift, the performance of her new song, "Even if it Kills Me, Son," wasn't just a tune in front of a camera next to a newsroom. It was a second chance.

"When I got this invitation from Mandy (Valencia), I was pretty excited because I had been thinking about trying to get back into it and make a new CD and things like that," Swift said. "It's also really fun because I haven't sang in a while."

Swift (formerly Elly Lockeby), a 26-year-old folk and alt country singer-songwriter from Medford, started learning to play guitar from her extended family when she was 12, but she always struggled with what to do with her skills.

"I did a talent show or two in high school, and then I sang in a couple of weddings after that, but really I was mostly just a secret, just keeping my music to myself," she said.

"After I turned 21, I started hanging out at Johnny B's (in Medford) and going to shows and stuff, but I didn't tell anybody that I could sing or play the guitar. I sang in my kitchen all alone writing music."

She found her chance while struggling to encourage her friend Billy Woods to perform in front of audience.

"I said, 'Do it, do it. If you do it, I'll play a song. And then I sang my song and he was just blown away."

Woods became her manager and booked many shows, but eventually Swift figured out that she and Woods had different ideas of where to take her career.

"I realized I didn't really want to become a big star or move away or travel or anything, so we parted ways," Swift said. "But he really helped me out a lot because I would probably still be singing in my kitchen alone if it wasn't for him."

Between her split with her manager, recent marriage and plans to go back to school full-time this winter, Swift hasn't had much time to book gigs, but she has fresh inspiration for new material.

"Most of the songs I write are true or related to my life in some kind of way," she said.

At first glance and first listen, it didn't seem like it had been months since Swift performed. Her look was both hip yet timeless with her '60s bouffant hairdo, pierced upper lip, red fishnet stockings and mod white and black petticoat that matched her white Ibanez hollow body electric guitar.

Of course, it's her sound that made her worthy of a Tidings Café invitation. Her soulful, vintage country voice harmonized with her guitar while performing "Even if it Kills Me, Son," and she created a soft, warm tone while plucking at her guitar on "Redneck Baby," a song she wrote for her husband.

"There's a big difference between strumming and finger picking," she said. "Finger picking a lot of times makes me feel even more emotional. It allows me to relate even more because it just has this delicate sound to it."

Her musical backbone stems from her mother, who would sing Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams in the kitchen, but she also finds influence from today's female alternative country singers, such as Neko Case and Jenny Lewis.

"I think that it's folk with the influence of my mother and old-time country artists," Swift said.

Check out Swift's performance at dailytidings.com and connectashland.com/group/tidingscafe.

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