Old Tire Swingers: Local Band Profile

Jul 30, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Music

by Addam Cogdill

Today we visit with Paul Chesterton of Old Tire Swingers, a bluegrass band hailing from Fresno’s Tower District. Old Tire Swingers are the latest link in an unbroken chain of the living tradition which is folk music. Old Tire Swingers chose to plant roots in blue grass, although they are known to play anything from Journey to Sublime. Their style is mostly old time string band music with touches of country, bluegrass, and Americana. They play originals, traditional American, and cover songs.

Addam: Who contributes to the Old Tire Swingers?

Paul: Our first live show was this past February. At the time we had a different guitarist and a snare drum player. The current lineup is Nick Kennedy on acoustic guitar, Frick Dau on upright bass, Paul Chesterton on banjo and sings lead. Nick and Frick both have been in a few bands; most notably Frick and Nick were both members of the rock band Airplane To Nowhere.

Probably the most well-known bands I have been in was my old rock band Atari Champ, or Kat Jones’ band.

Left to right are Paul Chesterton, Frick Dau, Nick Kennedy

Addam: Tell us about the beginning of Old Tire Swingers?

Paul: Well, I’ve played in many bands and genres over the years from Reedley, Dinuba, and Fresno since 1994: alternative rock, shoegazer, indie, country and bluegrass. I’ve written songs in all of those bands, and I love many styles of music. Lately, most of the music I’ve been listening to has been country, bluegrass, old-time mountain music, and Americana. I most recently played upright bass with a band called The Dalton Mountain Gang out of Fresno. That band spilt up last year and I’ve always loved banjo, so I picked it up again and started working on the claw hammer style and writing songs in the bluegrass/Americana style. I guess it’s in my blood to write music and start bands.

Addam: How often do you practice and perform?

Paul: We usually practice 2-3 times per week. Lately, we’ve been in the studio 3-4 times a week and just getting in a practice between them. We’ve been known to perform on street corners, in basements, kitchens, living rooms, shady bars, nice bars, parks, alleys, coffee shops, and music festivals. We’re not looking to play shows really until our CD is finished though.

We toured the country in March, April, and the beginning of May and were normally playing at least once per night. If there’s time after a show is done, we often head to the street corner to play some more. We love the music and are willing to do what we need to keep making it!

On tour and at home, we often busk on street corners for extra money and end up playing a wide variety of music.

Addam: Do you have day jobs?

Paul: I had to quit my job to go on the tour earlier in the year and I’m going to start back to work next week until the next tours hit. Nick is a barista at Starbucks here in Fresno and Frick works at Kohl’s. We won’t be able to keep the jobs when we head out on the road again of course.

Addam: What is the best part of playing music, what is the hardest part?

Paul: After going through different jobs and different hobbies, the one thing that I never got tired of was music. It’s the one thing that brings out that emotional side of me. And songwriting never stops challenging me. I don’t think I could ever write the perfect song. It’s kind of like a puzzle to me to get the right words in the right places and to search out that melody that fits the words just right. But I do always feel like I can always do a better job and I’m never completely satisfied. Songwriting and music just sparks a different side of me. The hardest thing about dedicating yourself to be in a touring band is
the strain on relationships. Some friends of ours tour 10-11 months out of the year, which is about what we’re aiming for. It’s tough to have a girlfriend or a family and to keep up friendships and the like when you’re gone that much.

Addam: What makes Old Tire Swingers different from other bands?

Paul: Well, one thing that definitely makes us unique is our original songs. I love traditional Appalachian music as well as a lot of the country music from the south and southwest and so that comes out in the songs. Those are real strong influences on our songwriting and some of our songs feel like they could have been written 50 or 60 years ago. But, we’re from a different generation and the influences that we’ve grown up with definitely come out in the music. Heck, I’m working on a Katy Perry cover right now. I’m sure that listening to pop music influences me somewhere as well! One of my motivations for starting the band was the energetic old time music being played by bands like the Freight Hoppers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Pert Near Sandstone, and the Morgantown Rounders. I love that hard driving acoustic dance music and I feel like there’s a lack of those kinds of bands out there!

Addam: What goals do you have for the future?

Paul: We have many future goals. First and foremost is to finish the CD, get it duplicated and online so people can get ahold of it easily. It’s going to be a full length with somewhere between 13-15 songs. Looking like it’ll be out sometime in August. Mostly it’ll be original songs with a couple traditionals thrown in.

We’re planning on playing a lot of shows around California and save up money to head over to the UK in January and February to play out there for a little while. We then plan on heading out on the road around the US starting next March for at least a few months.

Addam: Anything else you want to add?

Paul: I love how folk music can tell a lot about a place. In our music, it definitely has a Central Valley feel to it. We have a song called Cricket Hollow about floating down the Kings River, songs about throwing parties at houses out in the country, playing music under oak trees, and songs that talk about different aspects of our life here. I think that’s important. I love the Appalachian music, but I was raised here and that’s what I know, so that’s what I like to sing about.

You can learn more about Old Tire Swingers on their Facebook Page.

Addam Cogdell lives in Reedley and is a utility worker at Reedley College. He is the proud father of a son named Sam, has several pet cats and koifish.


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