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Graceful Transformation

Blue Swans flips heartbreak on its head through music

Eric Christenson, photos by Kyle Lehman

TRUE BLUE. Christina Swangim drops her debut EP as Blue Swans called On My Own on March 14 at The Plus.
TRUE BLUE. Christina Swangim drops her debut EP as Blue Swans called On My Own on March 14 at The Plus.

Heartbreak and low, low points in life have this graceful way of transforming into art that’s beautiful and real. Raw, relatable stuff. So many words and songs have been written in the depths of dark moments to process emotions, transfigure pain, learn, grow, and move on – if not around, then through.

Blue Swans, a.k.a. Christina Swangim, masterfully guided herself through tough times, guitar in hand, and has come out the other side with a stunning six-track EP called On My Own, an unflinching study of sadness and resilience and her first output under the new name.

“You can really feel the low moments, but you can also tell when I’m starting to heal,” Swangim said. “I was basically checking in with myself, observing my feelings or lack thereof, and putting it into words.”

Swangim, a Chetek native, was fully surrounded by music growing up playing piano, violin, trumpet, French horn, and eventually guitar – the one that stuck. As a teen, she led worship in church, but slyly found ways to listen to all kinds of music, getting inspired and hungry to find more and more artists to connect with. In college, she would casually play music and sing when her suite mates weren’t around, or so she thought. One of Swangim’s suite mates would listen to her play from behind closed doors and, transfixed by her voice and words, gave her an unsolicited push to perform live.

“One day she told me that she volunteered me to play a three-song set for a campus fashion show … I was like ‘What the hell did you just do?’ ” Swangim said. “Then she explained that she’s been listening to me play all year and I should go for it, so I did. That performance gave me the courage to put myself out there more.”

Swangim has found a musical home playing open mics all over the Midwest: at The Plus in Eau Claire, in Chicago during school, Moto-i showcases in Minneapolis (where she lives now), and really anywhere she could plug in. That tenacity and willingness to put herself out there is what made her debut as Blue Swans, her strongest work to date, possible.

“This is the right time to put myself and my songs out there because I feel like it’s the only time,” she said. “In the last year and a half I came to the realization that I would be so angry with myself if I never really went after this passion of mine.”

On My Own is so much more than a guitar and voice, though. For the EP, Swangim enlisted the help of Kyle Culver at Eau Claire’s Sprinter Studios to add a tasteful, yet massive production quality with synths and otherworldly textures surrounding her urgent and poignant vocals.

“He and I have developed such and fantastic collaborative relationship and I really trust his expertise,” Swangim said. “He’s quickly become one of my best friends and I think we’ve found a special artist/producer dynamic.”

And as a queer artist, Swangim hopes to send out a beacon of confidence to other queer artists whose underrepresented voices need to be heard. Maybe hearing another voice joining the throng of confident queer songwriters will make young listeners feel less alone, and more seen. At the Blue Swans EP release show at The Plus on March 14, she’s donating a portion of proceeds to She Rock She Rock, a Minneapolis-based music charity dedicated to empowering girls, women, trans, and nonbinary folks through music. 

“I have so many personal experiences where I realized I could do something, because I saw somebody else who was queer doing it well,” Swangim said. “I’ll never steer away from using female pronouns in my music when referring to people I’ve loved because it wouldn’t be genuine and I think that doing so could make all the difference in a young person’s life – knowing that other people out there are queer and unafraid.”

After reshaping the muck of sadness into pearls of music, the future is bright for Blue Swans, as she readies a full length album, plays shows around the Midwest, and has goals of touring these songs to cities far and wide. On My Own marks a bold step into the unknown, but one taken with newfound confidence and the grace of transformation, glowing in the power of music.

Blue Swans is releasing On My Own to the world with a release show at The Plus on March 14 alongside opening act TeawhYB. For more updates and to learn more, find Blue Swans on Facebook and Instagram. Once it drops, you can stream On My Own on Spotify.