Catching up with Johnnyswim, the Pandora Trendsetters swimming against the current

Credit: Mike Pont/Getty Images

Crystal Lowe, Head of Indie Programming at Pandora, admits that Johnnyswim is one of those artists that’s a little bit trickier to curate.

“We identify Johnnyswim are genre defiers,” Lowe explains. “So they’re hard to define.”

And that’s why if you take a listen to a Johnnyswim Artist Station on Pandora, you may be surprised as to the variety of artists you’ll hear. In a single station, you could hear alt-rockers X Ambassadors, country standout Chris Stapleton and blues-influenced singer-songwriters like Cobi and Hozier.

Pandora isn’t the only one calling Johnnyswim as genre defiers, either. Critics have praised their latest album, Georgica Pond (the followup to 2014’s Diamonds) for its seamless blend of elements of blues, folk, Americana and soul and more. And Johnnyswim themselves — composed of husband Abner Ramirez and wife Amanda Sudano — are the first to say that their sound is a mixture of several diverse musical influences.

And apparently, people like the concoction. The week after Georgica Pond’s release, Johnnyswim made an impressive debut at #7 on the Pandora Trendsetters Chart, which tracks up-and-coming artists with the highest number of Artist Station Adds on Pandora. That week, they netted close to 3,000 Artist Station Adds.

Speaking to Next Big Sound about their chart debut, Ramirez called it “humbling and exciting all at the same time,” joking, “It’s nice not to have the conversation of, Well what day job are we going to go get?

Following their nationwide Let It Matter Tour, Ramirez says “it’s still baffling that we’re not still playing at coffee shops in Nashville,” where he and Sudano first started making music together over 10 years ago. A year after the release of their self-titled debut EP, they got married in 2009.

Ramirez says they’ve grown a lot as musicians since then — “We spend a lot less time second-guessing ourselves” — and Sudano explains that Georgica Pond comes from a more “organic” and trust-your-gut place. But despite all of that, they say one thing has been constant in the past decade: They’ve never been ones to fit into any box.

“It was never intentional for us to fight the idea of genre. It’s never been a conscious thing,” Ramirez says. “In fact, it’s one of the things that made people tell us that Johnnyswim would never work. We had a lot of opposition at the beginning… we didn’t fit anywhere.”

As the daughter of Donna Summer, Sudano has a heavy pop background and grew up on singer-songwriter soul music, while Ramirez has an affinity for bluegrass and grew up listening to Cuban music.

“If there’s one thing we want to be known for as Johnnyswim, it’s that we want to be known as honest songwriters, honest performers and honest musicians,” Ramirez added. “We would be lying to people if we had to mold ourselves into one genre.”

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