Dave Swanson is the singer and primary songwriter for The Frozen Ocean. Skeleton Key is his third studio album, and is set to release in early 2015. Always having enjoyed his music, I was honored when Dave asked me to capture some images for his upcoming album. We spent the afternoon in the oldest home in Unionville, Connecticut, a Colonial Salt Box built in 1750. It's inviting rectangular rooms, wide farmhouse floorboards and symmetrical 16 pane windows provided interesting texture with an intimate feel. Throughout that day and the weeks that followed I had the opportunity to dialogue with Dave about his journey of bringing Skeleton Key to life. Photos from our day and excerpts from our conversations are below.
What is the meaning behind the album title 'Skeleton Key'?
"The album title has a very personal meaning to me and also a general meaning that I believe gives space for listeners to interpret for themselves.
The personal meaning to me revolves around faith. The literal definition of a skeleton key is, "the skeletal structure that can bypass all locks." So accessibility to freedom is exclusive to a person who holds a "master" or skeleton key.
For me this points to my belief in Jesus, who Scripture says through the Cross took the keys of death and now offers us all access and relationship with God the Father. That theme doesn't tie directly into all the songs since they are written from different perspectives and about different topics. The song themes are wide ranging enough to speak to diverse group of people, whether they believe in God or not."
What aspect of Skeleton Key did you want reflected in these photographs?
"I made the album at home so I wanted that kind of intimate and relaxed feel represented in the pictures. I blended a lot of organic and modern sounds on the album to bridge the gap between vintage and contemporary. I love that the pictures blend a very rustic and vintage environment with a modern and sharp focus."
What was the catalyst behind this album and how has the process differed from your first two?
"A big catalyst was feeling like I hadn't made a proper album yet. The first album was really a scattered collection of ideas that lacked coherency. "In Exile" was fun to make but I was still struggling to find my voice as a singer and songwriter. I feel like this album allowed me space and breathing room to flesh out ideas across a wider canvas. This process was easily the most difficult. I went through a 6 month writers block in the middle of the recording and almost scrapped the album several times. Every song was a fight to finish, which makes it so satisfying to actually have it all done. I challenged myself a lot more on this album than the last two. I wanted to write and best songs I possibly could so nothing was held sacred or kept from scrutiny. Also, the whole process took close to 4 years to complete so everything was spread out over a long period of time. I actually had to re-record several songs because my voice had changed from when they were first recorded."
What song on the album has the most meaning to you?
"There are 2 songs on the album that are really important to me. The first is a song called, "27" which I wrote after the shooting at Sandy Hook. It's important to me because of how much that event impacted me personally, especially being a dad and thinking of my own kids. The song idea and lyrics came very fast and I'm really proud of how it turned out. The 2nd is a song called "Violet" which I wrote for my 4 year old daughter."