By Kevin Zimmerman
John Swihart doing what comes naturally
Film and television composer John Swihart is forthright when it comes to explaining how he entered the trade. “It’s the only thing I was ever really good at,” he says with a laugh. “It was kind of obvious.”
Swihart grew up playing a number of instruments; having mastered the piano and saxophone by age 10, he then turned his attention to guitar and quickly became interested in original compositions. Still it wasn’t until he was at the prestigious Berklee School of Music and witnessed the success of fellow composers in TV commercials that he decided to get serious about his hobby.
Initially working at the friend’s production facility the budding composer got his first real creative break when a group of students from nearby Emerson College arrived with their nascent filmmaking efforts in need of music.
“I quickly came to realize that this was a totally different experience from commercials, that what we were doing was about helping to tell a story, not sell a product. I knew right away that this was what I wanted to do.”
A short time later, a fortuitous audition for performance artists Blue Man Group resulted in his moving from Boston to Las Vegas; eight months later, Swihart’s wife landed an advertising gig in Los Angeles, where Swihart started “doing every indie film I could get my hands on.” His fifth such assignment was Napoleon Dynamite.
Once that film hit – garnering Swihart a Golden Satellite Award for best original score in the process – the floodgates opened and he was working on such films as The Brothers Solomon and Youth in Revolt as well as such TV series as How I Met Your Mother and Greek.
The How I Met Your Mother gig, now in its fifth year, has paid creative dividends as Swihart was called upon to compose the musical number, “Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit,” for the series’ 100th episode. “We had 53 musicians on it, and worked closely with the producers and the choreographer. Recording it was a full day’s work, and we had a really great time.”
As he continues composing for such series as Accidentally on Purpose and Sons of Tucson, Swihart is also keeping busy scoring indie films like the thriller The Perfect Host and the twisted romantic comedy Lucky.
Swihart says that one of the greatest benefits of his SESAC membership is “Their general support system. If I need someone to talk with, bounce ideas off of – things you maybe don’t or can’t talk to your agent about – or I need another opinion on something, they’re always there. If they don’t have the answers, they’ll get them for you, and point you in the right direction.”