Artist, Sideman, and Producer Richard Swift Dies at 41, Following an Illness

Last month, Richard Swift—a solo artist, record producer, and band member to The Shins, The Black Keys, and The Arcs—was hospitalized for a severe illness. While keeping the exact details private, his family launched a crowdfunding campaign for Swift’s mounting hospital bills, which raised more than $85,000. Today, it was announced that Swift passed away at just 41.

Swift found acclaim for his early solo releases, Walking Without Effort and The Novelist, which he played and recorded mostly by himself. The albums became a calling card of sorts for many gigs as a sideman, independent engineer, and producer. And he used the money he made from his solo work to build a modest studio in Cottage Grove, Oregon.

Richard Swift - "Beautifulheart"

The Shins noticed his talents and invited him to be a member of the group, while artists, such as The Mynabirds, started to ask him to produce their records. He’d end up touring with The Shins for years, as well as The Black Keys. When Dan Auerbach wanted to launch his Arcs project, he looked to Swift to play drums, keys, and sing. Through the Arcs, he met the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, and ended up being an integral part of their 2016 release Alone, as well as a personal friend.

At the same time that he played with others (Valerie June, Hamilton Leithauser, Ray LaMontagne) and continued to release his solo work, he produced, engineered, and mixed records for a constellation of indie artists. These include David Bazan, Damien Jurado, Foxygen, Sharon Van Etten, Nathaniel Rateliff, Kevin Morby, and many, many others.

As Kevin Morby wrote when Swift’s crowdfunding campaign was first announced, he “is the secret weapon to many of your favorite records.” To learn more about his life and work, read this career-spanning interview over at Tape Op.


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