in conversation... harrison swann

Talk Show’s 
Harrison Swann
discusses
his songwriting process,
Manchester and
venting



Image by Abigail Shii


22nd June, 2020


“That taught me from a very young age to make sure I expressed my emotions rather than hide them. It never scared me to be judged by anyone for being plain-spoken”


Harrison Swann is the singer, songwriter and frontman of London-based guitar band Talk Show.

After becoming steadfast regulars on the South London gig circuit, Talk Show are now releasing music and becoming a name you look for on festival bills. Their music is honest and driving with forthright lyrics, characterised by intertwining guitar and bass melodies akin to bands of Harrison’s hometown of Manchester.

Harrison talks using the world around him as writing inspiration, venting on stage and what effect his Dad’s mental health had on him from a young age.

As a chief lyricist for Talk Show, talk me through your writing process. When did you start writing, what influences you?

I remember rewriting the lyrics to songs even from when I was really really young, but the lightbulb moment for me came when I was about 17/18 and picked up a guitar for the first time. I learnt a couple of chords, and then got better at guitar by just writing songs, rather than learning anyone else’s stuff. I don’t know why, but it just happened that way. My main influences come from a range of places. Growing up in Manchester it’s cultural history is inescapable so a lot of my writing style comes from artists such as New Order, The Smiths, John Cooper Clarke. In terms of my actual writing process, there’s no strict formula. I really try to mix up the way I write and form songs, sometimes it’ll be lyrics first, sometimes it’ll be a guitar part. I’ve recently been collating lyrics together in songs almost like a collage, nicking stuff from adverts, road signs, or even stuff that comes up in conversation. I’ll then kinda mash it all together.

Talk Show are riding the wave of what is an exciting time for honest and heavy guitar bands at the moment. Why do you think the demand is high for this brand of music at the moment, and where do you think Talk Show sits within that?

Personally I think alternative guitar music was just going through a natural change and progression. Everything comes in waves. When me and George first started Talk Show we were so sick of the mediocre psych-rock bands knocking about, I felt they just had absolutely nothing to say and were proper middle of the road. I think music fans were dying for something to actually latch onto, or that’s certainly how I felt. Within the alt guitar scene at the moment, I’ve got absolutely no idea where we sit but it doesn't really bother me. We’ve always just tried to crack on with what we wanna do - write and perform to the best we can.

“It’s a great way to just blow off loads of steam, leave everything on the stage and come off completely empty. Exerting loads of energy and leaving nothing left in the tank is always really freeing”


What are your perceptions of mental health within the music industry, do you feel that the two are able to coexist?

The music industry is notoriously cut-throat, and can really grind you down. It’s incredibly difficult to stay on a positive trajectory and maintain a constant, stable state of mind. I do feel in recent years however, the music industry has become way better at demystifying and vocalising mental health issues. It’s incredibly important for the wider public. An artists’ influence can reach an incredibly wide audience.



Talk Show’s Harrison Swann (Center), image by Matt Wilder


What is your experience of mental health?

I’ve always tried to be reasonably open about my mental health, and tried to vocalise the way that I'm feeling. For me it comes in waves, partly due to the pressures of modern living and the music industry as mentioned above. I’m lucky enough to have people around me to lean on when I’m struggling to cope. Having experienced and witnessed my Dad deal with his mental health, that taught me from a very young age to make sure I expressed my emotions rather than hide them. It never scared me to be judged by anyone for being plain-spoken, whether it was about my own mental health or even just the way I live my life.

How does your mental health interact with your creativity as a writer and performer?

Writing and performing is a huge outlet for me. It’s pretty cliche but it’s really cathartic. Sometimes I’ll be writing lyrics to vent which then never progress into a song. I’ll look back and decide that those feelings don’t really relate anymore, but it’s still worthwhile to put pen to paper and let it out. My mental health can definitely influence performance as well. It’s a great way to just blow off loads of steam, leave everything on the stage and come off completely empty. Exerting loads of energy and leaving nothing left in the tank is always really freeing.

How do you relax?

I’ve just started running which I’m really enjoying. To be honest though, music is my go-to. Whether it’s writing or just listening, I’m pretty obsessed (laughs).




Latest EP ‘These People’ is out now.

@talkshowtalkshow / Spotify


#TimeIsInfinite

words: will paintin / images: abigail shii, matt wilder




uoh 2020 — @uok.hun