An Interview with James Swanberg


James Swanberg is one of the most dynamic artists the music industry has to offer. Between  devoting his musical talents to Chicago notables the Lemons, Tripp Tapes, and his solo project Today’s Hits, he has truly become the backbone of Chicago’s flourishing music scene. Moreover, Swanberg often gigs with fellow Chicago rockers Twin Peaks under the name “Twin Hits,” a merge of not only the names they perform under, but their impeccable talents as well.

“What Up Dog” is among the most beloved tracks  Swanberg released under Today’s Hits. As the perfect nexus of groovy and cool, it  almost serves as Chicago’s unofficial anthem of sorts. For instance, when Twin Peaks surprised the crowds at their weekend of hometown gigs in late December with Swanberg’s appearance for a special Twin Hits rendition of the song, the audience broke into an instantaneous uproar and sang along together.

That’s a sign someone’s work is pretty damn special.

James Swanberg’s work has been admired and enjoyed by an abundance of individuals-not only the music savvy, but anyone who appreciates a good song. I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with him about his many artistic endeavors, as well as what’s on the horizon for Today’s Hits. Read on to learn more about one of the most influential musicians to have taken Chicago by storm.



AMPLIFY: Did you always know you wanted to pursue a solo career?

JS: Maybe? I was singing songs to myself before I was old enough to start a teenage band thats for sure. But it would be very hard for me to describe anything up to this point as a career in a general sense and as such am hoping that putting my own face out there so to speak forces my hand a little more and we see.

AMPLIFY: What aspect of your creative work are you most proud of?

JS: That it gets better. It might seem bleek that it took 2,000 songs to get to listenable, but I’m here now!

AMPLIFY: As an artist, it must be so exciting to have your first release come out. What was that like?

JS: Nah. We all spoil that these days. I’ve been putting out bad cassettes since 2004. Nothing feels real.

AMPLIFY: Your music seems like it would be just as fun to create as it is to listen to. What’s your creative process like when working on new material?

JS: Politely asking my girlfriend to mute the sound of her wizard video game and then getting as much done as I can before I annoy her and then trying to finish it up in another room.

AMPLIFY: What’s the story of how Tripp Tapes began?

JS:  I’m just lucky to have talented friends.


AMPLIFY: How has Chicago’s DIY community shaped you as an artist?

JS: Chicago is so DIY there isn’t even a community anymore. I respect that.

AMPLIFY: Do you have a favorite memory from any of your live performances?

JS: I always talk about how high I threw my shaker one time when I was playing with The Lemons at an outdoor show on the Fourth of July in San Francisco. We were doing a west coast tour with The Memories in 2014 and the shaker went over the electrical lines crisscrossing the back yard, and then like 300 people start to pay attention and I realize I gotta catch this thing. Luckily I did. I woke up the next morning in a wet suit and didn’t know how.

AMPLIFY: Do you have any special pre-show traditions or rituals?

JS: Don’t think so. Talk about how I should probably make a flyer?

AMPLIFY: What emotions or feeling do you hope people experience when listening to your music?

JS: Pleasure?

AMPLIFY: Lastly, what’s coming up next for Today’s Hits?

JS: Full album out on Randy Records as spring turns to summer.


-Interview by Lindsay Teske

To learn more about James Swanberg’s work and listen to some tunes, click here, here, and here

{Special thanks to James for taking the time to answer these questions amidst a busy tour schedule!}





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