“For women in the independent music industry”

Featured Artist ~ February 2007

Mazz Swift

Listen to Mazz's Song Clip ~ Anthem


“a sublime, surprising, bristling and hearty stew of Irish lyricism, daredevil jazz aerobatics and punk rock moxie.....both the elegance and the energy are off the chain. “
Greg Tate, Village Voice

“…Quest…” is Brazz Tree’s debut record—capturing the essence of the act’s innovative sound and powerful live show. Inspired by traditional Eastern & Western compositions, the duo’s musical vision is a fusing of guitarist Brad Hammonds’ folk-inspired, percussive riff-based guitar lines coupled with traditional folk and fiddle tunes underneath Mazz’s conscious lyrics which are sung with soulful originality.
The eclectic duo’s influences are apparent on their outside collaborations, as well. Since dropping out of Juilliard after three years, Mazz has accompanied on stage and collaborated in the studio with the likes of, Kanye West, Moby, Jay-Z, Perry Farrell, Vernon Reid and DJ Logic.

In just a little over a year, Brazz Tree has built a strong New York fan base from their mesmerizing shows and etheric string sounds playing clubs throughout NYC. They were selected to perform at the 2006 SXSW Music Festival in Austin, the 2006 NACA National Convention in Boston, 2006 NXNE Festival in Toronto, the Temecula Valley Film Festival, and the Dewey Beach Music Festival in Dewey DE. They are on the Relix magazine compilation CD for the April/May 2006 issue and have received Radio play from across the country including a spotlight on Acoustic Cafe (ACAFE) as "one to watch"...

Mazz Swift


1. Where were you born and where do you live currently?

I was born at New York Hospital on the east side of Manhattan and raised in Queens. I now live in Jersey City.

2. How old were you when you started writing songs and how many years have you been writing and performing?

I’m pretty new at songwriting actually. Once when I was about 7 or 8 I made a tape of show tunes that I improvised on the spot called “Sophisticated Ladies” but that was really the only time I ever “wrote” songs until 2000 when I wrote a jazz song that I never even set chords to until I met Brad (the other half of Brazz Tree) in ‘04. That’s really when I started writing. He and I have been writing together for a little under 3 years.

3. Who were your major influences with your music?

Well, growing up I was completely in love with and immersed in classical music. That’s probably my number one influence. I was really into Mozart for a minute and then Beethoven... Then I discovered the later violin concertos and fell for the crazy sound of it all: Khachaturian, Barber, Sibelius, Prokofiev... At the same time my dad was (and still is) a huge jazz/bebop-head so I was exposed to a lot of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, some Thelonious Monk... He was also really into Stevie Wonder (who remains my favorite songwriter, probably of all time. I can’t tell you how much I admire and respect him. Even in spite of the direction he’s gone in the past 10/15 years!) When I started going to high school I became a total metal-head. Those were the angst years of course, but there was also something about these, you know, 6 to 8 minute songs with different parts that were actually developed compositionally that really appealed to my classical head...

4. How would you describe your music?

It’s what we call Music NWAR – New World Acoustic Rock. New World because it combines elements of music from all around the world but it doesn’t sound like what you would expect to hear when “world music” is used as a description. Also, it’s a play on words because even with all its diverse influences, in the end, it will be known as American music (music from the New World)...

5. What instruments do you play?

I really only play the violin and sing although I can play viola fairly well and can fake playing the piano (I have always played piano because I grew up with one in the house and was also required to take it at Juilliard).

6. How did Brazz Tree come about?

It’s funny but I actually put an ad out on Craigslist. I had inherited a weekly Wednesday night at Paddy Reilly’s – the music bar on 29th street and 2nd Ave. -- and was looking for someone to play with me on that night. I had been trying to get these traditional Irish players to come and play with me but it wasn’t really working. I had been playing Irish music for a while but I’m not exactly what you call a traditional player so it was a little like oil and water. My boyfriend suggested I try and find someone who didn’t play Irish music at all and see what happens when I put the Irish stuff on top of it. That was the best advice I could ever have gotten. I just went and listed all my influences on Craigslist. Met with a handful of people and once I played with Brad I stopped looking... It was actually very easy and, I think, totally lucky!

7. What is Brazz Tree's main focus and style in music?

That’s a really good question, you know, because our influences are so diverse we feel we can appeal to many different types of people. That’s been a bit of a challenge when we sit down and try and imagine how to “market” ourselves. What “demographic” we want to play for, etc... The truth is that I think we really just want to make music that sounds good to us. I want you to hear that I’ve spent 25 years playing classical music but during that time I spent 5 years banging my head to Metallica, took 2 years off, spent another 2 years playing improvised rock in a commune in the blue ridge mountains and then another five years completely immersing myself in Irish music in New York! I want people to have a very rich experience when they put on our cd or come to our shows...

8. How many CD projects have you finished and are you working on or have any future project in the works?

We have one cd out, it’s called ...Quest... And we are presently working on our 2nd cd, which at this point is slated for release in the spring.

9. How involved are you with your recording projects?

Well we did the first one on our own and so this time around we decided to change it up and work with Alan Camlet and Pete Thompson (Hoboken Recorders) who are producing our 2nd one. Talk about rich! Basically what we have done is write these songs and sort of hand them over to Alan and Pete and have them come up with different ideas. They really take our music in a completely different direction which always amazes and excites me... Then Brad and I come in and listen and tweak here and there as we see fit. It’s really great though because we know pretty much that once we put it in their hands something great is going to come out, so it really is a collaborative effort. Sometimes we work out drum or bass parts together, mostly we just leave it up to them. And then there is one song that we were able to get Michael Leonhart, an old high school friend of mine and monster musician, to guest produce! With that, we pretty much just said, “We’re in your hands. Do what you will.” Aside from that there are string parts (an octet) that I wrote for a few of the songs (Pete also wrote parts for one of the songs)...

10. What special honors or awards have you received over the years in your music career?

I won a number of local youth competitions... Also I was chosen for a scholarship program the New York Philharmonic was running for young ‘minority’ musicians who needed funds in order to continue taking lessons. I was also chosen to perform with members of the New York Philharmonic at Alice Tully Hall when I was about 11 or 12. We performed a movement of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. I also won the 2006 Indiegrrl Song Writing Contest.

11. What is your favorite venue to perform live and why?

I don’t actually have a favorite spot, per se. But, we just did a performance at the Vermont Arts Exchange in North Bennington, VT which totally rocked out worlds. And before that we had done a performance at the Bedford Library in Bedford, VA and we’re finding that the small concert series / house concert / small theater environment is really the place where we have the kind of performance that we love. It’s quite intimate and people are really there to listen. I feel I can really just be myself with the audience and so it makes it easier to just let go when I’m playing.

12. What music organizations are you affiliated with?

Aside from being an Indiegrrl (!) I’m a member of Go Girls Music.com as well as the International Alliance for Women in Music... I’ve also been a volunteer teacher for the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls (which if you haven’t heard of yet you should definitely check out) and hope to do that again this year. And my performing rights organization is BMI.

13. When you are writing songs how much do you pull from personal experiences?

Oh god! Too much! I mean, almost everything I write about comes from some relationship or another (be it boyfriend, girlfriend, parent, sibling or friend)... I think that’s what I am the most acutely aware of in my life, my relationships and how they affect me, so that’s what I end up writing about. Sometimes I wish I could get away from it but at this point I guess this is what I need to explore (or exorcise! Lots of demons there...) That’s where my muse lies... But I have recently begun experimenting with writing about different subject matter. Press On (on the new cd) is more of a fantasy story. The meeting of archetypes which could end in either war or love.. I chose to stay ambiguous because most everything else I had written up to that point had been so specific and personal...

14. Do you write songs pulling from headlining news or events that are around you? If so how easy or hard is it to create songs expressing what you feel about these topics?

I find it incredibly difficult. I guess because I do not want to be cliché in my music. And for some reason I find it really hard to be poetic with how I feel about different issues that come up in national and world news. And when I do end up writing I find that it comes out sounding preachy, and lord knows I don’t have any answers.. So I end up trashing the overtly political stuff I write and go for the personal approach... But it’s something that I will always work on though, because I think it’s important to get out of one’s own head...

15. What does it mean to be "Indie" to you?

Complete control. I mean I guess I’m really talking about “DIY” - do it your own damn self! I mean, beyond just having control over what I do, and how and when I do it, I like the idea of accomplishing something myself (of course with a LOT of help from my friends!)... Free of the large corporations that are churning out product that has nothing to do with creative, soul touching, music making.

16. Do you own your own record label or publishing company or plan to do that in the future?

No I don’t own either for now. I think the publishing company is one that will have to happen very very soon... And the label is something I would eventually like to delve into as well.

17. What advice can you give to someone who is just starting to market themselves in the Indie music market?

Jeez, honestly I don’t really feel qualified to give any advice to anyone. At this point I could actually use the advice myself! I mean, this is really just the beginning for me. So far my experience seems to be that it’s important to GET HELP. If you can afford it, get a publicist (online, print, radio). Or try and enlist a friend to help you make calls, send out press releases, stand on the street and hand out flyers with you... Really, it makes sense to do both. That’s what Brazz Tree has done and it really makes a difference.

18. What is your regional area of travel to perform your music and how far have you traveled to perform?

We will pretty much travel anywhere. We’re New York based so of course the coffeehouses and intimate venues here in New York are what we go for. We have been traveling all over the country on a tour of Colleges and Universities. We’ve been to Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, South Dakota... This spring we are heading to Oregon (that’s our first west coast hit!) and a few of the aforementioned states again... Of course we hope to travel everywhere eventually!

19. Any plans for a trip abroad to promote your music and perform?

This past October we did a tour of the Netherlands – 9 cities in 10 days! Pretty intense and wonderful! We hooked up with a booking agent while we were over there and hope to get something cooking with him for this year. We have some prospective dates but nothing solid.

20. Where can fans find your music for sale?

You can go to www.brazztree.com and follow the links from there. You can download music at iTunes or you can go to www.cdbaby.com/brazztree and get the actual cd with the beautiful artwork by Kelly Mudge.

21. What are your main goals for 2007 and in your music career as a whole?

Well, right now we’re really working hard to create more of a buzz around Brazz Tree... We just discovered (as I mentioned before) how much we love the small theater and intimate house concert type settings so we’re really going after these types of venues for performances. Our new cd has so much cool stuff on it that I would like to start really representing it live as it is on the cd... Meaning, bring a full band out on the road. We’d also like to explore licensing for television and movies.

For me, personally, I have begun to take myself more seriously as a composer. I would love someday to arrange Brazz Tree songs for a full string section, guitar and vocals (lead AND backup!)... And separately from Brazz Tree music, I would love to finish the compositions I’ve started and even someday record them. I’ve got stuff for 2 violins, violin and piano, violin and sax and string quartet... Yes, I’d definitely love to get deep into composition this year.

22. You are fairly new to Indiegrrl. How have you found the organization helpful with your career and have you been able to network with any other members of Indiegrrl and found it useful.

Actually I have been following the listserv and find it very informative just as a voyeur... I’ve been able to glean information on how to approach venues and radio stations that are playing our music online, I’ve been exposed to some great musicians as well... I plan to delve more into gig swapping and perhaps collaborating on shows with some other indiegrrls. Shameless Open Call – if there are any other string players out there please make yourself known to me!! Especially in the NYC area, I would love to put together a rockin’ string-centric show...

23. Is there anyone you would like to thank that has helped you along in your career or in the music industry as a whole?

Well, you know, I have to say, that one time when I was 9 and I wanted to quit playing I want to thank my parents for making me keep going. And also for supporting me even when I left Juilliard. I know they were worried that I wouldn’t get what I needed in order to make a career for myself, but they believed and trusted in me, so I really appreciate that. Also my violin teacher Tim Baker who looked at me as a person and really took me in when I needed it... Also the Zendik Farm and Arol Wulf in particular, who taught me how to let go. How to stop worrying about playing the “right notes” and start just playing from the heart. You have no idea how incredibly difficult that is to do – especially for a recovering classical musician who never trusts that she’s got music in her that’s as good as the Bach’s, Beethoven’s or Bartok’s... You know? And I want to thank Brad – the other half of Brazz Tree – who puts up with my crap on a DAILY basis!! He’s a super generous and patient person (for the most part!) and I really appreciate it. Cause there is no Brazz Tree without him.

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