Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Eats and Beats: Balance, harmony and the enduring connection of Sway Wild

Sway Wild, made up of singer-songwriters Dave McGraw and Macy Fer, formed in Flagstaff more than a dozen years ago and will return to perform Sat, April 29, 2023 at Yucca North.
Melissa Alderton
Sway Wild, made up of singer-songwriters Dave McGraw and Macy Fer, formed in Flagstaff more than a dozen years ago and will return to perform Sat, April 29, 2023 at Yucca North.

The musical duo Sway Wild is scheduled to perform in Flagstaff on Saturday at Yucca North. It’s a homecoming of sorts for musicians Mandy Fer and Dave McGraw, to the place where they formed their band more than a dozen years ago. They have a passionate following of fans and are known for their ethereal vocal harmonies and heartfelt live shows. In the latest installment of KNAU’s series Eats and Beats, Sway Wild talks about their longtime musical partnership and artistic evolution.

Mandy Fer: If we’ve done our job right, we’ve allowed people to feel the whole rainbow of emotions. Not saying you have to when you come to a Sway Wild show, and usually I’m the one crying on stage, that’s a very typical Sway Wild moment. But I feel like trying to open the door to questioning one’s place on Planet Earth while also feeling in community in the audience is kind of a goal of ours while sharing our music. And to never be fully like we have it figured out.

Dave McGraw: For the shows that we’re doing now we’re trying to do a little bit of everything in terms of we’ll play kind of a more intimate, quiet folk song. And then by the end of night folks are often dancing. So, I think we enjoy accessing all those places both within ourselves and with the audience. It feels like a pretty whole experience.

WF: I think we’re just trying to grow together and grow musically and personally and doing that on stage which is a very vulnerable thing.

DM: Yeah, and I think just trying to put out a sense of gratitude for the moment that we can all get together and be in the room as a community and share in this wide range of emotions with just being thankful that we can do it.

MF: We’ve evolved, I think, I hope, in the last 13 years. I think having the art be behind the wheel versus, like, what’s going to be the business move and what’s going to be the thing that catches. Yeah, those things are important and are good to think about.

DM: I think artistically we’ve barely scratched the surface, so I think we know there’s so much more to do, and that keeps us going. It’s always centered in following the music. And I think our bond together just propels that. We just feel really fortunate and lucky to be able to explore all of this together.

MF: Another thing we’ve talked about a lot in the last few years as Sway Wild is really wanting to have the music be more than just about us. Have it be about something more about pushing for change; about owning who we are as people and our place in a system that is really messed up. Like our most recent single, “Waves of the Wind,” is specifically written from the perspective of myself, a cisgender, heterosexual, white woman as a reminder to specifically white folks to the immense amount of work that we have to do to push for change. And it’s kind of like the idea is kind of like maybe an anthem for, like, we have a lot of work to do and let’s do it. And having people in the audience hearing that, singing along, dancing to it. That is why we’re in this. It’s for something greater than us because we feel something greater than us, and we have the absolute freaking privilege to be making our living doing this. So, what for? It’s for that.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.