Local artist releases album, reflects on origins

Independent artist Nathan Swihart released his second album and recalls the journey of his musical career.

The album

The Dapper Don album cover. Dec. 2017. (Briar Nelson)
The Dapper Don album cover. Dec. 2017. (Briar Nelson)

On Jan. 31, local artist Nathan Swihart, 23, released his second album which he titled The Dapper Don.

The Dapper Don is Swihart’s sophomore release, following his debut album Lost in Space. It is a “highly versatile project” that is over two years in the making, according to Swihart, who goes by the stage name Nay Nay.

The album features a range of both local and national artists, including top 40 billboard rapper Hendersin and Travis Thompson, who appears on Macklemore’s latest album and recently performed on Jimmy Fallon.

As an independent artist, Swihart has become well rounded in all aspects of the music industry.

“I do everything completely independent,” said Swihart. “I have no manager, no agent, no PR.”

Swihart currently attends ODU to major in business and enjoys marketing.

“I’m going to school right now for my Master’s in Business Administration,” said Swihart. “So I’m learning a lot of management and marketing techniques.”

His education helps him as he continues to make music following the release of The Dapper Don.

“I was lucky enough to get some fairly big name artists on here,” said Swihart. “I have local artists featured on there as well. My cousin, who I started with, is actually on the album.”

Where he started

Swihart and his cousin "J Money." July 2010. (Bradley Swihart)
Swihart and his cousin “J Money.” July 2010. (Bradley Swihart)

Swihart started rapping in his freshman year of high school with his older cousin Jordan Curtis, who goes by the stage name J Money.

“My cousin was really big into rap music and hip hop, and he started introducing it to me,” said Swihart. “We just started doing it for fun with cover songs, and I did tons of songs with him.”

Swihart originally kept his music to himself and rapped for fun with his cousin.

“I was really bad when I started,” said Swihart. “I would just keep them to myself and share with family, but eventually I started sharing some of the songs on YouTube.”

Swihart still uses this channel to share his music today.

“I had made a remix to Wiz Kalifa’s song Black and Yellow and that was one of my first songs that I did by myself; it ended up getting like 15,000 views in like two months,” said Swihart. “For someone who had no idea what they were doing, that was insane. It was at that point that I decided to take it more seriously.”

His album The Dapper Don features his cousin J Money in a song titled “Still Here.”

“We’re still here after starting this forever ago,” said Swihart. “We’re still doing this.”

Getting gigs

“The more you make music, you make connections with different people,” said Swihart. “I’ll have friends of friends

Swihart performing at Shaggfest. July 2015. (Anthony Alston Jr.)
Swihart performing at Shaggfest. July 2015. (Anthony Alston Jr.)

who know somebody that can get me something, people contact me and ask me to perform places. Once you start finding a few places to perform at, other people will start getting in touch with you.”

One of Swihart’s first big musical performances was in 2015 at Shagfest, an annual festival put on in Virginia Beach that combines both local and national talent, with his friend Brian Mahon.

“We blended our genres together; he’s an acoustic singer, I’m a rapper, so we did like an acoustic hip hop,” said Swihart. “We had great reactions from the crowd.”

The pair progressed the next year from the side stage in 2015 to the main stage in 2016.

“That gave me the opportunity to open up for acts such as 50 cent, Travis Scott, Diplo, Lil Dicky, Trey Songz, a lot of different people and different genres like Daya, a pop singer,” said Swihart.

Where he’s headed

With major milestones behind him, Swihart still has a lot to look forward to.

“My goal is to be able to make this my career, I want to be able to make a living off of music,” said Swihart.

After receiving a tweet from someone listening to his album in Bahrain, Swihart was amazed.

“I’m writing music, I’m making these songs in my room, and people around the world are taking notice,” said Swihart. “Stuff like that really motivates me.”

The Dapper Don Promo Shot. Dec. 2017. (Briar Nelson)
The Dapper Don Promo Shot. Dec. 2017. (Briar Nelson)

Swihart’s motivation goes beyond being heard world wide, as he aspires to tour world wide as well.

“I’ve done a lot of shows in a lot of venues across the Virginia Beach, Hampton Roads area. Outside of that, I have not had the opportunity to perform elsewhere,” said Swihart. “That is a goal of mine, I want to try to start spreading out little by little until I’m worldwide, able to travel.”

Download his album

As the release of his new album gains publicity, Swihart would like to thank his family, friends and fans who have supported him throughout his journey.

“Being an independent artist, I put a lot of work into it and just want to have it all heard,” said Swihart. “And none of that is possible without the help from my friends, family, [and] fans.”

The album, mixed and mastered by Severin DiCroce, is available digitally for both purchase and streaming on almost all online music retailers, including iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, Google Play Store, Amazon Music, and SoundCloud. 

“I’m not trying to be the biggest artist out there, I’m not trying to become super extremely rich and famous; that’s not my goal,” said Swihart. “That would be incredible, but I’m just trying to be me and express myself, and in doing that make enough to be able to tour and make music. It’s what I love doing.”


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Shelly Slocum is a Staff Writer for The Daily Runner.