By KOLBY PAXTON
There must be something in the water in Oklahoma – and whatever it is, it sure is good on the vocal chords.
The state has produced some of country music’s finest, from Reba and Garth Brooks to Toby Keith and Carrie Underwood. If NBC’s hit show “The Voice” is any indication, Sooners have struck once more – this time with Zach and Colton Swon.
The Swon Brothers, as they’re known to the show’s viewers, are natives of Muskogee and, as such, they share a background familiar to area folks. The pair got its start in gospel music, traveling with their parents’ southern gospel group, Exodus.
“We grew up playing churches with our parents every weekend,” said Zach. “Years later, they had a country show, kind of like Downtown Country there in Tahlequah, and it was called the Westwood Music Show in Wagoner. It just kind of evolved. We’ve grown up around music and we’ve been writing since we were kids. We’ve been chasing it a long time.”
Zach wasn’t yet eligible for a driver’s permit when he says he and younger brother Colton decided they wanted to become “the next big country duo.” Together, the brothers spent years knocking on doors of record labels in Nashville, always receiving what became an all-too-familiar, “No, thank you.”
Then came the proverbial big break that manifested itself in the form of an audition on America’s premier music talent show.
“It was honestly like a dream,” said Zach Swon. “Even now, it’s a blur. It all happened so fast. We just feel really blessed to even have been in that position to begin with.”
The brothers performed Tom Petty’s “American Girl” during the show’s blind auditions, Zach belting out the lead vocals while Colton worked the stage. One by one, judges began to turn – Blake Shelton first, followed by Shakira and Usher.
“To get three chairs turned, that’s an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime feeling, man,” said Zach Swon. “Especially after years of knocking on record labels doors and getting passed on. It meant the world to us.”
In a no-brainer of sorts, the Swons chose fellow Oklahoman Blake Shelton to be their coach.
“Blake has been absolutely just real with us,” said Zach Swon. “He’s an Oklahoma native and that’s what he acts like. He’s been like a big brother, and even when the cameras aren’t rolling, he’s still investing his time in our careers and our lives. What you see is what you get with Blake. We couldn’t have asked for a better pairing.”
The brothers are the first duo to make it to the battle rounds, and eventually to the knockout round, on “The Voice.
When votes fell short earlier this week, Shelton “saved” the Swons from elimination, allowing them to advance to the round of 12.
Whatever the outcome, the duo will leave with nothing but appreciation for the process, itself.
“It’s been incredible,” said Zach Swon. “Our whole goal was just to get in front of people and build relationships with people. Without fans, you might as well just play in your bedroom because they make us what we are. We’re going to play music as long as people will listen. That’s what we were born to do. That’s what we love to do. This show is good for anybody, even people who have already left. You can’t buy this type of exposure.”
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