This southern-fried funk soul band appeared as a trio last Thursday night at W Hotel Atlanta Midtown’s Amplify Live music event in its Living Room lounge. With Abby Wren on vocals, Tiffany White on backing vocals and piano, and Scotty Bryan on backing vocals and drums, Secondhand Swagger was robbed of their two Robs for the evening (Cordy, their bassist, and Lane on vocals and guitar), but their sound as a trio still was full, and sweet, and funky.
The way back machine was in effect this night as an organizer of the awesome long ago Atlanta Downhill Challenge at the Starlight Six Drive-in, Rebekha Jennings, was in attendance, and it’s she who might be credited with Scotty and Abby meeting. They’d been gigging with their bands at the soapbox derby event, in Scotty’s prog rock band, Cinetrope, and Abby’s electronic indy pop band, Nerd Parade.
Secondhand Swagger was a gleam in its original members’ (Abby Wren and Scotty Bryan) eyes those nine years ago, and since then their band family has grown into its current and beautiful three-to-five piece version. Influenced by Alabama Shakes and Parliament Funkadelic (who if they had a baby, it’d be this funky baby) and morphed over time by “band stuff”, SHS is today blessed by good connections enjoyed by its members and evidenced in their performances.
Tiffany White joined them four years ago, thanks to a star-aligned online dating service meet cute with Scotty Bryan. They’d had an instant chemistry and Tiffany was so glad he was not only a musician, but actually a good musician. As soon as Abby had met her, she’d thought, “I’m stealing her from him,” and when Scotty’d asked Tiffany if she wanted to be in a band, it was instant family.
The Robs, Cordy and Lane, were brought in after all five of them met playing with Atlanta Funk Society (where Rob Lane is lead vocalist). With Rob Lane and Rob Cordy, they find they gel well, have ridiculous fun together, and write well too. “Originals are our heartbeat,” says Abby, and the covers they play so well are just the pied piper.
Secondhand Swagger’s next album is baking, with two already out on Soundcloud, “Cash is Clay“,and “Freedom“, and ten more buns in the oven. “Freedom” is a sultry-weather porch-lounging kind of day kind of song, the kind where you might find yourself embraced in a deliciously sweaty dirty dance with the bae before it’s over. And “Cash is Clay” shows a jazzy command of their funky… well, swagger.
Here at Amplify Live, “Fire” was a standout original for me that I can’t wait to hear again with their full band, or even again and again just the way it was, though I’m told it was only their second time playing it in front of an audience.
The covers were crack though, deftly performed to get the feet and soul moving, the head bopping, the hands clapping, the body swaying. Secondhand Swagger seduced me with The Cure’s “Love Song”, and had me easily at The Police’s “Message in a Bottle” (sang it over the chord changes of Edie Brickell’s “What I Am” and The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”).
And then I fell studs over heels when they played “Purple Rain” featuring Tiffany on lead vocals. That album was formative in Scotty Bryan’s childhood and Prince’s death a year ago was a distinctly powerful loss for Tiffany. “I’d never really cried over an artist dying. I was so hurt by that one.” Right there with you, Tiffany.
Check out the whole song, “Told’em“, a raggaeton-influenced chill slice of soul, available to listen to on Amazon, along with samples of the rest of the Secondhand Swagger album available to buy there. Turns out that album’s title is not eponymous. It had been released by the band’s former name hinged on its lead vocalist, Abby Wren & What It Is.
For some southern-fried bubblegum by the then-named AW&WII, indulge in the infectiously sweet and summer-heat-salty, “Favorite Day“, available here in darling candy-paletted video format.
The next scheduled gig with all five of Secondhand Swagger will be on June 2nd, at Venkman’s live music venue in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. You can join them on this stop on the path of their profound mission — Abby and Secondhand Swagger take seriously the support and encouragement of local music performers before they’re famous.
Tiffany put it well the importance of the role of the audience participant, “For us as musicians, regardless of who all’s out there, we’re gonna still give our all. This is what we love to do. We love to perform, just to have that energy from the crowd where they’re up, where they’re dancing and they’re like yeah!, it makes it easier to give them more. We feed off of each other, it’s an energy thing. You like it? We love it!”
The Secondhand Swagger trio that performed at W Hotel Atlanta Midtown on Thursday, April 20, 2017, for Amplify Live… were:
Abby Wren: vocalist, harmonica, rumored she plays a mean kazoo, and hair stylist under her personal brand Artistry of Abby Wren
Tiffany White: piano, vocalist, and music director at her church
Scotty Bryan: drums, backing vocalist, also guitar, piano, bass, percussion, performer in multiple bands, private lesson and music school teacher in the Decatur area
See you next month at the W Hotel Midtown for the next installment of AMPLIFY!