I first stumbled upon Johnnyswim by accident. It was late 2013 and I was going through my morning routine of getting ready for work. The television happened to be on and VH-1 flashed their “Artists You Oughta Know” feature, which, on this particular day, highlighted a music video titled ‘Heart Beats’ by a married duo from Nashville. I was initially struck by the unique beauty of Amanda Sudano (think Zoe Saldana) and her distinct voice. I had stepped out of the room when her husband, Abner Ramirez, began singing and I swore it was John Legend making a guest appearance. It was those first two impressions that caused Johnnyswim to be memorable to me.
Fast forward 3 ½ years later, or in Johnnyswim time, 2 full length albums, a live album, and a Christmas album, and I found myself at Cincinnati’s classic music venue, Bogart’s, surrounded by mostly couples of all ages. I quickly came to realize that these couples weren’t here for Sudano and Ramirez’s good looks or incredible voices, but they were here because they wanted what Sudano and Ramirez have; they want an inspiring love. Johnnyswim makes love feel new again. Johnnyswim makes love feel real again. Johnnyswim makes love feel fun again. What is so refreshing is that Sudano and Ramirez are clearly in love. Their playful, flirtyness seems neither cheesy nor contrived. At one point, while playing ‘Villains,’ Sudano undid the top 3 buttons of Ramirez’s shirt who playfully swatted her away. And several times during close moments, Ramirez appeared to either whisper into or kiss Sudano’s ear.
In addition to their love for each other, Johnnyswim’s songs and lyrics are downright wholesome and positive, and because of that, the couple exudes good energy and a passion for life. They also aren’t afraid to be real and vulnerable. Sudano shared the story of how her mother, Donna Summer (yes, that Donna Summer), had purchased a small plot of land on Shelter Island in New York with the hope of one day building a house there for her kids and grandchildren. That dream never came to fruition as Summer passed away in 2012, but it became Sudano’s inspiration for the lyrics of ‘Georgica Pond,’ the title track of their newest album. During the playing of ‘Georgica Pond,’ Sudano had the stage lights turned nearly off so the tears she was audibly shedding wouldn’t prevent her from finishing the song.
Despite the one sad moment, Johnnyswim is fun. I honestly think that they could have played to an audience of no one and gotten just as much joy from performing. Ramirez and Sudano enjoy serenading each other just as much as they like entertaining their fans. Speaking of the fans, during ‘Home,’ the last song of the night, Ramirez and Sudano came down into the crowd and were quickly encircled in the middle of the floor. They segued from ‘Home,’ into ‘Jackson’ by Johnny Cash and June Carter, then back to ‘Home’ to finish.
After a raucous demand for an encore, Ramirez and Sudano came back out with just an acoustic guitar and continued for four additional songs. In total, Johnnyswim played 18 songs, which didn’t seem nearly enough due to the previously mentioned reasons. The next to last song played was ‘Annie,’ which says, “Oh love can be a poison or the sweetest remedy.” Tonight, love was the sweetest remedy. Thank you, Johnnyswim.