Benefit for Legendary Sound Engineer Eric Swanson

Paul Whyte

A little over a week ago there was a sense of unease in the local music community when the word got out that long time area sound engineer, Eric Swanson, had suffered a stroke. There was relief a few days later when he was released from the hospital and that things could have been worse, but the seriousness of the incident shouldn’t be downplayed and it will take him some time to recover. While Swanson’s medical fees will be mostly covered, he and his family are still faced with the loss of income.
On Sunday, March 22 there will be a benefit at R.T. Quinlan’s for Swanson and his family to help them through this trying time. The music community in particular has stepped up to help out.
Over the years Swanson has gained a lot of respect from musicians, sound engineers and many others in the area. Swanson moved up to the area from Iowa as a child and grew up here. In the ‘80s, Swanson moved out to Los Angeles and worked as a live sound engineer at legendary venues such as Whisky A Go Go and The Roxy. He has spent a good amount of time out on the road as a tour manager and sound person. He eventually moved back to the Twin Ports in the early 90s and has become especially well known as the chief engineer at Sacred Heart Studios where he has spent the last twelve years recording a wide variety of artists including Trampled by Turtles, Low and Charlie Parr.
We talked with Mary Bue who has recorded four albums at Sacred Heart including her latest that she recorded last year about Swanson. “At this point we’re pretty good friends, but he’s super laid back. There’s this gentle producer element. He’s like a critic but in the best and easiest way. He’ll just gently say, ‘let’s do that again.’ He’s such a pro,” said Bue. We talked with sound engineer, John Farrell, about his experience with Swanson, “He’s an original old-school engineer. Beyond that, he’s a hell of a nice guy. He’d bend over backwards to help anyone out. That’s been my experience with him for going on 20 years,” said Farrell. “After all these years, he’s an integral part in the music community and he deserves people to have his back.”
We contacted Swanson’s wife, Patty Sobczak, to see how things are holding up since he returned home from the hospital, “he’s doing remarkably well all things considered,” said Sobczak. Sobczak expressed gratitude with the reaction of the community, “I’m overwhelmed with the wonderful support people have given our family. It’s not surprising because he has touched so many lives with his recording and people just want to help him out and we’re very very grateful.”
There are a number of ways to give support. There is a suggested donation of $10 at the door, but it seems up to those attending of exactly how much to give, and there will be a silent auction and raffle at the event on the 22nd. Another way to help out is by downloading music. There are a number of Homegrown mix albums available at including Swanson’s mix. It’s set up so anyone interested can pay what they want and 100% of the proceeds go to Eric’s recovery fund. The band Portrait of a Drowned Man will give all proceeds to the fund from “pay what you want” downloads of two of their albums through the rest of the month. There is also an account set up for Swanson at the National Bank of Commerce at 1314 East Superior Street, Duluth, MN 55805.
So what about this benefit at R.T. Quinlan’s? It’s not just a benefit to help recovery, it’s also a birthday celebration for Swanson’s daughters. It will be Ruby and Pearl’s, ninth birthday. There will be music from 2 p.m. through Midnight, which seems fitting. The line up includes: Jim Hall’s Red Cowboy, Mark Anderson Trio, Tin Can Gin, Maxi Childs Trio, Dance Attic, Father Hennipen, Oshkil Giizhik Singers, Revolution Jones, Rich and Germaine, Black-Eyed Snakes, Social Disaster and Cars & Trucks. Stop by and help this individual who has helped so many bring music to this area.   


Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

View more of Paul Whyte's work »