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Veronica Swift: Following the Family Route, Exploring Her Own

Genre-hopping singer considers covering Queen on next album

Veronica Swift
Veronica Swift (photo: Ken Frackling)

Listen to Veronica Swift scat and you’d swear she’s channeling Ella. Cool, calm, confident, and elegant onstage, the 25-year-old can slide seamlessly from a difficult syncopated rhythm to a wistful love song to a fresh arrangement of an old standard. “People ask me, ‘When did you discover that singing jazz was your passion?’” she says. “It’s not a passion, it’s just a way of life. It’s as natural as it could be, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Indeed, this is simply the only life Swift has ever known. Born in Charlottesville, Va., she was raised on jazz. Her father, acclaimed bebop pianist Hod O’Brien, and her mother, vocalist Stephanie Nakasian, toured frequently together, and often brought their daughter along. “I would be sleeping in green rooms in the bass case or in back of the bar with a coloring book, not paying attention to anything,” she recalls, sitting backstage at SFJAZZ in San Francisco after a February performance with trumpeter Chris Botti.

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Lily O'Brien

Lily O’Brien is a freelance writer and editor based in the San Francisco Bay Area with a passion for music and the performing arts. She has written articles for a variety of online and print publications including DownBeat, the San Francisco Classical Voice, Marin Arts and Culture, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Strings Magazine. She is a singer who has performed professionally in a variety of genres, and an avid world traveler and bicyclist.