Member Mix | Tyler Swanner

We’re back in the South with this week’s Member Mix. It comes courtesy of Tyler Swanner, Director of Impact Programming at AIGA Houston and Creative Director at Always Creative. Listen to it below.


Instead of going on about how great this playlist is, I’ll just let Tyler talk about it:

I’m from the south, “you guys.” Southern Mississippi. Columbia, Mississippi, to be absolutely precise. Location is somewhat relevant to my playlist.

Columbia, Mississippi

Traditional gospel songs — specifically those of the black gospel genre — were the soundtrack of my childhood. My dad always played black gospel in our home. He liked it because he liked church and black gospel sounded like church.

I liked black gospel because it had soul.

Daddy, as we call him, didn’t like us listening to much else, so we didn’t. I soaked in the grooves of countless Walter Hawkins, Chicago Mass Choir, and John P. Kee records. The only exceptions to the church-music-only rule were songs by other black artists who seemed to have a religious public persona or had acted in films about church (e.g. Whitney Houston in the Preacher’s Wife). My dad loved Whitney Houston.

My childhood home

It wasn’t until elementary school that my mom introduced me to “adult contemporary.” She had a VHS tape of Michael Bolton music videos that she’d play while folding clothes. I liked folding clothes so I could watch Bolton’s band pantomime a live version of “Steel Bars.” The drummer twirled his stick in the intro and I thought that was tacky.

“Steel Bars”

In high school, my ear evolved and my taste sharpened. As a musician, I played stints of metal, top 40, contemporary jazz, funk, blues, gospel and roots music — some more skillfully than others. But anything with soul always felt familiar to me. The muted bass lines, a deep pocket, the long spaces between notes — these nuances define my original love for music. These nuances are soul.

I once heard a storied jazz musician say, “Having soul means that people want to be around you.” Soul music can’t be imitated, it’s a state of being. It’s magic. You have it or you don’t. Every artist and musician on this playlist has soul.

The contribution of African American music to the richness of our culture can’t be overstated. These songs aren’t intended to represent that contribution in whole or in part. This is not a curation. That wouldn’t be soulful. These are just ten songs, somehow connected to my love for music, that feel really damn good. Get your neck loose and please enjoy*.

*Best experienced on 45-S between BW8 and Galveston, windows down.


What’s this Member Mix thing all about? Every other Friday we’ll bring you musical inspiration from Houston’s top creatives, in a series of designer-generated Spotify playlists. If you don’t already have Spotify, you can sign up for a free account here.

Be sure to follow AIGA Houston on Spotify for new playlists every other Friday! Check back in two weeks for another Member Mix!

By Joe Ross
Published March 14, 2014
AIGA encourages thoughtful, responsible discourse. Please add comments judiciously, and refrain from maligning any individual, institution or body of work. Read our policy on commenting.