Alum swishes off to L.A. to sing
Published: Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 00:11
After graduation, many students have some idea of how they want their career to take off. Jonathan Whitfield, a 2006 USM graduate from Clinton, Miss., found his niche in music while at Southern Miss, and he now exhibits that as his daily lifestyle. Whitfield, also known by his stage name "Swish," is now an up-and-coming vocalist who just released his first EP album.
Swish moved to Los Angeles, upon graduation, and he began to work with the artists like Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics), Mike Bradford (who produced Kid Rock's first album), fellow Mississippian Glen Ballard, and Bishop Lamont of Dr. Dre's Aftermath, among others.
In 2004, Swish attended a home basketball game, and he was one of two students selected out of the crowd to compete in a free throw competition during half time. Whoever won the free throw shoot out received free tuition, and luckily that recipient was Swish. He purchased all of his musical equipment with that reward. In 2006, Swish produced many mixed tapes to jump-start his career. It was not until the beginning of 2008 that he moved to Los Angeles, where he slept on the floor in his cousin's house. Besides trying to dive into the music industry, Swish also took acting classes. He originally wanted to go to New York, but his cousins who are from Los Angeles suggested that he move out there to promote music.
"After a year of flirting with the idea to move, I finally made the decision, and from there on out, it was a slow progression," Swish said.
Entering as a freshman at Southern Miss, Swish's major was athletic training, but he soon discovered that field was not where he needed to be. He graduated with a degree in software engineering.
Luigi Zaninelli, who is a professor in music at Southern Miss, was very instrumental in the decisions that Swish made that led him to where he is today. Swish explained how he took music theory classes under Zaninelli and said Zaninelli had "such a brilliant mind."
"He inspired me to look at my whole future, and I took another class, and that made my inspiration grow even more," Swish said. "He was so encouraging, and he wanted me to become the best artist that I could be."
"He was gentle and a little shy, but he would share with me his deep reactions to the issues I raised in class," Zaninelli said. "He was intelligent and sensitive, and I'm delighted that he is successful now."
Swish enjoyed his core classes for software engineering, but when he got into his music classes, he knew he'd found his passion.
"When I was in my basic classes, I would write different lyrics," Swish said.
Swish is especially aware of the lack of opportunities for Mississippi natives, and many aren't encouraged to pursue their dreams.
"Because you are from Mississippi, your struggle will be a little bit harder, and you will automatically have to work harder," Swish said.
Swish's album, "Invincible," has five songs. One of the tracks, "Almost Home," describes what it is like to be from Mississippi, and how we have to have our own support system as compared to everywhere else in the world. With all of the strikes that Mississippians have against them, they have to hang in there and stay strong to realize their potential, he said.
"If you have a dream, you can definitely achieve it," Swish said. "What I do is hard; you have to throw yourself out there, and you have to jump."
No physical copies of his album have been released, but it can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon, and any other online music-sharing company.
Swish was recently in London where he shot his music video. He filmed on one of the most famous streets called Brick Lane, and he performed along side Dave Stewart, Anna Marie Calhoun (who played for the score of "Inception" and "Sherlock Holmes") and Nadirah X at an event called "Conspiracy for Good Itself." Over 2,000 people attended. Swish has also recently worked in Jamaica where he has been working with a few artists, and he had a performance on television which was broadcast to over one million people.
Swish ultimately wants the public to absorb, love and listen to his music.
"I put a lot of my emotions and feelings in my music," Swish said. "I think that I am a really passionate person, and people in Mississippi are skeptical, and I really care a lot about what I do."
Swish has an established artist page on Facebook, and Twitter as well under the name Officialswish.