Life and Music After Loss

Warren musician MorganEve Swain moves forward with her new band, The Huntress and Holder of Hands


After her husband and the other half of nationally acclaimed band Brown Bird died of leukemia in 2014, MorganEve Swain wasn’t sure she’d ever make music again. She had been “very much the supporting half of Brown Bird,” and music had always poured out of Dave as he spent months revising each tune. But when MorganEve tried soon after his death to write something, the music came much more quickly than she could have anticipated.

“The first three songs that came out literally came out of me,” she says. “It felt like there was no thought process going on. So early, so soon after losing him, it felt like, ‘Okay, Dave, I hear you. Thanks for giving me these songs. I feel like I can make these mine.’”

MorganEve had held onto Dave’s lyric book; as the songs continued to come, she drew on it for inspiration and, eventually, for the name of the new musical persona that was coming into focus. That persona, The Huntress and Holder of Hands, comes from a lyric of Dave’s – the same lyric that gave her first solo album, out this fall, its title: Avalon.

Brown Bird’s fortunes had been rising quickly before Dave’s death as it carved out an Eastern European-inflected folk voice. The Huntress’s music, employing cello, string and electric bass, voice and drums, fits into Brown Bird’s genre trajectory while striking a heavier tone – drawing from “post-metal, blues and Americana,” MorganEve says. She plays viola, guitar and ukelele in the band alongside four other performers, and sings.

Despite feeling “exposed” during the Huntress’s earlier shows, MorganEve doesn’t feel alone up on the stage without Dave. Since his death her identity has shifted: “from loving somebody and supporting them and caring for them and all those things that partners do, to basically encompassing that person also. That’s sort of how it feels on stage now for me. I feel like I’m both of us and the band around me is my support system. So much of it is about him still. It’s impossible to separate him.”