It’s their first album, but to Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano-Ramirez, the Nashville, Tenn., couple who perform as Johnnyswim, it feels as if they’ve produced their first child.
Released this week, the shining “Diamonds” and its often poignant songs dwell between the worlds of pop and folk music. The album contains a few U2-level anthems, too.
Johnnyswim will perform at 3:35 p.m. Friday at the Samsung Galaxy Stage during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Ramirez and Sudano-Ramirez cherish their first-born album. They recently listened to “Diamonds” top to bottom as they were driving between shows.
“It’s exactly what we wanted it to be,” Ramirez said. “Because every day we went in the studio, we were making conscious, honest decisions. It was almost like pulling on one string that leads to another string and another string.”
“Abner and I don’t mind taking risks,” Sudano-Ramirez said. “That’s why we get along so well in music and in our relationship.”
“We don’t have kids yet, so we’re not paying for braces we can’t afford,” Ramirez added. “While we have this freedom to fall on our faces, we’re going to risk it all.”
Before “Diamonds,” Johnnyswim’s EPs earned accolades from Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue and Jay-Z. The rap star described Johnnyswim as “a band and married couple that live at the intersection of solid songwriting and good music from the heart.” It’s likely that the lovingly polished “Diamonds” will bring the duo more fans.
Following years of discussions about who would produce Johnnyswim’s new album, Ramirez produced it himself. Sudano-Ramirez encouraged her initially hesitant husband to take the job.
“It’s easy to get a lot of people’s opinions and change things,” she said. “But then, all of a sudden, it doesn’t sound or feel like us. I wanted Abner to do it because I knew that it would be authentically us. It’s something we put blood, sweat and tears in.”
Ramirez and Sudano-Ramirez’s “Diamonds” project began four years ago with home recordings they made in their guest room. The album’s opening song, “Home,” comes from those sessions.
“ ‘Home’ is by no means the most sonically perfect song on the album,” Ramirez said, “but it’s really special to us.”
Ramirez is from Jacksonville, Fla. Sudano-Ramirez is a Los Angeles native who moved to Nashville during her high school years and stayed for college. They met in the country music capital in 2006. For Ramirez, it was love at first sight.
“I was sitting next to another girl who I was trying to date a little bit,” he recalled. “But when I saw Amanda, I said out loud, ‘That’s the girl I’m gonna marry.’ ”
He didn’t meet his future bride in person until four years later.
“Before I heard Abner sing,” Sudano-Ramirez remembered, “I assumed he would sound like everything else in Nashville at the time. As soon as he opened his mouth, I realized, ‘Wow, this is nothing like what everybody else is doing.’ I was so taken with him. I thought, ‘I want to marry him. I want to be him. I want to sing with him.’ ”
The couple’s hearts and voices blended from the start.
“We were built to do this thing together,” Ramirez said.