Becoming Soul35

Trio taps into wide range of talent

From left: Jon Swain, Jordan Applegate, Bryan Nellems. photography by Natalie Caruso

From left: Jon Swain, Jordan Applegate, Bryan Nellems. photography by Natalie Caruso

By the time they took the stage in February at the Embassy Theatre’s annual Down the Line show, which features local bands covering the music of iconic musical performers, Soul35 had already established itself as a top notch act, playing jazz and R&B at a variety of venues in town and even some high-profile events outside the city. But their tribute to Prince that evening has pushed them to even greater heights, and they look to capitalize on the momentum to include lots of performing this year as well as their first recording effort.

While a Soul35 performance will often feature a larger ensemble, at its core is three musicians who have multiple connections to each other over the years. Drummer Bryan Nellums and guitarist Jon Swain have played together over the years and are both currently in the Voices of Unity band. But it was in the band Swizzle Sticks, a jazz instrumental group, where the seed for Soul35 took root.

“We were doing really well and playing jazz instrumentals at a few places around town,” Nellums said. “But I thought we could take it even further.”

Jordan Applegate, a veteran of the Voices of Unity choir, joined. Nellums and Swain realized they had something special with his soulful voice.

“Jordan proposed we start incorporating more soul stuff along with the jazz,” Nellums said. “And that progressed to doing some dance tunes and really opened a lot of doors for us.”

Beyond their Voices of Unity connections, the three all work at Sweetwater and bring in friends as needed for their gigs. It was at one of those performances that someone introduced himself to the band and provided an important connection.

“We had been playing at Wine Down, and Jared Duymovic from the Embassy came up to tell us how much he enjoyed our music,” Applegate said. “He said he’d like to talk to us.”

Soon thereafter, Soul35 headlined at one of the Summer Nights performances at the Embassy, which led to their invitation to play at Down the Line. The group considered a couple of different acts but settled on Prince. They also borrowed a Purple Rain replica guitar and planned to bring it out for their finale.

“I was saving it for the end,” Swain said. “But the string on my other guitar broke so I had to employ it sooner than I planned to.”

A video from the performance can be found on the band’s Facebook page. While they play in Fort Wayne often, the band is doing a 10-city tour. They will play at the Fort Wayne Music Festival May 10-14 and Three Rivers Festival in July. Although known for their covers, the band continues to incorporate new material.

“We’re really focusing on original music now,” Applegate said. “We’re ready to expand our horizons. The cover stuff is fun, and it’s great to get people up and dancing. But we’re really itching to do our own music.”

First appeared in the May 2017 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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