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7's HERO: Boise woman's new album SILVER inspired by heartbreaking loss and hope

Sammi Swenson and her sister survived a drunk driving crash in 2020 that took the life of one of their dear friends. She is now healing through her music.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Sammi Swenson is a Boise singer and songwriter, and she just recorded her first album with the record label, Next Records. At just 20-years-old, Swenson is seeing her dreams come true.

Swenson says the inspiration for this album came after surviving a devastating car crash in 2020. Her car was hit by a drunk driver, and one of her dear friends lost her life. The crash broke her heart, but she started to heal through her music.

Music has always been a part of Swenson's life. 

"I was definitely blessed to be in a very musical family," said Swenson.

Her mom taught her the piano, her dad was a high school choir teacher, and she learned the guitar. She started writing and composing music early on.

"In high school, I really started to lean on music, writing became a really big thing for me," said Swenson. 

Word got out about her talent, and Sammi was contacted by the record label, Next Records. She signed a record deal while she was just a junior at Centennial High School.

"They reached out to me and said 'hey we want you to be a part of our label and sign with us,'" said Swenson. "I was over the moon, I was like oh my goodness, yes!"

Swenson worked on her album for over a year, and then COVID-19 hit. In March of 2020, everything came to a standstill. Then in May of 2020 on an ordinary night, the unthinkable happened. Sammi was driving with her younger sister, Maddi, and her friend Ava Sawyer when they were hit by another car.

"I was driving my sister and our dear friend home after hanging out for the night. when unfortunately we were part of an accident with a drunk driver," said Swenson sadly. 

Swenson said the driver was going over 95-miles per hour when he ran a red light in a Boise intersection. The 19-year-old driver collided with Sammi's car, and he was killed. Maddi Swenson and Ava Sawyer were ejected, and sadly, Ava died on the scene. She was just 15-years-old. The trauma of the accident still haunts Swenson to this day.

"Unfortunately, we lost our dear friend in that experience, and my sister had retained some critical injuries," said Swenson. "I was the only one that had been awake. It was just me."

Sammi and her younger sister Maddi were hospitalized. Maddi's injuries were severe. At the same time, the girls were also trying to process the heartbreaking loss of Ava. It was a lot to take in. They leaned on their faith, and their family and friends. 

"That experience shaped me," said Swenson about losing Ava. "The only word to describe Ava is light! Really, she's just a part of everything now."

In the months after the accident, Maddi Swenson continued her slow recovery. Sammi turned to music to heal her broken heart. She says Ava was with her, her inspiration. Suddenly, new music came flowing through her. 

"Instantly a full song was there, I need to record this, write this," said Sammi. "I need to get this on paper."

Her music is soulful, heartbreaking, inspiring, and hopeful all at once. Sammi calls the genre indie pop. She says her music changed after the accident. She wrote a completely new series of songs.

"I was like, this is what I'm supposed to do," said Swenson. "Being able to write music that touches another person so deeply is an incredible feeling and an incredible thing to experience. Really, that is how I turned something painful and horrible into something really beautiful."

The new album is called SILVER. Sammi says it has many meanings, but mainly, it's about trying to find the silver linings in life's experiences.

"We went to Seattle for three weeks and recorded it at Studio X, which is a historic and incredible studio where a lot of great artists have recorded," said Swenson. "I wanted to give it my all because that's the least I can do for Ava. She, even to this day, blesses my life, even in the album process, she was a part of it. She was in every song."

Last week, the SILVER release party was held at JUMP in downtown Boise. Sammi was thrilled to be able to celebrate and share her music with her community. But, it was even more than that. Sammi partnered with Mother's Against Drunk Driving (MADD) that night, to raise money and awareness.

"Helping them spread the word, that is in my perfect world is exactly what I want this to be, what I want my music career to look like. I want to be able to spread awareness about something that is so prominent in the world today. I want to give back to my community because you know the way that they helped me, I'm very lucky to have experienced that kind of love," said Swenson. "To me, it was my way of giving back to Ava, and have her memory live on forever."

We reached out to Ava Sawyer's family, and her still grieving mom got back to us, saying "Ava would want to prevent any mother from going through this pain, so please tell Ava's story".  

For more on Sammi's music, and how to hear it, you can check out her website. You can purchase a limited edition autographed copy here.

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