Off the beaten path eddie white, danielle howle of awendaw green take music to the swamp charleston scene postandcourier.com gas hydrates energy

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The band is the latest to take advantage of the so-called Swamp House on the edge of McClellanville. Dozens of South Carolina artists, including Cary Ann Hearst, Edwin McCain and Mark Bryan, have written and recorded music here over the past several years.

Eddie White knew early on he’d become a dentist, just like his father. He earned his degree from Furman University, started his career in Charleston, and for about 18 years, he’s run his own practice, Sewee Dental Care on S.C. Highway 41 in Mount Pleasant.

In 2008, he and a group of friends started Awendaw Green, which is now the host of the weekly Barn Jam, an outdoor showcase of local and regional musicians on his property next to the Sewee Outpost. The not-for-profit series is supported by $5 donations collected at the gate, which helps pay the musicians and the energy bills.

Today, she’s Awendaw Green’s artist-in-residence, which is more than a job title. She lives in a small house on property owned by White adjacent to the Awendaw Green. She’s also the mastermind of “concepts that support the assets that Awendaw Green has and wants to develop,” she said.

White purchased 100 acres in McClellanville in 1991, eager to own a “slice of wilderness” near a creek where he could camp, fish and kayak. He cleared the little peninsula surrounded by black water swamp and in the mid-1990s, started building the Swamp House with his own hands.

It was initially just a platform to camp on, then a little sleeping lodge run with a generator. Today, it’s powered by solar panels and it has running water. But it’s still like a “fish camp” as White puts it. There’s no central heating or air conditioning; the bathroom is an outhouse facing the swamp, with an outdoor shower nearby.

That original idea became known as Swamp Sessions, and about once or twice a year for six years, Howle has invited a group of musicians that don’t typically play together to spend a weekend up at the Swamp House to write and record music together.

“Swamp Sessions … is just me bringing people together to make amazing music, make amazing energy and make amazing friendships happen,” Howle said. “It creates community, it strips you of everything … so that your true artistic ability and identity can shine because you’re in a strange place with people you don’t normally hang with. And some of the recordings are insane.”

Since the series has taken off, Howle also started doing weekend-long songwriting workshops with small groups of all ages at the swamp about twice a year. She said it was particularly rewarding to work with a group of younger students recently.

“We didn’t use phones for two or three days. Some of the young people didn’t know what that was like,” she said. “I saw the change. They came into the present moment. People were dancing around, looking at trees, playing things on their guitar, making up stuff, using their brains to create instead of outside stimulus from electronic devices.”

“It’s easy to get removed out there because there’s no phones,” he said. “It’s surprising how peaceful it is. And you realize when you can’t use your phone how much time you’ve been spending on social media and all that stuff, and how nice it is to disconnect and just go full-speed ahead into your songs.”

“I don’t know what it is, there’s just this great energy about it,” he said. “You are your own worst enemy, and because there’s not anything going on beyond what you bring to it — it’s the simplicity that allows you to slow down a little bit.”

“When I get to the Swamp House, it reminds me that I belong to the planet. That I’m not alone. I’m not in a world that doesn’t care about itself. I do belong here, I belong to everyone, and it helps me have greater compassion for human beings,” she said. “Music in general does allow us to have more perspective and more compassion. Melody, rhythm, and the truth are things that all humans have in common.”