The beautifully dark country-Americana and vivid lyricism of ‘Runnin’ is a fitting introduction to songwriter Sam Swinson's autobiographical journey through indoctrination and addiction; an endlessly inviting confession from his past battles with substance abuse, and the religious demons lingering from his upbringing in a fundamentalist evangelical cult.
Ohtis originally formed when Swinson and co-founder Adam Pressley were sophomores at high school in Normal, Illinois. They self-released their first material on small run CD-Rs while still teenagers, primarily to a local audience. Their partnership has defined Ohtis, accompanied by a revolving cast of local musicians joining the live act over the years, including re-joining mainstay member and multi-instrumentalist Nate Hahn.
By around 2009, Swinson's addiction had become life-threatening. Weighing the odds of maintaining a creative partnership in those conditions, Pressley and Hahn decided to distance themselves and the band dissolved. They kept in touch whilst living in different parts of the country, swapping ideas and songs online, never planning to release them, in equal parts because of their traumatic falling-out, and Sam’s ongoing addiction to heroin.
Redemption eventually came in the form of sobriety for Swinson. After making 9th step amends to both of his re-joining bandmates, they brought Ohtis back to life; unfazed by the 2000 miles that now separate them geographically, with Pressley and Hahn in Detroit and Chicago and Swinson in Los Angeles.
The first verse of ‘Runnin' was written for Adam by Sam while he was in rehab in 2011. It foreshadows a reunion of the band, and it signals a reincarnation of Sam. “Sam's beautiful encapsulation of recovery principles among the descriptions of his own struggle and redemption with sobriety in the song ‘Runnin’ was a major factor drawing me back to the band when they reformed,” Nate explains. Swinson went to a self-made hell, and when he came out the other side he found a support group waiting for him, which had always been there, in Ohtis.