BRIDGTON — Terry Swett is riding a celebratory song that was 200 years in the making.

It began last year when Swett wrote a tribute to the pine tree state, My Sweet Maine. He wrote the song as a celebration of Maine’s 200th birthday, performing it for the first time early last year in Lewiston.

One very long year later, the Maine Legislature and Maine Senate voted the piece to become Maine’s official song of the century, which happened when Governor Janet Mills signed it into law on April 8.

Terry Swett of Bridgton just saw his song My Sweet Maine become Maine’s official song of the 21st century. supplied image

But even though My Sweet Maine is a solo recording, Swett wants to make sure the world knows that the process to get to this point was very much a community, even a statewide, effort. Two Milltown Roadshow members, Diane DJ Maddix and fellow founder Jack Jolie sing backup and harmonize on the song; Jolie also plays guitar. And fittingly, the list of people who helped get official recognition for My Sweet Maine stretches across the state.

“I was inspired to write My Sweet Maine for the Bicentennial,” Swett confirmed Tuesday morning in between stops on his weekly food pick-up route for the Harrison Food Bank. “After the first time I laid the track for it, I called an old friend, Ben Tucker, who I thought should hear it and invited him to come listen to it. Ben gave it the thumbs up.

But, like so much that was last year, in March COVID-19 reared up and stopped everyday life in its tracks. Swett decided to sit on it. It was such a hopeful song, but he felt at that time it might be a false sense, something people were yearning for but could not have.

But, hope cannot be just “cancelled.” Not with Ben Tucker around.

Tucker and Swett have been friends since their schoolboy days in Norway. He suggested that Swett share the song with his local state representatives, John Andrews (district 73) and Walter Riseman (district 69).

Then Nancy Marshall, a public relations specialist based in Portland, and Jeff Dobbs, a videographer from Bar Harbor got involved.

Dobbs went to work with the track, creating a visual tour of Maine’s beauty to complement the lyrics of My Sweet Maine.

The final video embraces iconic images of Maine’s coast, lakes, mountains, wildlife, industry and traditions all wrapped around Swett’s sentimental lyrics, in a scant four minutes and 17 seconds.

“Ben called me one day,” Swett recalled. “He asked me if I was at my computer and told me to get on it and let him know when so he could send me an email.”

The email contained the video that Dobbs had produced.

“I was reduced to tears,” Swett said of his first viewing. “It was like magic, the way he [Dobbs] put it together.”

One image/lyric that really sent it home for Swett was in a verse about Maine seasons – the reference to fall when Mainers flock to the state’s premiere agricultural gem, the Fryeburg Fair.

“’Fryeburg in the fall,’” Swett recited. “That was it. It finally gave me a sense of hope. It was time to have hope.”

Andrews and Riseman were tapped to start the ball rolling, introducing a bill for My Sweet Maine to be an official accompaniment to Maine’s Bicentennial.

To sell the proposed legislation, Swett was groomed and presented via ZOOM to the legislative committee that would consider whether to forward the bill to the House floor. The committee voted eight to three in favor of the song, and it then was approved in the Legislature by a large majority.

Rick Bennett of Oxford, Maine Senator for District 19, also got involved as the bill went on to the next chamber. The Senate’s “yes” vote for Swett’s song was unanimous.

From there, My Sweet Maine found itself on the desk of Governor Janet Mills, where she signed Swett’s work into law as “Maine’s song of the 21st century” on April 8.

Swett knew the finish line for his tribute was close; it was a topic about town and in local media for weeks. But he did not realize until he got a call from a Portland TV news reporter on April 9 that his project had been completed.

“I never heard from anyone from the government,” Swett said. “I knew it was coming, but it was so emotional for me to get that call.

“A couple weeks ago, Jack [Jolie] called me about the whole thing and he said, ‘have you even taken the time to relish this moment?’ And I hadn’t really because I had so much going on with work, with the Harrison Food Bank and everything else. That phone call became that moment.”

Not just a sign maker, Terry Swett is a lifelong maker of music too. Supplied image

Swett wants to make it clear that his song is no way a replacement for Maine’s original song, written and recorded by Roger Vinton Snow in 1937.

It’s an addition to it, a song for today. And now that My Sweet Maine is official, Swett has explicit instructions for anyone and everyone on Maine’s music scene.

“This song is for Maine. For Mainers,” Swett said. “Anyone who wishes to can, and should, perform it wherever they please. This is my gift to the state of Maine. My Sweet Maine belongs to everyone.”

 

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