Thursday, September 12, 2013

this album saves dolphins: interview with Austin Tofte

Inspired by the enigmatic beauty of wild dolphins and by the amazing work of Jacques Cousteau, Austin Tofte- singer, songwriter and sole creator of the band Swimming With Dolphins  -doesn't want his new album Catharsis to be just "another dude making music". Austin wants to use this new album to help save the creatures that inspire his songs. 

"There are only a few days left in this campaign." Austin updated on his fundraiser.  "For each & every contribution that comes in, I will be passing $1 of it forward to this wonderful organization: 
The money will go to support an upcoming short film they are making called "Voiceless", which will aim to raise awareness of the harms of Dolphins in captivity. 
I've added a $5 perk as well. This includes a hand written "thank you" from me, as well as a Blue Freedom bracelet - (these items will be included in every contribution $5 or higher).
I really want Catharsis to mean something more than just another Swimming With Dolphins album. Now is our chance to do that."

We were very stoked to get a chance to ask Austin a few questions about Catharsis, and about his oceanic inspiration.
from left: Austin Tofte and Adam Young
 of Owl City at a performance 

Blue Freedom: Your music and band name is obviously dolphin-oriented, what is it that inspired you about dolphins in particular?

Austin Tofte: Truly, it's more than Dolphins. I (and the world in my opinion) owe so much thanks to Jacques Cousteau and everything he did. There are shots in Odyssey, with him and the crew swimming out in the wild with dolphins (and all sorts of aquatic creatures they encountered for that matter) treating them as such magnificent creatures. Just watching someone who embraces the beauty of a moment shared with an animal in the wild like that - it's really amazing... I mean, come on, who doesn't want to swim with dolphins in the wild?
So, really the name derives from the imaginary experiences I've had while admiring Cousteau's work. It's like sounds to fit that feeling, I guess.

Blue Freedom: What inspired you to start a new album?

Austin Tofte:  I think a hunger for creativity in my life was really what inspired me to start a new album. Music is something that I'll never be able to live without, especially the creative side of it. A number of things in my life changed all at once and suddenly the opportunity presented itself to make another album, so I jumped on it.

Blue Freedom: Producing an album that also helps protect the animals that inspire your music is brilliant. What prompted you to connect your project to a cause?

Austin Tofte: Well, thank you, although, it just seemed logical to me. I'm a pretty big believer in the "pay it forward" concept. When you're given something, it's awesome, but after awhile it looses it's luster from just clinging to it & not sharing the joy of it with anyone else. I am lucky enough to have people that want to listen to the music I make, A way to pay forward & share what has been so generously given to me, is to contribute to a greater need in my opinion, which happens to be dolphins. 

Blue Freedom: What is your hope for the album?

Austin Tofte: My hope for this album is two-fold. On a personal level, Catharsis is a cleansing & redemptive effort. I feel like I missed the mark a bit with Water Colours and want to get my thoughts & feelings out, in song form, the most genuine way. On the other side, I ultimately want this project to mean something more to the world than just another dude making music. So, it's up to me to do something about that. 

"Until recently, I've always thought of Swimming With Dolphins as nothing more than just some songs I make when I have time, that a handful of overly-kind people think sound cool... or something like that, but as you all have proven to me with this campaign, that's not the case. Clearly, I have a "voice" and I was put on this earth to share my music with whoever wants to listen. In fact, we all have a "voice" or something we are called to do or make that speaks to others in an inspiring way and reflects who we are as individuals.

I'm so thankful for all of the generosity & attention given to this campaign for the making of Catharsis - I cannot wait to finish this album. However, I would really like to harness the rare opportunity of this moment in the remaining days of the campaign, and use my "voice" to support something that is much more important to this world than my music. That being the creature that greatly inspired the title of this project: Dolphins."

There are only a few days left- help make this album a reality:


Give here:

Follow the project on Facebook:
And Twitter:

#SWDCatharsis #GenerationBF


  1. September 18, 2013

    Mr. Jim Atchison
    Chief Executive Officer
    SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.
    9205 South Park Center Loop
    Suite 400
    Orlando, Florida 32819-8651

    Dear Mr. Atchison:

    As a child, I was lucky to have parents who took me on trips to SeaWorld parks in Florida and California. I enjoyed your parks and have pleasant memories of those summer vacations with my parents and siblings.

    Since the tragic death of your animal trainer, Dawn Brancheau in 2010, I have taken a closer look at your company and its history.

    I have read the book, Death At SeaWorld: Shamu and The Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity by David Kirby. I have seen the film, Blackfish, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite.

    I recognize the rescue/aid work that SeaWorld has done with manatees and sea turtles; however the management of the orcas in your care seems to have been self-serving to the point of causing harm and exploitation.

    For example:

    August 8, 1970. Whidbey Island, Washington. An expedition working on behalf of SeaWorld and other aquariums captured 80 orcas in a net. (Most were released after suffering the trauma of capture.) Seven were chosen to be shipped to parks. Five whales, including four baby whales, drowned during the violent captures. Their bodies were weighed down by chains and anchors so that they would sink to the bottom of the ocean away from public view.

    ‘If the public didn’t see it, it didn’t happen,’seems to have been the attitude of the day.

    March, 1976. Near Olympia, Washington. The same expedition, this time working exclusively for SeaWorld, lit explosives with acetylene torches and tossed them into the ocean to frighten a pod of orcas into their net at Budd Inlet.

    One can imagine that on the same day that your contractors were literally throwing bombs at wild orcas in Washington, your company was touting education and conservation and “creating incredible awareness for orcas” in front of moms and dads and boys and girls at SeaWorld.

    The hypocrisy is staggering.

    Your captures in Washington are the main reason that the Southern Resident orcas are endangered today.

    February 20, 1991. The orca known as Tilikum (along with two other captive orcas) killed trainer Keltie Byrne at SeaLand of the Pacific in Canada. Your company brought Tilikum to Orlando, Florida where he went on to kill two more people and where SeaWorld actively used him in its breeding program.

    In the Blackfish film, former SeaWorld trainer Samantha Berg commented that no reputable breeding program would take an animal that has killed humans and breed it over and over like SeaWorld has done with Tilikum.


  2. [continued]

    In addition to the human injuries and deaths at SeaWorld, your parks are not safe places for killer whales.

    SeaWorld occasionally places unrelated and incompatible animals in the same enclosure, creating an unnatural social structure that gives rise to incidents of aggression and attacks.

    Whereas displays of dominance between orcas in the wild are unlikely to escalate to dangerous levels, the subordinate orca at SeaWorld has no way of escape from its attacker.

    An example of this occurred on August 21, 1989 when Kandu V attacked Corky II at SeaWorld in San Diego causing a 10-foot high geyser of blood to spout from Kandu’s blowhole. Kandu bled to death in view of park guests.

    (Two years earlier, in 1987, witnesses reported that Kandu violently collided into Corky, leaving a three-foot-gash along Corky’s stomach. The two orcas were again placed together at SeaWorld despite this previous incident of aggression between them.)


  3. [continued]

    In reading about orcas, I have learned that in the wild their relationships are extraordinarily stable and enduring. They are family-oriented animals, staying close together in pods throughout their lives. There is a particularly strong bond between orca mother and calf.

    At SeaWorld, your shows tend to play up the relationship between orca and human trainer, but the real bond---the instinctive bond---is between mother and calf.

    The "Blackfish" film highlights an incident where an orca calf was removed from its mother at a very young age. It’s the most compelling part of the movie.

    Kalina (“Baby Shamu”) was born to Katina on September 26, 1985 and was taken from her mother in 1990 at age four and a half.

    In "Blackfish," former SeaWorld trainer Carol Ray recalled being mocked by a co-worker after she raised objections to the Katina/Kalina separation.. The underlying message was clear: do not regard the animals and their well-being so much that you question company directives.

    After the separation of Kalina from her mother, Ms. Ray observed that Katina remained immobile in the corner of the pool emitting loud, heart-wrenching cries throughout the night. Katina’s handlers say that she made sounds that night that they had not heard her make before.

    In the "Death At SeaWorld" book, Dr. Naomi Rose said, “The destruction of the family structure that is so critical to orca mental health and well-being has turned some whales into sociopaths. They’re all socially warped because they didn’t swim with their mothers long enough to learn to be orcas.”

    Christmas Eve, 2009. Trainer Alexis Martinez was attacked and killed by an orca owned by SeaWorld at Loro Parque in the Canary Islands.

    In Secretary of Labor v. SeaWorld of Florida, LLC, your company tried to distance itself from Loro Parque. The Blackfish film depicted SeaWorld curator, Kelly Clark, testifying that she had no knowledge of an affiliation between SeaWorld and Loro Parque.

    There was plenty of affiliation between the parks.

    SeaWorld leased five orcas to Loro Parque. A trainer from SeaWorld San Diego was sent to supervise training at Loro Parque.

    In"Blackfish," a Loro Parque employee recalled that your company sent the orcas to a park that was not ready for them and to a staff that had little or no experience working with orcas.

    The orcas chewed the paint off the walls of their enclosures at Loro Parque and endured stressful endoscopy procedures. Alexis Martinez, was attacked and killed by Keto---the offspring of Kalina, the original “Baby Shamu.”

    Two months later, on February 24, 2010, senior SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was scalped and dismembered by Tilikum during a “Dine With Shamu” performance at SeaWorld in Orlando.

    Mr. Atchison, it is clear to me that a callous mishandling and abuse of killer whales runs through the history of your company to the present day.

    Whatever challenges orcas face in the ocean, confining them to the relatively shallow pools of a marine mammal park where they are exploited for short-term gain is no real solution.

    If all the orcas on the planet were rounded up and put into SeaWorld parks it would probably hasten the demise of the species. Experts agree that many of the orcas in your collection are so damaged by life in captivity that they could not be expected to survive and function normally if they were released to the wild. Captivity makes orcas weaker, not stronger.

    While your company attempts to make excuses, assign blame, and disparage and discredit its critics---the public is beginning to lose faith in SeaWorld. And rightly so.

    My family and I will not visit SeaWorld or any park that displays orcas.

    I would support passage of a new law prohibiting the housing and display of captive orcas in the United States.

    Jim, the Shamu show has got to go.