Three years in 12 songs. That’s what JOHNNYSWIM delivers on Diamonds, the full-length debut by singer- songwriters Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano Ramirez. Imbued with the duo’s “undeniable chemistry” (Billboard), Diamonds is a soulful and powerful musical statement that draws from wells of love, loss, hope, and joy. The album follows JOHNNYSWIM’s critically acclaimed EP Heart Beats (2013), which catapulted the husband and wife team to national recognition through VH1’s You Oughta Know+ campaign and appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (NBC) and The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson (CBS).

Recorded in Nashville, Diamonds marks a return to the LA-based duo’s roots. “Nashville really has a home vibe because this is where we started writing together,” says Amanda. It’s also the city where songwriter Mat Kearney first introduced Abner to Amanda in 2005. Coming full circle, Kearney co-wrote “You and I” with the duo for Diamonds. Engineered by seven-time Grammy winner Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss, John Prine, Nickel Creek), the album also spotlights JOHNNYSWIM’s collaborations with other notable songwriters like Josiah Bell and Britten Newbill, further underscoring Music City USA’s renown as a nexus for prolific and successful writers. “In Nashville, there’s a pressure to do your best, to make something that is great and honest,” explains Abner, who also produced the album. “In Nashville, you can’t show your face if you don’t mean it.”

Honesty has always been a hallmark of JOHNNYSWIM’s songs and each note on Diamonds is chiseled by a remarkable emotional intimacy. Like the swim to freedom that inspires the duo’s name, they’ve navigated a course of many emotions and experiences over the past few years. “Abner lost his father. I lost my mom,” says Amanda. “I think you go through a season of heartache, and even once you get past the difficult part, you’re still processing loss. On this record, the songs came from how relationships change when everybody’s dealing with creating a new normal.” Penned with Josiah Bell, “Live While We’re Young” is one of the centerpieces of the album and exemplifies the idea of living a passionate and purposeful life, even while reconciling loss and life-changing events.

However, JOHNNYSWIM’s songs are more than personal testaments, they’re anthems that grip audiences, whether the rousing title track or the spirited, crowd-pleasing “A Million Years.” The significance of “Diamonds,” one of several songs written with Britten Newbill, has changed over time. “When the steps are moving forward in the right direction, there are still people who want to suffocate a dream and will find a way to do it,” says Abner. “The song initially was written out of that perspective: I don’t care if there are obstacles in my way, I believe that my life is meant for something greater.” When the duo debuted “Diamonds” at St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the crowd’s emotional response gave the song a whole new meaning. “There was a rebirth,” Abner recalls. “It no longer was this angry song. It became a hopeful anthem: no matter what’s in our way we can achieve this.”

Indeed, Abner and Amanda have achieved one career benchmark after another. Their trio of independent self- released EPs, 1-4 (2008), 5-8 (2010), and Home, Vol. 1 (2012), made them a popular concert draw in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville before they earned international acclaim on the sold-out Old Crow Medicine Show tour in the UK. Programs like “The Today Show” (NBC), “Bluegrass Underground” (PBS), and “A Prairie Home Companion” featured the duo while special events for Levi’s, Louis Vuitton, and Tommy Hilfiger brought their magnetizing stage presence to the fashion industry.

Signing with Sony/Red-distributed Big Picnic Records in 2013, JOHNNYSWIM released Heart Beats, which hit Billboard’s “Heatseekers” chart. Within months of appearing at Bonnaroo 2013 and performing at MTV’s 2013 O Music Awards, they were a featured artist on Pandora Radio’s “Toyota Sessions.” In between, the duo found some of their most ardent fans at VH1. “They’ve been champions for us,” says Abner. “They’re people that love music. VH1 made up You Oughta Know + just for us.” Since the duo’s You Oughta Know +campaign, which included tour dates with Emeli Sand?, JOHNNYSWIM’s music has appeared everywhere from VH1’s “Mob Wives” and “Black Ink Crew” to “Hawaii Five-O” (CBS) and a commercial for Fiat.

Similarly, the arc of Diamonds mirrors a cinematic experience. “I wanted every song to be able to fit into a movie,” says Abner. “I wanted you to listen to the record and feel that you went somewhere.” His musical vision is clearly informed by more than notes on a page. “I can be singing a ditty in the kitchen and all of a sudden Abner will hear a symphony,” says Amanda. “Not only is he honest and passionate but he can hear things that nobody else can hear.” Likewise, Amanda writes lyrics the way an artist paints a canvas. “She takes a feeling and captures it in a time capsule so that every time I hear the lyric, I remember the feeling from the moment that she wrote it,” says Abner. He cites a couplet she wrote for “Closer”: You washed your hands all clean of me / But look there’s blood left on your sleeve / Now everywhere you’ll ever be / At least you will remember me. Abner continues, “I honestly think that’s one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever heard in a song.”

The verve of the duo’s live performances permeates Diamonds, from the haunting intensity of “Over” to the rollicking, country-tinged “Home.” Abner says, “‘Home is the first thing we play for new listeners. It’s a song that connects quickly, especially live. It’s become our calling card.” Masterfully arranged and produced, each song on Diamonds holds its own yet complements the overall sequence. “When our mixes started coming back, they made us feel the way the songs made us feel when we wrote them,” Abner shares. “For us, it was definitely an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. When you get the album, you’re gonna get us. It presents us well.”

From start to finish, Diamonds reflects the uniqueness of JOHNNYSWIM. It encompasses both the rigors of the road they’ve already traveled and a radiant light guiding them to the future. Amanda says, “One of the three most important things I got from college was something my friend said to me, ‘No pressure, no diamonds.’ You go through a lot of pressure, but if you can stick with it, you end up being a beacon that shines.” For JOHNNYSWIM, the sparkling brilliance of Diamonds leads the way.