Cockrell and the Roots linked up remotely for the performance, but despite the distance, they injected the David Bowie and Arcade Fire-indebted track with plenty of punch. “If I’m gonna go down,” Cockrell bellowed during the chorus, “I wanna go down swinging/I wanna go down hard/With all of my heart.”
Cockrell’s appearance on The Tonight Show came after a surreal series of events that started when Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon happened to hear “Swingin’” in a hardware store and was instantly mesmerized. The song was from Cockrell’s 2020 album, If in Case You Feel the Same, which had arrived last summer, but failed to make a big splash. At the beginning of 2021, after nearly two decades as a musician, Cockrell told his management that he was going to start looking for another job, at which point they informed him that Fallon had fallen in love with the song and booked him for Tonight.
“It’s hard to explain,” Cockrell told Rolling Stone of the whiplash that came with that phone call. “Like, maybe night and day does it, but there’s sun shining somewhere. I couldn’t speak. I was like, ‘Are y’all screwing with me?’ And they said, ‘No.’ And I just started bawling my eyes out.”