Vern Swedin sings "The Man I Want to Be," a song he wrote to honor the late Zach Afseth of Harmony and the relationship he had with his sons Ryan and Brent Afseth.
Vern Swedin sings "The Man I Want to Be," a song he wrote to honor the late Zach Afseth of Harmony and the relationship he had with his sons Ryan and Brent Afseth.
"Daddy, I can be a man. I have big dreams, I think I can. I can drive real safe, I can sit up tall. I can pump my gas, you taught me all. When I think of you, I'm not afraid to fall. . ."

~ from "The Man I Want to Be" by Vern Swedin

These lyrics were written to describe the legacy a father leaves his children and specifically honors a friend and his role as a father.

Vern Swedin wrote the song, "The Man I Want to Be," in honor of Zach Afseth of Harmony, who died of cancer in April of this year.

Swedin explained that he was inspired by Zach's relationship with his sons, Ryan and Brent, as well as his own relationship with his father.

"This amazing father and his sons were the epitome of 'dad and sons' relationships," he said. "They were close, they loved each other and the sons resemble their father in so many ways and they wrapped this in an amazing country composition."

Swedin said he knew he could write a country song about it.

He had lost his own father four years ago after a long battle with cancer. "During his last few months, it gave our family time to talk about things that were truly important, like family, dreams and legacy," he noted. "My father was an exceptional country singer but failed to leave a finished song of his own, he lost his opportunity to leave this part of his legacy."

So, Swedin made a promise to his father that he would do that for him - he would write and produce a country song for their shared legacy.

"Funny, when I made this promise, I forgot to make this simple connection, I don't do country," Swedin pointed out.

While he loves the genre, he did not consider himself to be a country singer - he questioned how he would accomplish this goal, where he would start.

"The answer came from a close relationship with Zach and his sons," he said. The two men had developed a friendship during their employment at Pace International in Rochester. He also developed a friendship with Zach's sons as they too joined the company as they reached adulthood.

Zach had started working at Pace in 1998 and Brent joined the company full-time in 2004 after leaving the service. Brent shared that he had also worked at the company during the summers since he was 16.

Zach became ill last year, was diagnosed with cancer late in 2011 and was gone in April.

"I still cry at the thought of this loss," Swedin said. "I was determined to write this song as a tribute to the relationship Zach made with his sons."

Swedin delivered the eulogy at Zach's funeral and not long after, approached Brent with the song he had written.

"When he played the song for me, he said the lyrics just came to him and he wrote them down. He never changed a thing," Brent explained.

In June, Brent and his brother, Ryan, and Ryan's girlfriend's son joined Swedin and his own son, Jesse, and other fathers and sons to record a music video for the song. Filmed in a country church in Webster, Minn., the video shows the close relationships that exist between the men as well as the sorrow that one may feel at the loss of that parent.

Brent explained that the video was filmed over three days, but the day he and Ryan participated, they were there for five hours.

"He really wanted it done by Father's Day," Brent explained and once it was produced, the video was posted online at YouTube and has received over 5,400 views so far.

Brent is pleased that his father is being honored this way. "I know what kind of man he was with me," he said. "He taught me what a person should worry about and what they need to let go. He taught me how to be a good father to my daughter and how to be a friend to a child, but still be able to teach discipline."

Brent shared that it has been difficult adjusting to life without his father, saying that he still feels the urge to call him with good news when it happens. Recently, he was fishing in a professional tournament and was in the top 10 after the first day. "I wanted to call him so bad," he admitted.

Brent hopes this song and video will help people have a better understanding of how important it is to spend time with a parent during the time they have.

"I don't have any regrets," Brent said. "I spent as much time with him as I could."

While Brent thinks Zach might have been embarrassed by the thought of having a song written about him, he also would have been honored.

"He wasn't one to be out there proving what a great dad he was, but that's why Vern wanted to honor fathers like my dad - the ones who are quiet, supportive and always there for their kids," Brent concluded.

To view the video of "The Man I Want to Be," go to www.youtube.com and search for the song title. One may also download the song from iTunes.

". . . All this time I've been looking back at the regrets that follow me and all my dreams have come and gone even though I still believe. And all these roads have taken toll, you may not recognize me, but I'm still the boy I am and the man I want to be."

~ from "The Man I Want to Be" by Vern Swedin