Teddy Swims, a tatted man with punk rock spirit and a silky soul voice, talks with HL about his many ‘juxtapositions,’ his dedication to social justice, and his new EP, ‘Unlearning.’
An intriguing sight greeted viewers of The Late Present With Stephen Colbert initially of Could. The musical visitor got here on sporting gold-tinted glasses, beige slides, a pinstripe-jersey below his military-green jacket. When the digicam obtained shut, viewers might make out all of the face tattoos peeking out from below the bandanna wrapped round his head, in addition to the ink on his palms and the huge gauges in his ears. However at that time, they have been targeted not on what Teddy Swims appeared like however what he appeared like. As this Conyers, Georgia native started to sing “Mattress On Fireplace,” a strong voice rang out as he delivered this sweeping, soulful ode to all-consuming love.
“After I see folks, they’ll all the time say, ‘look, I like to point out folks your voice, however I all the time like to carry the digicam – “don’t look, simply hear him sing first after which inform me what you assume he seems to be like, all proper, after which look, right here he’s. They usually’re like, oh!’” Teddy stated whereas talking EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife. “They usually all the time inform me like, ‘folks journey out once they see what you seem like versus your voice,’ it’s such a juxtaposition, I assume, is the phrase.”
That juxtaposition is among the parts on show in Unlearning, Teddy’s debut EP, out at present (Could 21.) The discharge with “L.I.F.E.,” an inspirational, atmospheric observe coupled with a vocal efficiency that appears plucked out of a gospel service (a video for the observe, depicting Teddy pondering his existence in opposition to a stunning scenic backdrop, drops the identical day.) After “Mattress On Fireplace” comes “Blowin’ Smoke,” a thumpin’ funk bassline threading itself round Teddy’s silky professions of how he’s legit along with his enhances in direction of his girl pal. That funk caries on to “Broke,” Teddy’s crew up with nation star Thomas Rhett. Unlearning blends in parts of nation, twang, R&B, funk, and soul to create a seamless expertise of pleasure.
“I’m only a lover, lover, lover of the science of the voice and the physique. And that’s why I like all sorts of music,” says Teddy. He’s not – to borrow the phrase – ‘blowin’ smoke.’ Teddy (born Jaten Dimsdale, adopting the web slang “SWIMS” — ‘Somebody Who Isn’t Me Typically’ – as a surname) by no means restricted himself to style or scene when he started performing. This highschool soccer star discovered his voice whereas performing at school musicals – once more, one other juxtaposition – and shortly dove headfirst into Atlanta’s punk, metallic, and rap scenes. His father turned him onto the music of giants like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Marvel, and Al Inexperienced. With all these elements, Teddy had all he wanted for a breakthrough. He simply wanted that spark.
In 2019, he discovered it. That yr, he began posting covers to YouTube, and his rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” began to achieve traction on-line. Many extra covers adopted, and he continued to construct a following that was keen for each new add. That very same yr, Teddy rapped over some beats that his producer pal, Addy Maxwell, was making. The tune caught the eye of the appropriate ears. Quick ahead to 2020, and he’s signed to Warner Information. A yr after that, he’s acting on The Late Present and about to drop his first EP.
On the coronary heart of Unlearning is “Until I Change Your Thoughts,” a tune Teddy tells HL “means an entire lot to me.” The tune, launched in March, sees the politically-minded Teddy confront racism in America, significantly White privilege and the way it’s not the BIPOC group’s accountability to finish systemic oppression on this nation. “Sorry that I’m coming at you this robust / By no means had a sense that was this robust / Ought to have by no means taken us this lengthy / To proper this incorrect,” he sings on the bridge.
“This tune is written to, I assume you would say, the small city mentality,” Teddy tells HL. “The mentality that I see rather a lot in my hometown that I grew up in about half-hour east of Atlanta. We have been only a small city, and other people are inclined to assume simply because issues aren’t taking place proper there. And that should you’re not paying consideration and also you’re so fortunate and privileged to not have to fret about these issues which are happening with COVID and with racism on this nation, that doesn’t imply it doesn’t exist. It completely is going on, and it’s taking place proper round you and proper in entrance of you.”
Teddy then introduced up the case of Shali Tilson, a 22-year-old that grew up in his hometown – “he went to a unique highschool,” he says – who was arrested and jailed on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct cost for 9 days in 2018, per The Atlanta Journal-Structure. He died from “blood clots that fashioned in his lungs resulting from dehydration,” in response to an post-mortem. Shali suffered from bipolar dysfunction and was on suicide watch, which meant that he was to be checked each quarter-hour, however a video launched in 2019 confirmed that wasn’t the case, with medical personnel and workers ignoring Shali for hours. A grand jury investigation into the case produced an 84-page report that concluded nobody individual was accountable for his loss of life, per 11Alive Information. As an alternative, the “medical, psychological well being and jail workers, by way of complacency, reluctance, assumptions and lack of procedures, coaching, management, and adherence to coverage, failed to acknowledge and adequately deal with the psychological state and bodily decline of Shali Tilson.”
“I’ve been fortunate sufficient to hang around and meet his household,” stated Teddy. “I bear in mind listening to about it on the information and my county, however considering that there was one thing ought to’ve been carried out about that, and nonetheless nothing’s occurred. No one’s been accountable. It’s been simply brushed below the rug. And it actually had me considering, how typically is that this taking place in small cities in all places.”
“We hear concerning the Breonna Taylors and the George Floyds, however how many individuals are there that we’re not listening to about?” he continued. “What number of occasions is that this taking place? And so Shali and his state of affairs actually convicted me as a result of I’ve all the time thought of myself as an ally — and I consider that I’m robust on Black Lives Matter and what it means and creating equality on the planet — however I by no means knew that it occurred proper subsequent to the place I used to be born. I by no means knew that that was taking place proper right here. And the way privileged was I to not learn about that? It simply actually, actually damage me and convicted me and made me assume.”
“So this tune, ‘Til I Change Your Thoughts’ is my message to people who find themselves so fortunate to be in a spot the place they’re not experiencing that and seeing that on a regular basis, as a result of simply because it’s not taking place to you doesn’t imply it doesn’t exist.”
Teddy’s political facet has “positively all the time been part of me,” and he’s conscious of his place as a white artist performing R&B and soul. “I’m closely influenced by Black tradition and Black music,” he says. “And I, for one, who seems to be I do and who sings I do, I by no means wish to be… It’s straightforward for any person to assume that it’s cultural appropriation, however to me, my heroes of my life are Marvin Gaye, Al Inexperienced, Stevie Marvel, Otis Redding, James Brown. These are the blokes that I grew up on that I like a lot.”
“I’ve by no means in my thoughts understood how you would hate any person due to the colour of their pores and skin. Anytime that I’ve ever had the chance to face up and say one thing, I’ve all the time been there to do it,” he says, including that he by no means needs his “privilege to be the factor that deters me” from doing the appropriate factor.
“It’s all the time one thing that I’m in all probability overly acutely aware of due to who I’m and the music I make and what I seem like,” he provides. “I all the time wish to ensure it doesn’t matter what that I’m in assist of Black tradition and Black music and Black companies. These issues are essential to me as a result of they’re essential to my upbringing and the folks that I like who’re near me.”
Whereas “Until I Change Your Thoughts” is included in Unlearning, one in all Teddy’s latest singles – “My Unhealthy” — isn’t. The video for the tune is probably the right introduction to Teddy Swims: a soulful, up-tempo bop concerning the struggles of affection, paired in opposition to Teddy getting the daylights knocked out of him (whereas as his Magic Soiled persona) in a wrestling ring.
“I grew up with three brothers, in order that was what we did. We beat the hell out of one another on mattresses, copied the strikes, and did all the things,” stated Teddy, who provides that wrestling was “an enormous a part of our household” rising up. “And I had a few buddies that you just noticed on the video, Damian Bennett and Tyler Cullprett, which have pursued wrestling and are skilled wrestlers now round Georgia and the Southeast. It was nice to have the ability to name them and get them to point out me across the ropes and to have the ability to get within the ring for the primary time ever.”
“After I obtained out of that ring, man, I used to be simply so fired up, so fired up,” he says. “However one factor that I’ll say is I used to be within the ring all day making an attempt to get this sequence down for the video, you understand? After which I busted my in there, so exhausted, so sore for the subsequent three or 4 days, only for it to be like 10 seconds of the video, perhaps 5 seconds of the video you see wrestling occur. And I used to be like, ‘rattling, I really feel I busted my ass, and y’all solely put that little bit in there? However it was superb, man. And I positively can say now, I’ve all the time revered the game of wrestling, however no person can say it’s faux.”
Everybody will say Teddy Swims is the true deal following Unlearning. As for what the remainder of 2021 holds, the sky’s the restrict. An album is on the horizon, as is Teddy Swims Presents: Swimmy and the Valley of the Final Tune, an all-ages graphic novel that includes Swimmy The Bear and the elephantine variations of his bandmates (a nod to Elefvnts, the R&B/Soul/Progressive Rock band Teddy performs with) arriving this fall. Teddy will play the primary 9 reveals on the Zac Brown Band’s comeback tour, kicking off on Aug. 05 in Holmdel, New Jersey. There’s additionally the chance that Teddy might drop the thrash report of the yr by the point 2021.
“Clearly, my previous crushes rising up after I was in highschool and getting out, doing metallic,” says Teddy. With the divisions between genres extra pours than ever – and everybody from Willow Smith to Olivia Rodrigo placing out pop-punk songs – it’s not past cause to see Teddy teaming with a metallic act for a future launch. When requested for dream collaborations, he fires off a number of “bucket record” bands. “I’m an enormous Chiodos fan, man, Craig Owens,” says Teddy, earlier than including Circa Survive (“Anthony Inexperienced’s among the finest vocalists of all time”), Asking Alexandria (“Danny Worsnop is among the most unbelievable vocalists”) and extra to the record. “There’s simply many, Matty Mullins [of Memphis May Fire]. I’d like to work with all of them guys, man. Garret Rapp from Colour Morale. That’s my roots, I like, love, love, heavy shit, man.”
“After I first began singing, I used to be in metallic bands and was screaming in bands. And I’ve all the time cherished the voice a lot that whether or not – if it was opera or screaming metallic or R&B or soul or no matter it took, I wanted to have the ability to do it with my voice, musical theater — no matter it’s, no matter sort of voice that you may have, I wish to ensure I can do it,” says Teddy. I’m only a lover of the vocal, the instrument itself, that like anytime I hear one thing, that’s simply, ‘whoa, I’ve to know.’ I’ve to know methods to make my voice do it. I can’t relaxation till my voice is ready to do all the things that there’s a voice can do.” And now, along with his debut EP, the world is about to see simply what Teddy can do.
Teddy Swims’ Unlearning is out now.