In the past two years, singer/songwriter Teddy Swims has emerged as a powerful, soulful vocalist, an artist signed with Warner Records, and a YouTube star who has attracted over 100 million views by performing his new songs and cover versions. Four months ago, he released an excellent EP called Unlearning, and he’s released a new single called “Simple Things” that is perhaps his best song to date.
Based in Atlanta, GA, Swims (whose birth name is Jaten Dimsdale) has been on an interesting journey since starting his music career. He’s explored a wide range of music genres, before focusing on the soul/pop/rock sound he has today. Swims is such a strong, emotional singer, that he can express himself in almost any genre (including R&B and hip-hop).
For his EP Unlearning, Swims teamed up with several top songwriters & producers to write songs for this project. He has worked closely with L.A.-based writer/producer Julian Bunetta on songs, including the passionate “Bed on Fire,” the funky R&B “Broke” (featuring vocals by country star Thomas Rhett) and the uptempo “Blowin’ Smoke.” Swims & Bunetta also wrote the new single, “Simple Things.”
Other key songs on the Unlearning EP are “L.I.F.E.” (written by John Ryan & Poo Bear), the thoughtful ballad “Will It Find Me” (written with Wrabel & Ian Kirkpatrick) and “Til I Change Your Mind” (written with John Ryan, Ian Pollack, Ian Franzino & Andrew Haas).
Prior to his recent releases of original songs, Swims was known for his impressive cover renditions on YouTube (he now has almost two million subscribers). His compelling vocal performances have drawn praise from the original artists who created these songs. His video standouts include Shania Twain’s “You’re Still The One (71 million views), Mario’s “Let Me Love You” (58 million), “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (23 million) and “Tennessee Whiskey” (23 million).
Currently, Swims is writing & recording songs for his next EP, which he’ll release in early 2022. In addition, he’s launching a major headlining tour of both Europe and the U.S. He starts his tour in Ireland in early February, and plays shows in several European countries. Then in late March, he begins his North American tour in Florida, and he’ll play over 30 shows throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Here’s a video of Teddy Swims performing his single,
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Teddy Swims. He talks about his new single “Simple Things,” his EP Unlearning, and his songwriting. He also tells how his success singing covers on YouTube led to his signing with Warner Records.
DK: I read that you’re from Atlanta. How did you get started with music, and singing and writing songs?
Teddy Swims: I got involved with musical theatre when I was in 10th grade. And my buddy Jesse was always playing guitar; he still plays guitar in my band. His dad was the first person I saw play guitar and sing in front of me. I really got the hunger and the drive from that, so me and Jesse would sit around and try to write songs on the acoustic guitar. Those were some of the first songs I wrote and recorded.
Later on, I was in a bunch of bands. One was called WildHeart and another was Elephants. At one time, I was the lead singer in four or five bands. I wanted to be able to do all sorts of genres, and I also did rapping.
DK: You’ve become famous for singing covers of classic songs. When did you start posting your covers on YouTube?
Swims: My manager at the time, at one of my shows in L.A., he pulled me aside and said, “Look man, I think there’s really something special about Teddy Swims the solo artist. Let’s figure out who Teddy Swims is.” Up until that point, I was in a bunch of different bands. So we figured maybe doing some covers online as Teddy Swims, and doing a bunch of different genres, that maybe somebody would point us in the direction of which way Teddy Swims should go. We could try everything and see what would work. So that’s what we did. We did everything from Shania Twain to R&B and hip-hop songs, and it seemed like it was going well. And we found out that it’s more today about what people see in the person. They fall in love with a character or a person a lot more than they fall in love with a style of singing. So I realized that genre really doesn’t matter to fans anymore.
DK: You’ve signed a label deal with Warner Records. Did Warner find out about when you became big on YouTube?
Here’s the video of Teddy Swims’ song “Broke” (feat. Thomas Rhett).
Swims: Yeah, they reached out to us. I think it was right after my cover of “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” That song started to go viral on YouTube. Around that time, almost every label was reaching out to us. All of a sudden, I was going to New York, L.A. and having all these meetings. I would say that we posted our first cover on June 25, 2019, and we signed with Warner on December 24, 2019. So the whole process took about six months of signing.
DK: I like the songs on your EP, Unlearning, which you wrote with some top songwriters and producers. Can you talk about the making of your EP and co-writing those songs?
Swims: We had written a lot of songs during the pandemic. I think over the last year, we wrote at least 200 songs. So when we were putting together this EP, we took the best songs that made sense together, with some of my favorites and some of the label’s favorites. I guess it’s the best of my 2020 songs.
DK: There’s a fun song on the EP called “Broke,” which features Thomas Rhett. How did you write this song?
Swims: [I wrote it with] Julian Bunetta…he’s been such an incredible mentor and writer with me. He’s written with me on “Broke,” “Simple Things,” “Blowin’ Smoke” and “My Bad.” The first session I had with him, we were in L.A. on my writing trip. And it was right when we were on our first Teddy Swims tour. I was with my manager, and he was looking into Airbnbs for us to stay in L.A. so we could do this for a month-long writing trip. I was going to bring all my band and my team, which was 12 of us on my tour at the time. So he was looking at Airbnbs, and he said, “Look man, it’s going to be about $30,000 for 12 people to stay at an Airbnb for a month. And at first I said, “Absolutely not. I can’t see myself paying $30,000. It’s not going to happen.” Then he said, “The label is going to pay for it.” But I was like, “My little brother’s college tuition is gonna be something like that. I’d rather pay for my brother’s tuition.’ But he assured me, “It’s the cost of doing business when you get to this level.”
So for the writing session, I was telling that story, and we came up with the line in the song that says, “Airbnb in the hills costs as much as little brother’s bills.” And at the same time I was in that session, the rest of my buddies in my band were actually in the van, piled up with all of our stuff, all of our recording gear and everything. They were driving across the country in our van to come meet us. So we checked into the Airbnb, they got it ready, and the boys drove all the way from Georgia to L.A. In the beginning of the song it says, “They’re on the way across the country in a van” (laughs). So it’s about sharing everything that you’ve got, and all your success and your money if you have it, with your best friends. That was something I was able to do, with all the guys that had been there with me through it, and made the videos with me, and busted their ass for me to get me here. They’ve been the most amazing friends in the world.
Here’s the video of Teddy Swims’ song, “Bed On Fire.”
DK: I like your new single, “Simple Things.” What inspired you to write this song?
Swims: I also wrote that one with Julian Bunetta. We had this writing camp where we wrote a bunch of songs together. I wanted to write a song about how I had seen many of my friends that I grew up with, having kids, and having the normal life and looking happy and fulfilled. Some of them look like they’re the best dad. I have a friend and he’s a traveling baseball dad. His son is 10 and a helluva baseball player, and my friend’s having the time of his life.
My friend used to sing with me, and he’d tell me, “Man, sometimes I look back and I wish I had pursued [a music career].” Then I’d tell him, “Sometimes I wish I did the right thing and had babies and experienced that life.” Growing up, I would watch my mom and all my family…they’re from a very small town. So I felt that I wanted to do something incredible, and have all these big dreams, while my friends didn’t have those big dreams. And it would usually frustrate me. “How do you not want these bigger things for your life?
But now that I’m getting older, I’m starting to realize how much of a blessing it really is to be comfortable, to be able to stay in your hometown, and to appreciate what’s around you. Because the more I’ve traveled and the bigger things I see, I still see that being back home in my hometown with my friends that I grew up with, it’s still my favorite place to be. It makes me realize how beautiful it is to come home, to the town I used to hate when I was a kid. Now, my hometown Conyers looks so much better, that it did when I hated it (laughs).
DK: Currently, are you working on a new EP or album?
Swims: Yeah, we’re working on a new EP. First, we’ll put our some more singles, then we’ll put out our next EP, called Tough Love, around January when we start our tour.
DK: You’ve started to play shows again. What’s it like to be playing live in front of fans again, and playing to new fans who are seeing you for the first time?
Swims: It’s incredible. It’s a little scary though, because when we were on the Zac Brown Band tour (during the summer), there were Covid regulations that were getting tighter and more strict. And we knew that things could get pulled away at any moment. So for me, it’s less about being excited and more about being grateful and not to take it for granted. I want to be grateful over everything, because we never know when everything in your life could change.