Teddy Swims on His Accidental Success in EDM—And His Most Exciting Year Yet
What Teddy Swims is currently doing in music is far greater than the constraint of genres.
The 31-year-old powerhouse vocalist, whose real name is Jaten Dimsdale, has been shattering the notion of genres since he stepped on the scene in 2019. His moniker is an acronym for "Someone Who Isn't Me Sometimes" and he sees songwriting as a form of therapy.
"I thought I was just writing songs, you know, and you never know what your heart's really trying to tell you or your subconscious is trying to communicate to you until you're like, "Oh shit, no way," he tells EDM.com.
In his latest album, I’ve Tried Everything But Therapy, Swims carefully transmutes the weighty melancholia of painful memories into transformative experiences for his listeners. That album, in fact, just broke the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for the first time in January, with the single “Lose Control” coming in at #8 for his debut entry.
Known early in his career for his viral presence on YouTube, Swims, who is originally from Atlanta, has made a name for himself by forfeiting the stereotypical notions of what an artist should be.
“I'm just so happy for the time because if it had been many times before this I would have not been ready for this mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually," he says. "I couldn't have done it any time before right now. I'm happy I'm in a clear space in my life."
Mostly a soul and R&B singer, Swims had early success uploading videos singing covers of anyone and everything—from Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” to Shania Twain’s “Still the One” and a moving cover of H.E.R.'s “Focus”—before catching the attention of Warner Records.
“It's quite nuts how that can happen, we've been writing for like four years or something," he muses. "And it all just—it all lines up to one particular thing.”
Swims is speaking after a few days off his touring schedule on the day of our interview. He spent that time at Las Vegas' When We Were Young Festival, where he sang alongside the famed pop-punk band All Time Low.
“So I got to go up there and play a song with them, which is such a full-circle moment for me because I'd seen them when I was coming up," Swims says. "They were one of my favorite bands, you know, and going out and playing a song with All Time Low was just like, it was so cool. I was like, 'Dude, this is the kind of moment where you're like, man, dreams are just coming true. Stick to your guns, you know?'"
With a massive repertoire and an even longer résumé studded with major names in contemporary music, Swims is considered a master collaborator, teaming up with everyone from country superstar Maren Morris to prolific singer-songwriter Megan Trainor. After his move to LA, a close friendship with famed UK dance music producer Stuart Crichton formed on a fluke, leading to electronic music collaborations with the likes of ILLENIUM, Burns, MK, Armin van Burren and Matoma, among others.
“So this guy is a huge collaborator of mine, Stu Crichton,” Swims says of the Scotland-born producer. “He's just the best at those kind of things, you know? And he'll come to me and have me work with some people, but we'll just come up with like… usually, they'll start as ballads, and we'll just write the ballad, and then it'll turn into sending it to whoever and they just kind of have the EDM spin on top of something we've already written.”
Crichton, who has recorded and written for Kylie Minogue, Backstreet Boys, Pet Shop Boys, Selena Gomez, Toni Braxton and Kesha, has been nominated for a slew of Grammys and other prestigious awards. "Stu Crichton is one of my best friends in the whole world... we live like three houses down from each other too, so I can always pop over there," Swims gushes. "His wife feeds us cooked soup and scones and we just, you know, take a tequila shot and hangout, man. It's just good.”
This wasn’t the first time Swims had pushed himself to merge his sound, but one of the more challenging endeavors he’s faced as a recording artist. The first obstacle was to stand out in a subset of the industry wherein female artists have driven the standard in vocal house music for decades, plus veering himself towards a facet of the music business to which he was a relative stranger.
Swims' collaboration with ILLENIUM, "All That Really Matters," starts off slowly, with the former's velvety vocals layered atop soft keys that quickly lead into the melodic dubstep and future bass sounds for which the latter has become so well known.
"Because of Rable and Stu Crichton, the song with ILLENIUM came about," Swims recalls. "I came in way later and heard the song and it's just like, 'Yeah, I would be honored to sing this song.' And they shot it to ILLENIUM and we played it every night. It's such a beautiful song to me and I love that song."[embed]https://youtube.com/watch?v=3gxxW5NqICc[/embed]
Driven by lyrics deeply ensconced with meaning, the song progresses in undulations, with gentler moments segueing into soaring beat drops—the sort that conjures a sea of heads to intensely nodd in unison. Above all, the track is still very much on-brand for Swims, because despite the departure in sound, its message weaves back into the narrative reflected in many of his other records.
Swims took a risk with the initial track, “Some Things I’ll Never Know,” on I’ve Tried Everything But Therapy, for example, by placing a slow and haunting ballad in a slot where many other artists would have chosen to go in the complete opposite direction.
“I want it to be the first thing somebody hears... that song for me is something that really has really touched my life," he says. "And even when we were going to sing it on the record, it took me a while because I was just sobbing. And I still sing it every night and can't get through without crying. It's a song for me that's really special because I think that it's given me closure in a lot of ways that I needed it. It's one of those songs like that.”
Moreover, a tie that directly binds Swims’ music to the EDM genre is a penchant for emotional lyrical content touching on various life struggles—material that both audiences find to be highly relatable.
“What it's kind of about, when somebody walks out of your life, it can be a significant other or your friend, but there's no real closure for why people walk out of your life," Swims says. "Sometimes they just leave, sometimes they just cut you off and you have no idea what went wrong, what you could have done, or you feel somebody starting to slide away from you.”
“There's a world sometimes where I feel like I love you so much and I do anything for you and I can do anything to make it better if I can," he continued. "Just let me know what's going on, I can try to make it better, I can try to do anything for you. I love you so much and I believe I'm always your best friend and I can do anything for you.”
Regardless of any sort of genre restraints, Swims has effortlessly tapped into the collective energy surrounding the spirit of dance music—one that’s filled with passion, longing and an unwavering sense of desire.
The dancefloor, in a sense, is a safe space for commiseration, a place where folks gather to escape their troubles and blow off steam caused by whatever challenges that particular week, month or life has thrown at them. “Sometimes people have it in their mind that their life would be better without you in it," says Swims. "That's a hard thing for me to grasp. If you don't get closure from that, you don't get to talk to them again, you don't get to understand why they do those things.”
“It's also not about you either, nobody's hurting you because they're just out here to hurt you and they want you to hurt. They're doing something that's probably best for their life. You've got to just reconcile that with them yourself and give yourself some sort of closure that you're never going to get.”
His chance friendship with Crichton, however, has opened up new pathways in Swims’ career, but also on his own personal healing journey, reflecting capacities within himself as an artist and as a man that he previously didn’t know he had in him.
“It's hard work. I don't even know how I tried that," he explains. "Yeah, I don't listen to a lot of EDM. I didn't listen to a lot of that coming up. I'm a fan of course, but just never been like an EDM listener. But I'm a priority in the world.”
Now Swims sees the genre with entirely new eyes. The farther he’s immersed himself into it, the more he finds himself in a home away from home he never knew was available to him, one that welcomes him with open arms. “It's such a loving, family oriented… everybody at a festival, when you go to an EDM festival, everybody's just in this like… moment.”
“Everybody just loves on each other, and sharing love and drugs and all sorts of other things. It's just beautiful, man. Everybody's just there getting along and it doesn't seem like a problematic place. It never is. I got a chance to go to Counterpoint like the first year in Atlanta. It was so fun to do it, man. I just warped out of my mind a lot of it, three days in a row. It was amazing. It was a great vibe to be tapped into.”
Swims was further surprised when told of his massive following in the LGBTQ+ community, with many of his EDM collaborations tracks a staple on the decks in queer club world, making him a beloved figure both on the dancefloor and off. “I like to think even as this part of my life is happening now and I feel truly ready for the roller coaster that I'm on and I've always been so impatient about what this was and what I wanted out of this and I'm so happy that everything's happening and it's proper timing, you know?”
With a live album version of I’ve Tried Everything But Therapy just dropped in January and a full European tour slated for early 2024, Swims has hardly been able to catch his breath. He also had 2023 appearances on the The Voice, where he duetted “Lose Control” with Kelly Clarkson on the season finale, and the Today Show, where he was paired with another superstar guest.
“I got to meet Elmo too, that was fucking sick. It's Elmo. It was fucking Elmo!”
And speaking of Jim Henson’s creations, Swims is also a lifelong Star Wars fan who, in high school, co-wrote and starred in a music theater rendition of the iconic film, substituting music from Les Miserables. At this point in his career, Swims can very much relate to the words of Yoda: “What you are seeking is also seeking you.”
“That's what you want out of music, you know, something you can celebrate," he says. "Something you can turn trauma into positive things is just like the greatest part of my job, I think, is turning all my awful shit into good positive feelings and emotions for people. And it becomes a tap into their memories and their specific relationships and their circumstances. And that's what it's like. So it's just no longer about me.”