A singer and songwriter with a strong, versatile voice that weaves together elements of R&B, soul, hip-hop, and contemporary pop, Teddy Swims rose to fame through social media, posting covers of his favorite songs before he began introducing his audiences to his own compositions. Swims’ covers spanned a wide variety of eras and genres, from Marvin Gaye, Bonnie Raitt, and Shania Twain to Billie Eilish, the Weeknd, and Khalid, showing off the flexibility of his voice and style. He took on a contemporary R&B feel on originals like the thoughtful “Picky” and the high-spirited “Broke,” the latter of which appeared on the 2021 EP Unlearning. More EPs followed in 2022, including Tough Love and Sleep Is Exhausting.
Teddy Swims was born Jaten Dimsdale on September 25, 1992. His stage name came from an acronym for “Someone Who Isn’t Me Sometimes,” reflecting the many facets of his creative personality. His grandfather was a Pentecostal preacher whose guidance filled Teddy and his family with a personal focus and a sense of purpose. Swims’ family were football fans and he played the game in his teens, but his close friend Addy Maxwell loved music, and spending time with Maxwell and his dad convinced him that he had a talent for singing. Swims started appearing in school musicals and soaked up the influence of artists like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, India.Arie, and Frank Ocean.
After he graduated from high school, Swims began singing in local hard rock bands and lent his voice to all sorts of projects, including cover bands that played wedding receptions, noisy metalcore outfits, and rapping with hip-hop artists. In 2019, Tyler Carter, the lead singer with the band Issues, booked a string of solo shows, and he invited Addy Maxwell along as the opening act. Maxwell in turn invited Swims to perform with him, playing hip-hop material and expanding their audience. At the same time, Swims was also working with a funk-rock band, Elefvnts, as well as a country-influenced hard rock act, WildHeart.
On June 25, 2019, Swims posted a karaoke-style video of himself performing “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson to honor the tenth anniversary of the King of Pop’s passing. The video quickly went viral, and several reaction videos followed, showing listeners registering surprise as Swims demonstrated his impressive vocal stylings. It was the first of a series of videos of him offering his spin on dozens of songs from his favorite artists, and with his friends in Elefvnts backing him he earned a large and loyal following.
In January 2020, Warner Records signed Swims to a recording contract, and quickly issued his first video of an original song, “Picky,” which was released on video in acoustic and electric versions. August 2020 saw the premiere of his second original song, “Broke,” which featured Thomas Rhett. That track, along with “Bed on Fire” and five others, appeared on the 2021 EP Unlearning. Also that year, he delivered the holiday-themed EP A Very Teddy Christmas. A third EP, Tough Love, came out in January 2022 and featured the track “Simple Things.” Preceded by the single “Someone Who Loved You,” his fourth EP, Sleep Is Exhausting, arrived that November. ~ Mark Deming