BY EVERYNIGHT CHARLEY CRESPO | Teddy Swims is a man of mystery in that, despite his rocketing fame, he intentionally is keeping his private life out of the public eye. For the most part, the 31-year-old singer-songwriter is letting his lyrics do the talking, and his message is that he is a lover, not a fighter. Everything else about him is left to speculation.
Born and raised in Georgia, the man named at birth Jaten Collin Dimsdale forged a career in music by posting videos on social media of himself in his bedroom studio singing popular cover songs. Gaining a substantial online following, he rebranded himself as Teddy Swims and pivoted a hobby into a profession. Signed to a recording contract, he recorded several singles and four EPs. Most recently, he released a debut album, “I’ve Tried Everything but Therapy (Part 1),” on Sept. 15.
A week after the album’s release, Swims performed locally at a pizza festival in Brooklyn. A two-month North American tour then brought him as a headliner to his first major New York City stage, Terminal 5, on Nov. 14. He was backed by a five-piece band, Freak Freely, whom, during the concert, he repeatedly referred to as his best friends.
On stage, Swims was a sight, with countless tattoos across his bald head and above his eyebrows, bearded cheeks, red fingernails and white-framed sunglasses perched on his head. A long raincoat with overly long sleeves covered most of a colorful shirt and white, cuffed trousers.
He started the concert wearing thick black socks with no shoes. Later, he slid white sneakers over his socks. Throughout the evening, he paced back and forth across the wide stage as he crooned and swooned through 20 songs, including eight from his album, earlier viral hits and covers of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One.”
Swims is reportedly the grandson of a Pentecostal preacher, and that influence seemed to be present. Early in the show, before his voice warmed, he cleverly turned his microphone to the audience at moments when he was not reaching the higher notes. For most of the performance, however, he sang powerfully, like he was leading the music ministry in a church service. Swims’s vocal strengths remained consistently soulful and passionate, and the Freak Freely band helped highlight the power of Swims’s vocal range with sparkling arrangements that never stole the spotlight.
Between songs, Swims professed love and gratitude for his fans, who responded with cheers to just about anything he said. Introducing “What More Can I Say,” he spoke about the trouble he had when an ex-girlfriend found photographs of another woman on his cell phone. This might have seemed like he was revealing something new, but the episode was clearly defined in the lyrics. He later dedicated “You’re Still the One” to his mother. He dedicated “Amazing” to the fans who attended the concert with their lovers.
Authenticity is a huge part of Swims’s appeal. He seemed to wear his heart on his sleeve, seemingly getting emotional during and between his songs. Swims’s performance was honest, heartfelt and even raw, far more than the average performer. Nevertheless, by not revealing any personal anecdotes beyond the content established in his song lyrics, he invited his fans into his world, yet protectively kept them at arm’s length.
For more of Everynight Charley Crespo’s coverage of New York City’s music scene, check his blog, The Manhattan Beat.