Normally when a singer writes a song about their financial status it is filled with braggadocio. It’s second nature to hear artists rotely recount how many Bentleys they own, the vintage of champagne they prefer and the copious stacks of hundreds they sleep on at night. Teddy Swims—a tattooed teddy-bear-come-to-life with a voice that will make your jaw drop to the floor—goes the opposite direction, marveling at his newfound deliverance from the bottom.
“When we wrote ‘Broke,’ it was right before the pandemic,” Swims says. “We had just gotten off our tour and it was our first time out in L.A. It was coming from that place of ‘I just came up on money.’ Finally, we had made it.”
As he was sitting in L.A. and waiting for the rest of his team to drive out from Atlanta, he started to fully grasp how different things were going to be from here on out. The band was getting ready to record and the label wanted to put them up in an AirBnB in the hills for a month. The cost? $30,000.
“I broke down at the time because I was so angry,” Swims recalls. “No, absolutely we’re not going to spend that kind of money, I refuse to spend that kind of money. That’s my little brother’s college tuition coming up this year, I can’t spend that kind of money on an AirBnB.
“They told me, it’s in the label budget, they’ll take care of it,” Swims continues. “They had to break it down and be like, ‘It is important because this is the way we get the word out, make you bigger and make the change that you want to change, to be what you want to be.”
Swims is getting his first taste of how things are when you’re signed to a major label. How could he not be experiencing some sort of culture shock when the recording process goes from finding time when the whole band can get together between jobs to hanging out in the Hollywood Hills for a month putting together an album?
While the video for “Broke” plays to his childhood fantasies about how to spend the money—who doesn’t want their own ice cream truck?—the real-life Swims has his priorities straight. “Most importantly, the song talks about the comradery of spending it together,” Swims says of his sudden largesse, “knowing it’s not going to last forever. Ultimately if we make the wrong decisions now… you only get one shot at this. If you don’t have your family with you to enjoy it, at least blow it and fuck it up together. Then when you ruined it together, you still got each other.”
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