“I’m connecting with the world spiritually”: Swan Lingo is the D.C. prodigy defying convention

As the lo-fi maestro prepares to share his next project, his energy seems refocused and his vision clearer than ever

01.10.21 Words by: Billy Ward

After surfacing in 2015 with a series of angsty lo-fi demos on Bandcamp, Washington D.C. singer, rapper and producer Swan Lingo quickly began to grab the attention of music fans and industry heavy-hitters alike. By the time his debut EP ‘Spirit Plug’ dropped in 2016, the emerging talent’s enigmatic sound had popped up on the radar of LA-based electronic artist Shlohmo, who quickly welcomed him into Wedidit, the West Coast-based beat collective where Swan subsequently dropped his first two projects.

To this day, the D.C. native’s haze-filled sonics are impossible to pin down to any one genre. Having initially cut his teeth as a rapper, his various stints experimenting with hip hop, emo-pop, R&B and beyond led him to expand his musical pallet and collaborate with the likes of GothBoiClique’s fishnarrc, Lil Tracy and elusive underground star Corbin, formally known as Spooky Black.

These days, after parting ways with Wedidit to embark on a bold new chapter, Swan operates on a more independent basis and is in the process of developing one of his most captivating releases to date. Last year’s silky R&B project ’25 Minutes’ was released in the midst of lockdown, isolation and all the emotional baggage that came along with it, but now the lo-fi maestro is on a blossoming new-found trajectory.

The artist’s latest single offers a first taste of his forthcoming EP, expected to drop in early 2022. On ‘Hurt’, Swan Lingo continues to carve out and solidify his signature sound vocally, pushing the envelope with his world-weary marriage of lo-fi and R&B sensibilities. The track’s focus on heartbreak is a reoccurring theme throughout the musician’s discography, yet here Swan’s energy seems to be refocused and his vision clearer than ever. Complete with a nostalgia-packed VHS style music video, we sat down with Swan to discuss the new track, his upcoming project and his journey so far.

Where was the ‘Hurt’ record made and what was the inspiration behind it? 

‘Hurt’ was written and recorded at Tony Seltzer’s studio in Brooklyn. The motivation behind this song is heartbreak which is a common theme in my musicbut it makes for great music if you ask me.

Who did you work with on the new single and what was the creative process like?

Tony and I cooked this up one night back in March, after making a few songs prior we searched through possible melodies we might want to use and when we found this one he tracked it out, threw the hi-hat, snare and kick on it and it was virtually done. I don’t typically care for overproduction so it turned out perfect for me!

Could you explain a bit about your thinking behind the music video?

I left the music video curation up to Jabari 100%. I trust his vision as an artist so I went along with the treatment he wrote up and it came out exactly how I imagined.

How were you first introduced to the director Jabari Canada and what was it like working with him?

I was first introduced to Jabari by my brother Wifigawd. I was in the process of looking for someone to shoot the video for “Hurt” and he recommended me to him. Granted I’ve seen his work on Instagram prior and thought it was great.

Since the pandemic started, how has the past 18 months been for you as an artist and as a person? 

Since the pandemic, there’s been a few ups and downs in my life, between managing relationships, personal & family issues. It’s a lot but I’ll make it through. With the help of music of course!

Tell us about your earliest musical memories.

My earliest musical memory of me as a yute is playing the djembe which was my first instrument. I would go to drum class every weekend religiously and even played in school. Singing came much further down the road, though I would always sing in the privacy of my home and thought I sounded pretty good, I didn’t imagine that I’d end up here.

What have been the biggest influences on your sound?

A ton of artists have influenced the way my music sounds today, I’ve been absorbing and relearning so much lately that my sound this time next year might not be the same as what it is now. I’m constantly looking for ways to evolve as an artist so influences come and go.

Has living in D.C. influenced your style at all?

I would say that D.C. has influenced my music on a lyrical level, but not so much on a production level. My music transcends further than geography, I’m connecting with the world spiritually.

What was it like having your music recognised by the likes of Shlohmo so early into your career and subsequently dropping projects on Wedidit? 

It was great being recognised by Shlohmo & the Wedidit family early on because it helped me realise that people were actually listening and paying attention to me. I am forever grateful for that opportunity!

What has the recording process been like for the upcoming album so far? 

The recording process has been going great. I’m still cooking up every day adding the finishing touches to certain songs and should have a finished product before you know it!

What can we expect to hear from it?

You can expect to hear a bevvy of different sounds coming together to make each track something beautiful.

Stream ‘Hurt’ by Swan Lingo below:

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