We were lucky to catch up with Swofford recently and have shared our conversation below.
Swofford, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Let’s jump back to the first dollar you earned as a creative? What can you share with us about how it happened?
In April 2021, I was blowing up on TikTok. I had just started my viral “Song Stems” series on TikTok. It was going fast, I gained 10,000 followers in one day. Crazy stuff. During all this, I got an email from an influencer named Jessy Taylor. She was telling me that she was wanting to venture into Pop music, and she needed a songwriter and producer to help her get started. She had looked me up after she found me on TikTok and she was inspired to work with me after hearing my song “I Don’t Remember Anymore.” We got to work, looking for inspiration to create a song. She was telling me all about her previous year, and I think at some point it just came out during conversation: she was like “I was crying in Calabasas…” and I was like, “hold up! That’s a chorus line, that’s a song!” And so, I immediately got to work on creating this song. I was really inspired by the 80s but also by some current indie pop, I wanted to create something with some groove, but also something with a little bit of darkness. She contributed a lot of lyrical ideas, and I was there to help mold them into really tight lines.
I sent the demo to her, and she liked it, but she wasn’t sure it was for her. She showed it to some of her family members, and I think one of them called it “H&M music” or something. (which I take as a compliment, for the record!). She told me at that point she didn’t want it anymore, and I could shop it around. I did offer it to a few people, but it never really stuck to them. It sat on the shelf.
May 2022, so literally 13 months later, Jessy emails me again. I was shocked, right, because I haven’t heard anything from her since last Spring, but she sends a few quick emails out of nowhere. Basically saying, “This song has been stuck in my head all year! Please, let me have it!” So I’m like, of course! I polish it up, since, it’s been a long time, my skills are better as a producer now, so I make it all nice and fresh and send it to her.
In June she goes to a studio in Florida to record it and it’s a terrible experience for her. So, she books a session in Nashville in August. I do my little behind-the-scenes preparations to make sure that they have everything they need once they get into the studio, like, I add my vocals as a demo and a guide melody piano track just so it’ll all be easy. And so, she spends two days in Nashville getting the song all perfect. Then she buys the rights to the song from me. And this was actually the first time I got paid as a producer. It was a great experience, and I really love that song. It came out on October 28th!
Swofford, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
Hi! I’m Swofford. My full name is actually Luke Garrett Swofford, but my friends have always called me Swofford. I’m a Music Artist, Producer, and Content Creator! I’ve always had an unabashed love for Pop Music. I think the golden era of Pop really was that 2008-2014 era, when nobody was ashamed to go for the catchiest hooks and use some really plasticky synths. It was all so fun. That is the type of music I enjoy creating the most. I really love a catchy little chorus, but I try to imbue a bit of meaning into every song I write too. Love is the easy target for every songwriter, but I really love subverting that. Sometimes I even like to subvert my own titles. My songwriting is always at its best when I can infuse my dry, snarky wit into it.
When I was 11 years old I downloaded Audacity on my computer and put random sounds into it trying to make a song. After a couple hours of this I decided that the songwriting thing was some kind of witchcraft that I would never dream to understand. I really did feel this way until I decided to just jump into an AP Music theory class in high school. So here I am, with all these virtuosos from choir and band, and I don’t know jack. But I studied hard. That class really raked me over the coals, but I got an A.
Suddenly, it’s like this whole world opened up for me. I went crazy. I seriously just spent every free hour I had in front of my computer, at my DAW, making beats and trying to write songs. Now, the theory that we learned to analyze classical music was not exactly what I needed to know to write pop songs, but I already learned all the hard stuff. I was just picking apart pop classics in my spare time and trying to figure out why they worked the way they did. And kept trying to write my own. The brain is just a computer, so I kept getting better.
Covid happened during this early learning period, so I got way more time to write. It went from 3 hours a day to seriously 9 hours a day. Or more, I don’t even know. I was insane. I grew up in a tourist town, but it was completely empty. I did a lot of wandering around in the empty tourist attractions and listening to vaporwave. That is a feeling I’ll probably never feel again. I wrote Bedford Mall inspired by that. That album is kooky. It’s great. I don’t think there’s a single other album like it. It’s a concept album about a dead mall, and I think you would just have to experience it to understand.
The world opened back up, and I don’t spend the sheer number of hours that I used to on production, but that’s actually a great thing because I got all those skills, so now I can focus on detail, and concepts. I released my last album Friendly Skies earlier this year, and that album is me being a bit more personal and vulnerable. It’s also my first straight-up pop album. It’s not a concept album like Bedford Mall, but it certainly tells a story about my ups and downs dealing with loneliness, loss, and even feeling like a failure at times. But it ends on a message of hope.
Luckily, life has gotten a lot better recently. I moved out for college, and it’s really helped clear my head. I’ve gotten back to meeting people, and I have a great group of friends. I’m DJing at my University Radio station and I dabble in the local live music scene. It’s been great meeting people with similar interests who I can talk to about music and art. I also have been using TikTok as a creative outlet, which has kept me busy. I try to upload a few videos a week! And I recently finished up my first job as a paid music producer, so I’m thrilled that that avenue is opening up as well.
Have you ever had to pivot?
When I was in high school, I really thought photography was going to be my forever-thing. I still thought I’d never be able to learn music. So, I bought a nice camera and a couple lenses, and I started shooting pictures of my friends around my hometown. It was fun! I made some videos and stuff, too. When I was 16, I even made several YouTube videos trying to be a photographer influencer or something. Looking back, those videos are embarrassing. I was a beginner! But I’m glad I did it. I even did senior portraits in my hometown for a while, which was funny because most of the time I was younger than my clients.
It was a good income for a while, but, looking back, it just wasn’t my biggest passion. I do still love photography, but these days I love hopping in front of the camera too! I’m more into fashion and stuff now so I enjoy the modeling side too. Besides, work really dried up during the pandemic. Nobody wanted to do a photoshoot. And by that point I had started songwriting. And after I had discovered songwriting, I honestly forgot about photography as a job real quick.
Any insights you can share with us about how you built up your social media presence?
I should preface this by saying I don’t have a big audience. Across both my TikTok accounts I have a little over 40,000 followers. Which, sure, is a lot of people in a room, but compared to some friends I’ve met through influencing, I’m a little guy! What my audience is, though, is specific. The TikTok algorithm does what it needs to do when it comes to putting people in touch with the esoteric and hyper-specific content they desperately want. I can provide that.
On my music account, @swoffordmusic, I blew up in March 2021 with my viral “Song Stems” series. Basically, I take a hit song, and break it down into its constituent parts: Drums, Bass, Guitar, Chords, Synths. It was a hit and a half. People ate that stuff up. It really blew up in April when I changed the format up to include the music video in the background. People really liked that. I’ve started doing more content related to my own songwriting process and also what it’s like as a radio DJ.
I blew up on my fashion account, @misterswofford, essentially by predicting future trends and making commentary on present ones. I also like to draw comparisons between different eras of fashion and give mini fashion-history lessons. I have no formal fashion education, but it’s just one of those areas of interest that I have that other people on TikTok do too. The first video that blew up on that account was essentially just me comparing 1980s and 1940s fashion. Now, the comments on that video were a pretty even mix of “wow, I had never thought of this, so cool!” and “even my five-year-old knew this, bozo!” When you split people exactly like that, you know you’re doing it right.
I had one really huge video where I talked about the sudden death of the Bieber haircut around 2012 or 2013, that video got almost 4 million views. It’s crazy to even say that, wow. Then in January I did a 2021 fashion roast which also got over a million views. That one was super fun. I love my followers, I’m friends with several of them. TikTok has introduced me to people who are freakishly similar to me. I never would have met them in real life.
As for advice I’d give to someone who wants to build their social media audience, my advice is to go for it. And to make sure you’re not dragging. Fast pace is king. Get to the point immediately. Delete a video if you notice it’s going viral for the wrong reasons. I once posted an outfit of the day and within 20 minutes it had 15,000 views and several hate comments. I deleted that video so fast. Think less about the videos you want to make, and more about the videos people want to see. And by God, don’t get in comment fights! It takes years off your life, I swear. Just be yourself, but high-energy.
- Website: lgswofford.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/swoffordmusic
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@swoffordmusic
- Other: Tiktok tiktok.com/@misterswofford
Swofford Jessy Taylor