Sway Clarke II took up music at a relatively early age, though his future as a pop and R&B songsmith was not immediately clear. “Like every other black youth in Toronto at the time, I wanted to be a rapper,” he says. “The problem was, I wasn’t any good. But I did figure out eventually that I loved singing and I loved writing songs. It happened really naturally, actually. I just kind of fell into it.”
After experiencing a kind of unlikely musical awakening once having discovered Oasis in his teen years (“Liam Gallagher was such a badass. He just didn’t give a fuck. I wanted to be that.”), Sway’s musical palette began to broaden and his increasingly kaleidoscopic musical fandom had a direct influence on the kind of music he found himself making. After teaching himself how to play guitar and engaging a brief stint as a semi-traditional singer/songwriter the young impresario eventually began to find his footing as a songwriter. In 2012 he decided to pull up stakes and relocate to Berlin—a location that now serves not only as a permanent home base, but a kind of spiritual residence as well.
Sway began writing songs with the hope that others would record them, however he quickly found that the nature of his lyrics made some artists hesitant to work with him. “I spent a lot of time in sessions, where I vibed with other artists and songwriters and most times they felt lot of my topics and lyrics were a bit too risqué.” It wasn’t until the release of his own first proper single—the super-chilled, tell-it-like-it-is banger “I Don’t Need Much”—in November of 2013, that his star began to rise. Impossibly hooky and remarkably frank, the track garnered notices from across the blogosphere (The Fader referred to it as “Frank Ocean meets Lorde”), eventually garnering over 160,000 plays on Soundcloud and helping secure Sway a support slot on Haim’s 2014 European tour. The song also announced him as a sharp voice to be reckoned with and a songwriter unafraid to stick his neck out. The lyrics to “I Don’t Need Much”–Cigarettes and alcohol, iPhone for a few calls/ A crew and a mean broad, because I can’t forget the pussy, man/ I don’t need much–not only raised the appropriate amount of eyebrows but also won over fans tired of the increasingly treacly nature of the so-called “new” R&B.
This spring Sway released his second proper single, “Secret Garden”, a track that further shows his development as not only a savvy songwriter, but a hitmaker as well. Even though he still considers his career to be in the baby stages, Sway is excited—and humbly surprised—by the attention he has received. Currently jumping back and forth between Berlin and his native Toronto, he is excited about the prospect of finishing his currently in-the-works debut and continuing to play out for people.
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