Few artists are synonymous with a particular season–a time of year when they seem to turn up the heat and pump out some of their best work–but Malibu-born emcee, Shwayze, answers that call and then some. In fact, Shwayze and the summer are so inseparable, that he went ahead and named his latest project, King Of The Summer. And the dude has earned it. With chart-topping summer slaps like "Corona and Lime" and "Buzzin," and a slew of chillaxadocious albums, we'd say his summer residency is just about permanent at this point.
With the summer sizzle and his nationwide tour in full effect, Shwayze was nice enough to drop by and talk to EARMILK about his latest EP; running his own label (Feel Good Ent.); and whether he did in fact get his moniker from a 300-pound Samoan bouncer in Malibu.
EARMILK: So, you've officially kicked off your first tour in a couple of years. How does it feel to be back on stage promoting the new EP?
Shwayze: Amazing, man. The last couple years people have been like, "When is the new music coming out?" So I just had to come out with some new stuff. It's been amazing. Everyone already knows all these jams and yeah, it just feels really good to put out new material and have people love it. I'm not gonna let this much time go by without putting out new music again, though — I'm already working on the next project right now.
EM: What can people expect from a live Shwayze show?
SHW: Oh man, it's a party. It's definitely a party. I usually roll out with my band and stuff like that. We kinda bring the whole Cali feel everywhere we're at, know what I mean? Really just good times, good music.
EM: Your last record was Shwayze Summer. How does King Of The Summer differ from that project?
SHW: On this one it was more of an EP — just seven songs, short and sweet. And from beginning to end it's just straight rocking, summer fun music. That was my goal with this one. And the next installment after King Of The Summer is gonna be the fall album that I'm gonna drop in November. That's gonna be more like love songs and kinda like go with the seasons, know what I mean? I'm gonna flood the market this year with a lot of music. I'm doing everything independently — I have my own label — so I'm learning how to release as an independent artist, you know? My idea on Shwayze Summer was to put some stuff out and let it marinate for a while and let people get it. This time I wanna try putting out mad content and I think that's the way to do it now, so I'm gonna try that out.
EM: You mentioned your label, Feel Good Ent. What do you like most about being an independent artist?
SHW: Just being able to decide how I'm gonna put out the music, having full control to do everything I wanna do, which is amazing. I mean there's pros and cons. You know, a con being I don't have the massive major label budget I had when I was on Interscope to push everything. So now I just gotta be more strategic with my marketing and figure out how I'm gonna get my music out. It's kinda cool 'cause I can put my business hat on as well. I love it man, I love being able to do both — creatively and on the business side as well.
EM: The EP definitely has a summery feel with its mellow vibes and warm melodies — even a little bit of tropical flavor ("Tequila," "Roll The Camera"). What is your creative process like when you write these summer records?
SHW: I don't know man, I mean, once I hear the beat or the beat's being made in front of me or whatever, I think the melody is the first thing that comes to me and then the words. I have no idea. I was born and raised in Malibu, California. I'm in Hawaii right now on the beach. I mean, I must have been a seagull or some sh-t in my past life, I don't even know. I love that feel. But, you know, on this last album and on Shwayze Summer I kinda wanted to sonically have a change from when I did the early stuff with Cisco. 'Cause that was more minimal, the beats weren't really banging then and I think that's what people loved about that stuff; it was more like mellow music. But now there's more of a hip hop feel on the EP. I think on the next fall album I'll go back to the first couple albums where it's more minimal and more about the melodies.
EM: Your wide range of musical influences is on full display on King Of The Summer. How would you describe your style of music?
SHW: That's kinda how I came up with Feel Good Entertainment 'cause I think my music is just feel-good music. I don't really put it into genres. I mean, I wish "feel-good music" was a genre 'cause I feel that's kinda where I stand.
And it's funny, you wouldn't believe how many times people come up to me and they're like, "Dude, you have no idea how many times I've gotten laid. Like you've gotten me laid so much." And I'm like, "No way. I'm getting you ass? That's awesome."
EM: You're also a big fan of Jimi Hendrix. How has he influenced your sound?
SHW: You know, I love Jimi Hendrix. I'm not like the biggest fanatic; I couldn't name every Jimi Hendrix record or anything like that. I just love Jimi — I mean, he's arguably the most incredible and influential guitar player of all-time — but I like the way he sings, you know? Because it's not like he was the best singer. It was his feel. You could just feel what he was doing and it was amazing.
EM: Word on the street is you got the name "Shwayze" from a 300-pound Samoan bouncer at a club in Malibu. How did all of that go down?
SHW: I'm gonna tell you right now, that's the first time I've ever heard that. That's not a true story, actually. I've never even heard that story before. That's the first time I've ever heard that. (Laughs) Where did you hear that from?
EM: (Laughs) Just from digging around. Saw it somewhere on the Internet.
SHW: You know, back in the day, I used to just make stuff up completely out of nothing. That sounds like one of those times where I just got really bored and created a story. The real story is totally not as exciting as that. It was just me and Cisco in the room and we were bouncing names back and forth and Cisco was like, "What about 'Shwayze?'" And I kinda stopped and was like "Ehhh." And then from that moment he never stopped calling me "Shwayze." Then after a week, I was like, "Fine, fuck it, I'm Shwayze." 'Cause at that point we had already made a couple songs together and I was like, "Dude, I can't be Aaron Smith. That is not a cool rapper name." So we just kinda came up with it.
EM: Are you a fan of Patrick Swayze?
SHW: I'm a huge fan of Patrick Swayze. He's the man!
EM: You elaborated on the upcoming fall project. What can people expect from next year's summer record?
SHW: I think on the fall record I'm gonna introduce Aaron Smith. I'm a Gemini and I really like the whole the double-personality thing, you know? I've been Shwayze on all my records and I kinda just wanna introduce Aaron Smith, so I think this next summer album is gonna be by Shwayze but it's gonna be titled Aaron Smith. I think you might have the exclusive on that. I don't think I've told anybody that yet.
EM: Will you and Cisco Adler collaborate on another album in the future?
SHW: I have no idea, but you never know. We live right down the street from each other. I know Cisco is doing a lot of stuff. He's building a restaurant and doing some other stuff musically as well. We'll see what the future holds.
But right now I'm just so focused on this Feel Good thing that I got. I got a couple albums that I'm working on right now, I have an artist I just signed, Wildcard, and he's an insane guitar player and singer. We're working on his album right now, actually. So I'm really excited to be working on that. And I got Paul Couture, who I'm working with right now. So I mean, I have my hands full. That's where my focus is, but we'll see what happens in the future. You never know.
EM: Anything else you wanna say to all of the Shwayze faithful out there?
SHW: Oh, man. Just thanks for the love, for rocking with me. It's crazy, 'cause the people who have been rocking with me have been rocking since like 2008. And I'll see kids who are like, "Yo! I've been listening to your shit since 4th grade!" And I'm like dude, am I that old? That's out of control. It blows my mind. So yeah, for all the people who followed me when I was on the radio, and stayed with me when I wasn't on the radio, and still rock with me as an independent artist, I love it.
And all the people who think I haven't been making music this whole time, like "Yo Shwayze, I haven't heard about you since 'Buzzin' and 'Corona and Lime.' I'm like "Yo, just Google me dogg. I've been rockin' and dropping a bunch of shit." So yeah, this year and next year are gonna be crazy.
You can stream Shwayze's King Of The Summer EP, below. You can also purchase it on iTunes.