The Underscore: Behind the custom music of ESPN
This month we spoke with Grammy-nominated musician, composer, and producer extraordinaire: Swiff D. Swiff D worked on a reimagining of Diddy’s “Coming Home” featuring Skylar Grey for the College Football Season kick-off campaign on ESPN.
Tell us a bit about where you’re from, your musical background, and what kind of music you make?
I’m from Ontario, California and I grew up in a musical family. Both sides of my families were heavily involved in music; I grew up playing drums and singing but always knew I’d find myself involved in a more “Behind the scenes” role musically, so I started composing. I mainly make hip-hop, R&B, and pop.
How did you get your start in music and what were some of your career defining moments?
I got my start in college. I was about to redshirt in basketball and thought I could take that time to focus on education and a second hobby, but within a year, music kind of started taking off for me and I started selling to indie artists around the Los Angeles area. What started as a leisure thing, turned out to be my main source of income and the way I paid for college. Years later, I produced a #1 hit with Schoolboy called “Studio” that also got me a couple Grammy nominations and everything went up from there.
What has been your most fulfilling music project to date?
My most fulfilling music project so far would probably have to be my work on Ja Morant’s “Promise Land” Documentary because of the back story being it. I had been scoring for 10yrs or so, but this was my first project where I did just about everything sonically. I told myself at the beginning of the pandemic that I should try to take time and elevate one of the other avenues I consider a hobby and really turn it into something, and TV/film scoring was definitely the thing I always wanted to come back and revisit. So when I got the call I was like, “Sure.” When they told me it was a sports score and who it’s about, I was like “Hell yeah!”
Can you tell us a bit about the work you’ve done for this year’s College Football season?
The work I’ve done with ESPN for this year’s college football season is a score based on where we are in life now. As we all know, college sports are nothing without fan and crowd support and participation; I personally believe that’s the reason the athletes go so hard when they step out there on the line. They step out there in front of thousands of fans and millions watching on TV knowing we all are riding with them; and that’s what the score I provided is about. It’s called “Welcome Home” because the fans weren’t allowed in the stadiums last year and this year everybody will be back cheering on their teams… go USC Trojans by the way... I produced a marching band and brass heavy score that captured the experience of being in a real stadium amongst 100,000 fans. The idea was for me to make the listener feel like this season will be the “Year of the Return.”
What’s your creative process like and what kind of challenges do you encounter in your process? How do you mitigate those challenges?
My creative process usually starts with some sort of brainstorming and studying. I personally feel I can produce ANYTHING I’m asked to do if I can get a few minutes to gather my approach. So, I used a lot of the sounds I made in the Ja Morant documentary and took them to the next level. There were questions on marching bands and if we were going to implement a live college band, but again, if you give me a few minutes with bricks, I’ll build you a house.
How has your love for sports guided you in your music career?
My love for sports has always been my first love. I often talk about leaving my TV on mute and watching Kobe and Kevin Garnett highlights while I’m producing because it sets the atmosphere in my studio. Those are my favorite athletes ever and the hours they put into their craft kind of trickled down to how I work on my craft. I feel like somebody could take my place if I’m not working hard or keeping my hands tied in music some way and that’s always going to be my motto.
Any advice for aspiring composers/producers/athletes?
My advice would be to go hard as you possibly can and put your 10,000 hours in. Once that’s completed, do another 10,000. We’re never at the top of our game as much as we think we are, because everything we learn to be great at requires practice and fine tuning to keep the motor running. Try to be as innovative and creative as you possibly can. My drive comes from the ones that have never heard of Swiff D before. How I reach them? How long is that going to take? Whatever that process is, I’m always signing up for the task.
What projects coming up are you most excited for?
I don’t really speak on future projects, but know I have A LOT of music coming out over the next few months. As far as scoring, I’m working on something major right now, another one off of my bucket list. I’m just thankful I was able to create a sound that people continue to call for.