100% DWY: South London’s deep-thinking songwriter
His upcoming R&B-slash-soul mixtape, Self-Contained, ushers in a new era for the musician who’s just found his voice.
DWY (pronounced Dewey) is Zooming in from his flat in sunny Los Angeles, on what might ironically be the hottest day of the year in Britain. As a South Londoner himself, he fondly remembers the frenetic atmosphere that emerges from a particularly sweaty day in the city: “There’s just something about the collective energy when London’s too hot,” he says.
By comparison, DWY’s feeling pretty chilled right now. He’s just released his new single, Solid Gold, an introspective slow jam about romance in the face of self-destruction that will appear on his forthcoming mixtape Self-Contained. “Hold me close don’t let me go/I’m feeling plastic, you’re solid gold”, he sings softly against a backdrop of mellow backing vocals and piano.
Following the success of his first release in 2018, the soulful Over You, DWY put out a string of EPs and a nostalgia-fuelled debut album, 8‑Bit Memories, in 2021. With this new project comes newfound confidence in himself, his artistry and especially his singing voice. “Before, I was insecure about my voice and wanted to be tucked in behind the music,” he continues. “This time around, I’m front and centre.”
He’s had a hand in producing each of Self-Contained’s six tracks (including the entrancing second single Badu Feels) and feels proud of diving head-first into songwriting, finding “new pockets and new ways to say stuff” in the process. As a child, though, DWY wasn’t particularly musical. “Every time my mum would put me in piano lessons, I’d sit there and just not do it,” he says. “No one saw music in my future.”
A bit of a prodigy – or “top tier nerd” as he puts it, DWY went to Kent University at just 16 to study English Language. “Hanging out with the older kids, everybody was rapping. So I started with that but then fell in love with writing songs,” he says.
“Everything else in my life went out the window. I remember going to a music shop on Tottenham Court Road and spending my whole student loan there. I lived in a flat with zero furniture because I’d spent every penny on a new computer, a keyboard, a guitar. My mum came to visit me and she was like, ‘Are you ok?’”
That dedication paid off. DWY came from Lewisham to LA without much of a plan before the pandemic and ended up staying – partly out of convenience, but also because he’s searching for something he can’t quite put his finger on yet. For now, Self-Contained feels like a good place to start.
10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?
I was born in Miami and raised in Lewisham, South London. I’m based in LA now.
20% What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?
I suck at writing happy songs, to be honest. I try to draw from everything that’s happening around me in real time. Often, I’ll feel a certain way and write some notes about it, then I’ll go back to them once I’ve had time to think and process. I’m not the best verbal communicator, so everything that’s going on in my head comes out in the music.
30% When did you first start becoming more confident in your singing voice?
2018. I was doing a session with [musician] Goldwash and we wrote a song together – one of the first records I started showing to people. Then just practising and putting in the hours. I listen to a lot of D’Angelo and Prince. I love that kind of vocal tone.
40% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
A friend once told me, “You can only control what you can control. Anything else is out of your hands.” Just embrace luck and focus on the art.
50% What’s the most pointless fact you can share?
When penguins are babies, they have afros.
60% You rule the world for a day. What went down?
It would be a chaotic day. I’d reverse so many stupid laws and bills, for sure. A bunch of dudes are making rules about a bunch of stuff they have no business making rules about. I’d tax billionaires aggressively – they’d feel the wrath. I’d change how Spotify pays artists. I’d also give a bunch of money to libraries and force more companies to do paid internship programmes.
70% So you’d make all the bad things into good things?
Not necessarily. I think too much blah-ness isn’t good either. Humans need stimulation. We’re getting too much negative stimulation right now, but I’d still want to create a world that felt exciting.
80% If you could travel back in time to see an iconic music act perform, who would it be, and in what era of their career?
James Brown or Jimi Hendrix in a really small club. Seeing those two when they were brand new would have been insane.
90% What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?
I’m an awful nail-biter when I’m nervous. I started painting my nails because of it, but even that wasn’t enough! I’m also late a lot. I don’t know how I still have friends sometimes. There’s a way I’ll answer “Are you still coming?” where everyone knows I definitely won’t be pulling up.
100% Name something you love, something you like, and something you hate.
I hate bootcut jeans. Dragging on the floor, ripping the fabric… It irks me. I like rum. I love my friends and family, and music.