Jerod “Swayyvo” Morton is a man of many talents, one of which has him widely recognized in Chattanooga as the talented Sidewalk Stages performer whose saxophone attracts audience members from near and far. Swayyvo not only plays saxophone and piano, but mixes and engineers his own music, as well. He has realized his goal of making music his primary source of income, keeping his dreams alive while also providing for his two beautiful children. 

Whose music inspires you?

Swayyvo: I like Kendrick Lamar, who I think is the best rapper out there right now, as well as [indie folk artist] Bon Iver. Charlie Parker and John Coltrane are two saxophone players I look up to. Robert Glasper and Corey Henry are two piano masterminds. SABA, as well. This is who influences my sound.

Why did you join Sidewalk Stages?

Swayyvo: I wanted to make all of my money by investing in my passion, rather than slave at a job I didn’t enjoy. I feel like working for others takes the focus off of what you’re supposed to do. At the time I joined Sidewalk Stages, I was working at Eyear Optical as a lab manager, but I felt like I could be doing something better with my time. I decided to cut my expenses by getting rid of my car and phone so I didn’t have to pay for car insurance and phone bills anymore. I made a lot of sacrifices so that all of my money could be invested in what I loved. When SoundCorps came up with Sidewalk Stages, I thought it was the perfect way to make money doing what I loved and then I figured I could invest that money back into my career. The shifts are only two hours and they only offer a small stipend to performers, but by performing three times a week, I was able to bring in a decent income from tips.

What has been your favorite location to perform at?

Swayyvo: Hamilton Place Mall is my favorite place to perform and gives me the most payout when I perform there. It’s the central hub for a lot of shoppers in Chattanooga, which translates into great audience engagement for me. 

Due to the fact that I perform often with Sidewalk Stages, people have begun to recognize me around town. You wouldn’t believe how many people see me week after week out there and continue to support me through tips just because Chattanoogans love music.

Playing in the streets has also been a great way for me to network with potential customers. I book a lot of wedding gigs because of my performances. When people see me on the street and seem interested in hiring me, I make sure to give them my business card and chat with them after I play a song or two. I’ve also landed a few rooftop events, corporate events, and such.

Earlier this week, you were featured playing at the Chattanooga Airport in a short documentary video [see above]. What did you enjoy about performing there?

Swayyvo: My favorite part about playing at the airport is hearing the way the sound travels and echoes. When I play long notes it lasts longer because of the echo in the airport. I’ve learned how to space out the notes so the reverb brings the sound all together.

Do you prefer busking or paid gigs? Why?

Swayyvo: I think both of them are important. Paid gigs require more structure and organization in what you play, how long you play for, and how much you get paid. Busking is more free form, and I can stop playing to take a break if I need to. Both of them are good opportunities to promote yourself and get in front of a large group of people so you can build relationships and maybe book future gigs. 

What are some upcoming projects that you’re working on?

Swayyvo: I have an album in the works, but no release date is set yet. It will be a kind of crazy project because I’m singing falsetto – Childish Gambino style – on some of the tracks, and there is some great mixing that’s going into this. I'm also planning on releasing a couple of singles soon with Chris P. from The House and some other artists, as well.

What advice would you give someone who wants to do music full time?

Swayyvo: Don’t settle for one thing. If you’re an artist, don’t settle for one genre. If you’re a musician, don’t play just one instrument. Only being able to do one thing in music is going to limit the number of gigs you can take. Become a jack-of-all-trades.