TTFB interview: Call to the pen with musician Jordan White
As a sports fanatic, I like to think that sports rule the world. You look in the stands and you see Jay (hyphenless) Z, Ben Affleck or Danny DeVito. You always see famous people wearing the jersey of a player from their hometown or whatever happens to match the outfit of the day. But when I sat down and really thought about it, I realized how wrong I was. Music runs the world.
It really hit me when I was at a wedding this weekend. As everyone was making their way through dessert, the DJ had a special request for the Virginia Tech alumni in the crowd. Slowly the proud Hokies stood and a group of servicemen — who had made the request — looked at each other, gave the cue and started jumping up and down. At that point the DJ played the first few notes, and the rest of the maroon and orange faithful in the crowd ran to the dance floor to join them to jump to “Enter Sandman.” It’s a neat tradition that makes college special, that the NFL and NBA can’t replicate no matter how hard they try.
Biased note: Mariano Rivera will always be the owner of those chords. I base that argument of pure bias and respect for one of the greatest players who has ever lived. How does this not give you chills?
Lyrics and melodies have had a profound effect on the world, not just sports, so why not bring in someone from out of our realm of expertise and from theirs?
Today, I bring you Jordan White. I’ll let Jordan do most of the explaining about his background and style because I’m really only good at rapping in the car by myself or having my voice crack when I sing “Crocodile Rock.”
What I can tell you about the former American Idol contestant is that he brings a lyrically driven show mixed with a taste of several genres that flood your emotions on a introspective level to straight shredding on the guitar and ready to party.
Mike Viso: For those who are unfamiliar with your music, give them what they need to know about your style and inspirations.
Jordan White: My musical style is a combination of the 1970s singer/songwriter movement and the grunge/post-grunge era of the 1990s. I was inspired by my father’s record collection, which included singer/songwriters like Van Morrison, Jackson Browne and Tom Waits, and bands like U2. Then, I was a teenager growing up in the 1990s at the right time to be influenced by that time as well. It’s kind of funny because I’m not sure if I skipped over the 1980s because I was too young or because the music just wasn’t very good for the most part. There was too much use of synthesizers and electronics, the music lost its soul, but bands like Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana brought it back, and that’s where it all clicked for me.
Mike Viso: Do you enjoy writing lyrics or the music to the lyrics more? Which comes easier for you?
Jordan White: I love writing lyrics. I write them probably every day, even if it’s just a line or two here or there. I’ll text message myself lyrics when I’m not by a piece of paper and pen. And naturally, the lyrics come easier than the melodies. The melodies are tough. I can’t figure out if I’m too critical of them or it’s just more difficult for me. Some songwriters I know have tons of melodies without lyrics while I am the opposite. I have tons of what I like to call “orphaned” lyrics without any music, but the belief is that one day they will have a home.
Mike Viso: Tell us about your new EP “Four Songs.”
Jordan White: “Four Songs” is just that, an LP with four songs on it. I wanted to keep the title simple. It’s a surprising but eclectic mix of what we have to offer. All four songs are quite different from the other. There’s sugary pop, brutal electric guitar, country flair and bitter piano.
Mike Viso: What’s your favorite track?
Jordan White: My favorite track from the EP is probably “No Promises,” which is a bitter piano ballad about getting back together with an ex. The chorus goes “You gave me no promises / And you kept them all” which I think really encapsulates when you try out a failed relationship for one last time. The second verse goes “Flashback in Philadelphia in 2003 / All you need was oxygen and a little bit of me / Flashback Jersey shore in 2008 / I’m running in the sand / But you’re running kind of late” which is illustrating how the dynamic between two people can change over time, and it’s all true. It happened to me that way. When I wrote it, it wasn’t what I wanted, but there it was. There are no promises and anything can happen in these situations. Needless to say, for the character in the song, for me, it didn’t work out.
Mike Viso: When is the first time you sang the national anthem at a stadium?
Jordan White: The first time I sang the national anthem was for the Iron Pigs baseball team in Allentown, PA. It was cool, but I’ll admit I was kind of nervous. But then I saw they were scrolling the lyrics to the song on a giant screen so the crowd could sing along, so I knew even if I had a Christina Aguilera moment that I’d be OK.
Mike Viso: What’s the feeling and how does it compare to your time on American Idol?
Jordan White: As far as the comparison with American Idol, I certainly sang for more people at the stadium. American Idol was for producers in closed off rooms in front of cameras.
Mike Viso: Where is the coolest place you’ve sang the national anthem?
Jordan White: The coolest was definitely for the Philadelphia Phillies. It was fantastic. Then I went down to McFadden’s located sort of underneath the ballpark and played a two-hour show.
Mike Viso: You’ve played intimate gigs and sang in stadiums, what are the biggest differences, and do you have a preference?
Jordan White: Well, if I had to choose, I’d pick to sing for the largest crowd possible, although, of course, when you’re starting out that doesn’t happen. You get a roomful of people in a bar or maybe a club and maybe 1/4 are playing attention. But as the night goes on, they come up and request songs and it gets more interactive. I love playing for whoever is genuinely listening. Not just hearing, listening. If you are sensitive enough, and you sort of have to be to get the crux of these songs, I believe in you and I feel like I already know you. There are times in the smaller shows I’ve seen people crying. I’m not Mother Teresa, but to make that strong of a connection with someone I don’t know through music is all I’ve ever wanted. And afterwards, sometimes they’ll come up and apologize, and I say “don’t apologize, because I want to thank you.”
Mike Viso: Give some insight into life on the road and the challenges. I ask because it’ll give some insight into what baseball players go through.
Jordan White: Life on the road is tough, but you can make it easier on yourself by planning ahead and making sure you know what you’re doing. We secure the hotel rooms as close as possible to the locations of the shows months or weeks in advance, especially during the summer when I perform in tourist locations like Ocean City or Long Beach Island. You don’t want to find yourself after the gig is over at 2 a.m. having nowhere to go. Also, you can get homesick. You can go anywhere you want but home. Although the hotels start to look the same, the highways the same, just sometimes the people and culture are different. Touring in the southern U.S. is much different than the northern sections. And then in the winter you have to worry about snow. Snow ruins tours.
Mike Viso: What is your best baseball memory?
Jordan White: My best baseball memory, and this is a no brainer for me, was the Phillies winning the World Series in 2008. That final pitch. Oh, that final pitch; that lasted forever. I know exactly where I was when it happened. I had waited for it for 20 years. The Phillies 1993 World Series loss to the Blue Jays crushed me. I was just a little kid. I stood there in shock as I watched Joe Carter round the bases jumping up and down in glee. After that, the Phillies winning the World Series was something I thought I’d never get to see, as it was one of the few things not in my control I wanted to witness before I’m gone. And then it happened, and I’m still satisfied, even five years later. I wish they’d still be winning of course, but that wrong from 1993 was righted in 2008. At least in my eyes, and I’m forever grateful.
Mike Viso: Combine singing and baseball in a dream scenario.
Jordan White: My dream scenario would be to sing the National Anthem before game seven of the World Series, between the Phillies and the Yankees at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies beat them 5-4 with a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs. That 2009 World Series between those two teams was a tough pill to swallow. I’m originally from Cranford, NJ, and that’s Yankee territory, and I had put up with the jokes for weeks.
Mike Viso: Are you sad to see Charlie Manuel let go?
Jordan White: I was kind of disappointed to see they tossed Charlie, but it’s kind of the end of this current Phillies era. I guess it makes some sense to release the guy in charge. It will never be the same, ever. I don’t know if the Phillies will be in serious playoff contention for quite a while. It was a storybook ending how Charlie’s mother passed away and then they won the World Series back in 2008. It was really an incredible time to be a Phillies fan. We needed that Championship more than any city, besides maybe Chicago with the Cubs. Now, if we could only get the Eagles to do it.
Mike Viso: Great talking to you Jordan, what is the best way for fans to find your music?
Jordan White: You can find my music on JordanWhiteMusic.com or Facebook.com/JordanWhiteMusic. Or go to iTunes or Amazon and search for my name, the “Four Songs” LP is available on there as well.