Here's an interview I got to do with a local music magazine in St. Augustine, FL during my last tour. It's sad, but I honestly can't remember what the mag was called. I think it was Fuse or Fuze...or Muse, maybe?...something like that...maybe it was Fuel...I'll post it once I find out.
Anyway, here's the article that came out this week:
Interview With Nashville Folk Artist Jordan Eastman
By Dan London
I recently was fortunate enough to discover a booming new folk/indie artist from Nashville, TN called Jordan Eastman. I was impressed by his open writing and had been following him for a few months, when I realized he would be playing several dates around Central Florida. I managed to get in touch with him and he agreed to sit down with me and do an interview.
It was about 2:30pm when I arrived for our meeting and Jordan was already there. When I walked up, he was sitting on a bench, smoking a pipe and looking more punk rock than the hipster, folk singer I expected. Despite the fact that it was nearly 100 degrees outside, he was dressed in all black – apart from his red socks and brown hat - and had a coat thrown over the back of the bench like he’d just taken it off. I turned on my recorder, introduced myself and he quickly jumped up to shake my hand as we dove right in.
Me: expecting it to cool down?
Jordan Eastman: (laughing) Nah, I feel like I always have a jacket. I just like to be prepared, you know? I’ve also got a lighter to start some fires later and a rope belt in case I need to swing across a canyon or something.
Me: …and the pipe?
JE: It helps me solve mysteries and look nostalgic.
Me: It smells good
JE: It should. This stuff was like $10 an ounce from this shop down on George st. I got my first pipe ever there, actually.
Me: Well thanks for coming all the way up here. I know it’s out of the way.
JE: No problem, man. I love St. Augustine. It’s always been one of my favorite cities. It’s kind of been a sort of “run to” point for me for awhile. I used to drive up here when I was a kid whenever I just wanted to get away and think for awhile. It’s so calming.
Me: So you grew up here?
JE: I kind of grew up all over Florida, really. I was born in Titusville but feel like I spent most of my time in Melbourne; Tampa in later years, but mostly Melbourne growing up.
Me: So what brought you to Nashville?
JE: Ah man, I don’t really know, Impulse, maybe? I’d lived in Florida and California, then back in Florida and was touring around and it just kind of happened. A bunch of little things led up to it, I guess, but essentially I just left on a whim. I think it was a Wednesday when I decided to go and left Thursday morning sometime.
Me: Wow, so nothing to do with it being Music City or the connections or anything?
JE: Not really. I’m sure it played into it, but really I just wanted to leave. I kind of came up with nothing and just lived in my truck for 6 months. Honestly, it was one of the best experiences of my life. I think I needed it.
Me: So tell me about the tours. Where have you covered so far.
JE: Man, I’ve been all over the place. I was gone all of February and March doing a Midwest/Northeast run so that was Chicago, Indy, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, down to D.C., Philly, New York…I think I covered 23 states. You name it and I probably went there. It was something stupid like 45 shows in 41 days or something like that; not to mention It was all through the absolute coldest places I could find in the middle of winter and all by myself. I pretty much pointed at the map and said, “no one else would ever go there this time of the year.” Have you ever been to Lake Eerie in the middle of February? It’s stupid. I actually thought I was booking a southeast tour but didn’t realize till after it was booked that I’d been holding the map upside down. (laughing) Anyway, as far as this trip goes, though, it’s been really short. I’ve only been out since last Friday and I have 5 or 6 shows left after tonight.
Me: Then back to Nashville?
JE: Yes Sir.
Me: Let’s talk about your writing style. It’s very personal and very open. Is it hard to write that way?
JE: It’s not necessarily hard to write that way. I just think by being that confessional and open, it takes a lot more guts to perform; mainly because you have no walls. You’re just kind of up there telling everybody what you’d never say to them in person, you know? But I like it that way. I feel like everybody presents themselves in a certain light that they want to be presented in and, often times, its plastic and a complete façade. Like we want to present ourselves in such an acceptable and perfect manner that we lose track of who we are. I hate that. I know I have walls up, and I think writing, for me, is a chance to take down everything and say what I’m generally terrified of saying. It’s scary but comforting at the same time. I guess because if I get called out on it I can always say it was just a song. It’s kind of a safety net to replace the walls I removed, if that makes sense to you.
Me: Completely. I notice you use a lot of imagery and references to death and afterlife. Are you worried about dying?
JE: Oh absolutely not. It’s what we live for, isn’t it? Our entire lives are based on trying to do things right before we die. It’s like a stopwatch and we’re all trying to do the best we can before our time runs out. To me dying is beautiful. It’s the end of all the misery and suffering everybody struggles through. It’s a reward. I don’t mean like, “congratulations, you made it, you’re dead now” kind of reward; but it’s an accomplishment of successfully living your life to the end. The fact that I believe in a heaven makes dying even greater. What would be the purpose of living if death wasn’t in the picture? We’d just go on and on and on and on and, honestly, that’s more depressing than fading out.
Me: So you feel like death is a reward?
JE: I feel like it’s a comforting end to hold on to. Knowing that no matter how dark things get or how rough a situation might be, there is an end; at best things get resolved and you live on happily – at worst you die and have no more pain. There’s no darkness that way. If the worst thing that can happen to you brings the most beautiful result, what is there to fear?
Me: That’s a good point. I’ve never really thought of it that way. Was that the central theme in, “Sing, Sweet Broken Hearted?” You seem to swing back and forth between dark and hopeful throughout the album. Even the title says that.
JE: Yeah, for sure. Life’s dark. You’re born, you live for awhile, and then you die. Most people don’t even live. You spend your whole life in a cubicle laying groundwork for a the next generation to benefit from and periodically take a few days off from working to halfway live on a cruise ship somewhere. You want to talk about dark, that’s more depressing than anything I can write. Life is full of heartache; whether it’s menial with bills or working or something heavy like depression or disease, we all have troubles. Every movie and every story on a bookshelf is about those troubles. That’s what makes us different from fish or lizards or something. If they have a problem it results in them dying. If we have problems, we have the option to resolve it or dwell in it. That’s what I wanted this record to say. I wanted it to convey the message that no matter what you’re going through, keep going. It’s going to get better. If you’re only happy during happy situations, you were never happy to begin with. Joy should be un-situational. When joy is situational, when the situation turns south you’re left with nothing. That’ll kill you. Issues come and go, situations change; joy has to be constant. Sometimes life’s so dark that the only light anyone can find is dying. I’m not scared of death, it’s an invitation to something far better. I hope nobody cries at my funeral unless they’re crying because I beat ‘em home. I wanted this record to be have the conflicting emotions that life often gives us
Me: That’s interesting and I think makes it relatable. What are some of the things that you feel set you apart from other writers?
JE: You mean genre wise or songwriting?
Me: Either, just overall.
JE: Well, I don’t think too many people travel around the world stomping on a box and kicking tambourines on a nightly basis. That’s different. Apart from that, I think just sincerity. I feel like a lot of music today just isn’t honest anymore. It’s all about drink this, do that, dance here, bang there and it loses all sense of conviction. It’s just shallow and vapid and makes me want to vomit. At least if I can stand up every night and sing something I believe in, I feel like I’m fighting that trend. Whether I’m the best songwriter or the best lyricist or the best whatever I couldn’t give a crap – I just want to say something I believe. I feel like guys like Joe Strummer or Bob Dylan had so much to say and their stuff is so timeless that it reaches everyone in every generation. That’s what I want to do. I want to say something that’s timeless, in a genre that’s timeless and gives people a reason to listen. My 9 year old sister can get up and right a one dimensional, three and a half minute pop song about nothing. Whether it’s “radio friendly” or not, I want to write something I feel based off something I’ve experienced, no matter how dark or happy or sad or poppy it is. I just want every line to mean something and resonate.
Me: I notice in both your album, “Sing, Sweet Broken Hearted” and in your live performances, you sing a lot about being alone and people leaving. Is that from personal experience or just a perception?
JE: (laughing) yeah, about that…like everything else, I think it’s a little of both. I had a pretty rough stretch awhile ago where a lot of painful things happened that lead up those songs. I’m far less jaded now then I was back then, but I think it’s an emotion that’s still easy for me to channel so it’s easy for me to write about. I think trust is an issue I’ve always struggled with, though.
Me: So do you feel like it’s affected your current relationships?
JE: They say the only thing harder than keeping a relationship together is keeping a band together. In case you didn’t notice, I’m touring alone. So…
Me: (laughing) so no relationship?
JE: No relationship. (laughs) I’d love to figure something out with a friend of mine back home, but I’m not getting into that with someone I just met on a park bench. I think when you write 900 songs about not trusting and thousand more about leaving town, maybe one of them hits home.
Me: I’m sure. So what do you think brought about your sound today? You look punk and there are tinges of that angst in the music, but at the same time it hints more at old country and folk and a million things in between. How does something like that come around?
JE: It’s street music, man. Making do with what you have. I grew up playing punk and tried to do the whole band thing for years. It just takes too much dependency. Depending on musicians is such a gamble; depending on punk musicians is like trusting Hitler with your dark haired baby. It just seemed like we’d always get to a point where things were looking up then something would happen, so I decided to do something I could do alone because I’m not going to quit. For a while I tried to make everything punk. I’d write these folksy, outlaw-country songs and then speed them up to sound more punk rock. It worked, I guess, but everything looses a lot of honesty when played like that. I wanted to express something and found that, when I played by myself on the couch, it was easy – but when I played for a crowd at double the tempo it didn’t translate well. They liked the performance aspect, but the sincerity wasn’t there. Honestly, not trying to still ride the whole relationship thing, but realistically I think my ex-wife had a lot to do with it. She was an amazing girl, but flat out hated my music. She always made fun of the way I sang or how I tried to swing everything punk and because I couldn’t stop writing, I started trying to write all of these country songs for her. I absolutely hated them and they were just some awkward kind of rockabilly at first, but eventually I found something all my own that was just something I sort of kept to myself. To me, people wanted to hear rock and roll, you know? After she left, I was pretty torn up and started writing all of these really great songs that just didn’t work sped up. After awhile, a light bulb went on and I recorded all these songs just raw and honest, how I wrote them. When I heard them, they felt so much more real than the bastardized versions I’d been doing live. Since I had this overwhelming sense of apathy toward everything anyway, when I started playing out around again, I didn’t try to make anything tough and I just played the songs the way I wrote them and didn’t care if people liked them or if they sounded too slow or country or folk or pop or whatever. People loved it. So I kept doing it. Eventually, when I came to Nashville, I started playing out on the street and taking things from street performers and just kind of drawing from whatever I could. I remember seeing a duo with a guitar and a kid on a cajon with a tambourine. I thought, “I can do that by myself”. So the next day I dragged this giant, old box and a tambourine down Broadway and made $400 in just a few hours. For the first time, people were crowded all around me and actually listening and telling me how great I was. I was like, “people listened to my words because I did the same thing in a different way.” I think that’s when I realized that people just want something different enough to feel like they’re branching out, but still familiar enough to not feel like they’re stepping too far from what they’re comfortable with. Honestly, I’m not really doing anything different from anyone else; I’m just doing something nobody else is really doing.
Me: It’s funny how things come around like that. One thing leads to another until it makes something new. So what artists do you think have influenced that the most?
JE: I get a lot of Dylan comparisons. I think mainly because I play acoustic guitar and harmonica and write songs that say something to people. It’s not just, “dance, dance” or “let’s get drunk,” but rather something I’m passionate about and I’m not afraid to point fingers or say what I’m feeling at the moment. I think any time anyone comes along and does that, with songs like that, they get compared to Dylan. That’s what’s so great about him; he’s one of the best. He’s timeless enough to transcend generations and be the writer the good writers are compared to. I get Cash and Joe Strummer a lot too; probably because I seem dark and angry or something like that. Really though, anyone who is passionate and lets that passion convey I’m intrigued by. I think the Gaslight Anthem and the Killers both do that pretty well. Not Bright Eyes though.
Me: What’s wrong with Bright Eyes?
JE: Nothing, he’s just plastic and insincere. I’d love to work with him though. Great writer.
Me: (laughing) would you ever work with Coldplay?
JE: No. Not unless we were working on a song that would end their career.
Me: (laughing) I’ll remember that. What would you say is your favorite stuff to write? Online you post a lot of slower material, but live you seem to do primarily upbeat, rowdier songs. Does that go back to the punk roots?
JE: I don’t know…probably. It’s still hard for me to do slow songs live. I feel like my best songs are the slow ones. Every time I do a YouTube video for a song or play a radio interview it’s usually a dark, slower one I turn to. I find that I still have to force myself to do the slow ones live.
Me: I think it’s hard for most artists to do slow songs live.
Je: I think we’re afraid of losing the audience. I’m at the point now where I’m comfortable doing 4 or 5 in every set and, when I do, they’re the ones that seem to grab the audience the most. People forget about the upbeat ones once the show’s over; but the slow songs are the ones I always have people come up and talk to me about when I’m done. I just forget that between nights, I guess.
Me: Do you ever get bad responses to your live show?
JE: Oh yeah. They hate me in New York, man. I can play in Hoboken and have no problems; but in New York, I’m like some hillbilly wrecking ball. I got booed off stage…well, I never left stage…but I got booed and cleared the room in Manhattan one night. I was playing between two metal bands and started out with a packed room and, after being called everything you can think of, people started leaving. By the time I was done there was one guy sitting back in the corner. They stole all my merch too; which is ironic.
Me: (laughing) Well, maybe you’ll see some metal kid blaring your album next time you go up there.
JE: I fully expect that.
Me: That’d be awesome Well man, that’s all I’ve got for you. Thanks again for coming all the way up here. Where can people find your music?
JE: Yeah, for sure. Any time. Just go to
www.facebook.com/jordaneastmanmusic or www.reverbnation.com/jordaneastmanmusic and you can find the record on iTunes or Amazon. I think it’s on a few other sites as well.
Me: Thanks again and best of luck to you.