Saturday, November 9, 2013

Interview with IndyReview

I took a phone call from IndyReview Magazine and ended up doing an interview that should be published sometime in January. I'll post a link to the article when it comes out - but 'till then, here is the interview.  Enjoy

IndyReview Magazine
November, 2013

I recently wrote a brief review on Jordan Eastman's live performance in Indiana.
I managed to get in touch with him this past week, and he was kind enough to allow me to interview him over the phone.  Here's what was said - 

IndyReview:  I appreciate you letting me ask you a few questions. I know you're busy

Jordan Eastman:  Of course. I appreciate the effort and the stellar review. 

IR:  Let's just jump right in. Tell me a brief bit about yourself.

JE:  Well, my name is Jordan Eastman, I'm an indie, folk singer from Nashville, Tennessee. I just had a new record drop in September and have since been traveling around, playing shows and trying to push it as far as it'll go. 

IR: About how many shows have you done?

JE:  This trip is only 72 days.  I've done two other, small runs too this year, though. Most years I travel around, playing somewhere between 250 to 300 shows a year, but this whole year was a bit slower paced - due to the record making process and all the effort that went into that. I spent a lot of time in Nashville. I'll still hit 150 shows though.  I'm normally exact with how many, but I'm not actually sure for some reason. 

IR:  In my review, I talked about how energetic you are when you perform. Where does that come from? 

JE:  Where does it come from? I don't know. I have a lot of energy and love doing it, I guess - and I don't like to suck.  I guess it probably comes from the fact that I actually believe what I'm saying. Every word in every song is something I want to say and that I feel needs to be said, so when I get the opportunity, I don't want to take it for granted. That and the fact that I'm really just having fun. I feel like the shows that aren't fun don't convey the same level of passion. I think when I stand up there, even though it's me by myself, people sense that I want to be up there and that I'm happier than if I were anywhere else. People want to have fun and want to watch people having fun - even if the songs are kind of dark and tackling issues and about problems and such - people still get excited because I'm excited.  I think that's part of being a performer - believing that everyone is there to see you and not selling yourself short. 

IR:  You definitely seem to have fun and keep the audience involved with sing alongs and passing out noise makers and such. 

JE:  I guess I just want it to be an experience. I want people to listen to the record and feel like they were a part of it.

IR:  Let's talk about the album.  1924 - any reason for the date

JE:  No.  It was just a song on the album and seemed fitting

IR:  So no significance? 

JE:  I mean, it's sort of an antiquated sound and, considering the year, 1924 is an antiquated time - so if you need a reason you can borrow that one awhile

IR:  Okay, well when you started making the album, did you have planned songs or did you write around the idea of making something new. 

JE:  You know, this record was actually a weird experience; which was refreshing because every other studio experience I've encountered has been a catastrophe - so it was great to go in, take control and put out a product that I'm actually proud of.  As for the material, I spent almost ten months on the road prior to going in studio, and through that, the songs just sort of picked themselves. I came back to Nashville with a greater understanding of what songs people wanted, what they didn't like, what was me and what wasn't and didn't really have to ever sit down and say, "okay, this one goes and this one doesn't" or "we need to write a ballad for this part of the record" or whatever.  It was more so just, I have these songs that need to be on an album and I'm not writing anything new for it.  Once we got in studio, things changed a bit; I started writing and ended up putting together "Hold to Your Anchors", "Aweigh, My Weight! Away!", "Southern Angel" and "Forever Shine Your Light" during tracking - which I think are songs that really carry the record and make it as strong as it is. In doing that, they sort of knocked out some songs that aren't necessarily weaker, just a lot less current.  Those songs all sort of felt like "this is me right now - this is my album and this is what I'm trying to say".  At the same time, there are songs that are a year or two old on there. "Audrey Hepburn" and "Dead Spiders" are probably from 2011. I've played those every night for years and people who come to shows know them, so I felt like they needed to be there and they turned out great. 

IR: I think that's funny, most people go into studio and start writing from scratch to build an album. You sort of let the album build itself and only wrote where you needed to. 

JE:  Well, I think where the difference lies is I write non-stop, whereas most artists wait until they're off the road or trying to make a record or whatever. So with that, what's considered "new" for another artist is an older song for me. I wrote a song with another artist 5 months ago and she still introduces it as "her brand new song that she hasn't lived with very long." To me if a song is ten days old it's not current anymore because there are 10 more to replace it. New is 24 hours, maybe up to like...3 days.  Once I've played it live twice, it's either part of the set or isn't and I forget about it 

IR:  That's interesting. What would you say your writing process is?

JE:  Haha there it is. I don't really understand writing processes. To me art is supposed to be an expression; if you can't express yourself without a standardized process or procedure you probably shouldn't be doing so - and you're probably not very good at it.  I think that's one of my least favorite things about Nashville, everyone wants to have writing sessions and try to cram creativity into a 3 hour time slot, box it up and make it come out around a pre-determined theme or hook or catch line with no emotion or freedom. Writing songs isn't hard. It's just a matter of dropping all the walls, cutting down the guards you have around everybody and letting whatever you're actually feeling fall out. It's terrifying - so I understand the lack of personality people put into music, but that's really the only honest way of doing it, I believe. For me, most of the time I'll have a whole song typed into my phone in a matter of five or 10 minutes. After that it's simple, you just play the music that needs to go beneath the melody you're humming. If I write the music first, I just sort of sing whatever words fumble out of me the first few times through. We're human, so we're always feeling things and songwriting is just letting yourself be brave enough to admit what you're feeling with a guitar in your hand. There isn't ever really a process for me. It's more so a lack of process that makes the whole thing work.  

IR:  So the songs sort of just happen for you?

JE:  In a way, yeah. I guess I just wait for the songs to find me rather than trying to go find the song. I think it's more honest that way.  I don't ever want to sound canned or pre-planned. When you hear some kid crying, or people fighting, or love struck kids expressing their emotions to each other, they weren't pre planned.  They didn't write those thoughts down and then try to make them seem honest; they just said them and that's what made them so pure and meaningful.  I guess that's all that I really try to do. Keep it honest and open - good or bad

IR:  Do you feel like honesty is something that isn't in most music? 

JE:  Eh, not completely. Obviously there are still  artists out there who are honest, but as far as standardized, radio music, yeah, it's pretty vapid and soulless. I think that courage to say what really hurts or makes you smile just isn't there, so there is nothing deep or passionate about it at all.  On the other hand, honesty with artists is a tricky thing.  Our whole job-description is basically to manipulate things to make a thousand different realities feel universal. We sort of loosen factuality to make the absurd or unrealistic completely believable. It's kind of a constant caricature of what is actual because we're telling a story - so when an artist is being "honest" I think there is always some sort of freedom taken with the truth. That kind of liberty in songs is what makes them timeless and grab your emotions; in daily conversation it's called lying, I guess - but in music, you have the opportunity to tell your story in a way that is both disconnected and personal; so I don't understand the fear. Where I always found my bravery was in the fact that, if a song was too personal, I could always say "it was just a song" and people wouldn't attribute it to my real emotion. I don't know, I just want real, relatability in a song. I don't care about jumping up and down and twerking or whatever - but again, that's just not my reality. To someone else, I guess it is.  I don't know, I think it's more so just a lack of great songwriting than anything - and that comes back to the heart. So yeah, honesty - people just don't write from the heart as much as they do from the pocketbook anymore.  Sorry about that rant there

IR:  No, you're fine. Do you feel like older writers wrote more from the heart than artists today?

JE:  No, not really. I think it's always been about the same percentage, the poor writers, writing for the next single just weren't as overwhelmingly present. They're the majority of the heard voice, these days. I think that's where the difference is.

IR:  Who would you say is the best writer ever?

JE:  Oh, come on don't make me answer that

IR:  You can say yourself

JE:  I don't know that I could even say myself. There are so many and I haven't heard them all. I mean, of course I'd like to think that I'm the best, but that's just unrealistic.

IR: Why do you think it's unrealistic?

JE:  Because nobody has a monopoly on songwriting. You can't even define songwriting, really. I think to say "so and so is the best writer ever" there would have to be a specific set of rules  - and even then there would still be room for debate. Who's better, Michael Jordan or LeBron? That's the point. I'll never be able to write pop hooks like Elvis Costello, but he could never write like Dylan - who could never write the way Eminem does - and even then, you still have to argue based off preference and opinion. Everyone has a completely different skill set. It's absurd to try to determine who is better than who because nobody really is. I will say that I think one way of differentiating a great songwriter from everyone else, is if they have a monopoly on their sound. If the only place you can find that person's sound is in their music, they've done their job. Even if you don't like the music, there are only a handful of people you can say that about. It doesn't mean that everyone else is bad, it just means that those people were able to rise above being influenced, and get to a place where they were influencing others.  I think guys like VanHalen, or Nirvana, Dylan, The Killers, Band of Horses, even as far as things like Ellie Golding or Linkin Park. They're all bands that, from the first note you hear, you know exactly who it is. Johnny Cash. I mean - there is no denying who you're hearing as soon as the song starts.  I think that's what makes certain writers special. I can sit and argue that Joe Strummer was a better writer than Robert Plant, but in the end, they both wrote songs that nobody else can sound like, and songs that people have tried to sound like for decades.  I don't necessarily like the music of everyone, but I think that's the best way to assert yourself as better than average; and it ensures job security - when you're done, nobody else can just step up and take your place. 

IR: That's a good point. What made you want to start writing songs?

JE: The fact that I couldn't stop it. It's not so much a matter or wanting, as much a matter of having to in a way. I can't help it. It just happens.

IR: What would be your ultimate goal in playing music?

JE: Ultimate goal? I guess to be able to tour full time without financial restriction. To leave town and know that when I get back I'll have enough money to not have to tour for awhile if I want to.  I want to eventually be able to settle down, start a family and not put them through any sort of financial strain because I'm selfishly chasing passion. That and to have a voice. There are so many kids saying stupid things over a microphone, that I feel like having the platform to be an influence and actually touch people would be amazing. I'm not worried about getting famous so much, but I do want to be able to get ten thousand heads into a room who are all there to hear what I say, who buy my records, learn my songs, study my lifestyle, and just sort of know that they don't have to be a catastrophe to make it. I want to be an influence that parents don't mind I guess (laughs).  I don't know, I guess I want to show that overcoming struggle is a matter of developing personal strength, holding true to yourself and you don't have to rely on drugs or alcohol or desperate cries for help to do so. 

IR:  I noticed that you didn't drink at your show in Indy. Is that a religious thing or just a preference?

JE:  It definitely started out as a religious thing.  I don't necessarily feel like there is anything wrong with drinking, per say, I just don't like being out of control of myself. I want to always be present and coherent and don't want to ever feel like something came because of an altered state of mind. Through the years, I've found that it's hard for me to do most things in moderation. If I go for something, I'm committed all the way - no matter what it is. So I also don't ever want to feel dependent on something to feel free, or alive, or to have a good time. If I need alcohol or drugs, there's something missing in me and that's as big a problem as my dependency. I know plenty of Christians who drink, and I'll have a glass of wine and smoke a pipe or something once a year or every 18 months or so, so I don't think it's a religious conviction; but I just don't ever want to put myself in a place where it turns to a habit that's deep enough to become one.

IR: That's neat. That's pretty much everything I have for you. Is there anything else you want to say?

JE:  Nah, man.  Just go buy my new album on iTunes or Amazon or wherever; and you should like my facebook page and follow me on twitter and instagram.  I don't know - the usual shameless self promotion garbage.  Oh, and please tell all your friends about it. I need as many people in the world listening, pushing it, sharing it and such.  The more people who know about the record, the better.  Thanks guys. 

IR:  Well I really appreciate your time and look forward to hearing you play again in the future. 

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