Wednesday, May 14, 2014

CMW Aftermath: Chatting with Jordan Klassen

This week has already felt all too bare without nightly shows and chats with fantastic musicians. Going through my notes and audio clips these past few days, I'm already craving another magical event like Canadian Music Week to roll around - but, luckily, festival season and NXNE are just around the corner to fill the space.

Last Saturday, I was able to sit down with one of my favourite Canadian artists right now - Vancouver singer-songwriter
Jordan Klassen, who's still reeling from the success of his outstanding 2013 album, Repentance (easily one of my most overplayed records of last year), and subsequent touring. Jordan's songs boast a thoughtful maturity; the majestic, instrument-packed ballads are chock full of poetic musings and carried by Jordan's sometimes delicate, sometimes bold, set of pipes. This is music to make you feel.

Read what Jordan had to say about touring, CMW and next steps below. While you're at it, have a listen to a few of his outstanding numbers.

In The Round: How’s CMW going?
Jordan: Good, good – this will be our third show in less than 24 hours. And this is our third CMW in a row. I think the first time I came to CMW, I wanted to do all of the schmoozy stuff, but maybe now I’m more about playing the shows and just hanging out with my team.

ITR: This past year has been crazy for you.
Jordan: Yes, it has. In October/November of 2013 we did two cross-continent tours – back and forth twice. And then we did SXSW in March.

ITR: How do you feel about that much touring?
Jordan: I don’t know, it’s definitely fun. I like certain things about the road - I like having purpose and I like the travel; I like having something to do every day. You never feel useless. But I don’t like how there’s no routine; you’re tired all the time and can get to bickering a lot. It’s like the best and worst of your life, kind of.

ITR: It must have been a particularly wild ride, since your album Repentance was so well-received last year.
Jordan: Every tour, hopefully, gets better and is more well-attended with better venues. I think the release of the album brought a lot of new faces out. In music, you’re always waiting for the “event” of sorts – you want to give people a reason to come, and of course a new album is the best reason. It’s been kind of the biggest endeavour of our careers.

ITR: Why do you think this album really picked up traction?
Jordan: Well, this is my fourth album and I think that this time we have a real team. Business-wise we have a different approach; we have a label, management and booking agent. The songs have just gotten better too.

ITR: This album has a very “coming-of-age” feel to it – about being in your twenties and figuring it all out. Was that a long songwriting process for you or was there a particular life occurrence that led to writing Repentance?

Jordan: Songwriting for this one probably started in my late teens and continued into my early twenties. I need to work on being more disciplined. For me, a song will end up being a whole bunch of bits and pieces pulled together over time.

ITR: There are a lot of fads in music right now, but you stick to what works for you – very simple, melodic folk singer-songwriter sort of stuff. 
Jordan: I think you make what kind of music you like and what moves you. The only meter to tell if it’s good is if you respond emotionally to it. I’ve always been a melancholy, quiet sort of person. I need downers – there’s a lot going on in my head, so I tend to be drawn to music that brings peace to me.

ITR: You have a lot of James Mercer in your voice.
Jordan: I’ve gotten that a lot, yeah. That mixed with Sufjan Stevens.

ITR: What’s the difference between the Vancouver and Toronto music scene?
Jordan: Hmmm. Vancouver is more of a slow-paced life in general. If people like something, they really like it and they continue to support it. People in Toronto are really good listeners, and have very good opinions. They will go to almost anything, because everyone’s so creative and busy. I think Toronto is a more intimidating crowd.

ITR: When you’re in Toronto, where do you just have to go?
Jordan: barVolo on Yonge Street. I’m a huge beer nerd, so I always have to go there. Actually, I hope we go there tonight after our show.

ITR: Who would you collaborate with if you could?
Jordan: Anyone? I have so many people who I think are genuinely talented. Depends on the album, I think. But I love Joanna Newsom’s songwriting – she’s such a great wordsmith. It’s very whimsical and fairytale-like, which I think  my music kind of is, too.

ITR: What’s your favourite album right now?
Jordan: Aventine by Agnes Obel. We saw her at an old church at SXSW and it was amazing.

ITR: What’s next?
Jordan: We're two weeks into a six-week tour and then we have some festivals this summer. I want to release a few singles this summer and start work on a new record for early 2015. I guess just really writing and making some decisions about what kind of album I want to record. All good things.

Thanks for the chat, Jordan!

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