On September 13 Vancouver radio station 102.7 The Peak held the first of five showcases at The Red Room in Vancouver, featuring Canada’s Jordan Klassen. Klassen performed before an audience of around 400 people who hushed themselves as he began to play his storm-calming song called “On Your Collarbone,” which ends with a gentle refrain of Klassen’s voice singing “Yah-a-a-a-a-a-a-a.”
There are the entertainers who look good and smile, there are those who grind away in the bars and on the road, and there are a few who, save their quirky personality, fail to retain the audience’s attention. Jordan Klassen is not one of the above, but also all of the above. It seems that once you’ve thought you figured him out, Klassen and his band have you sit down, shut up, and think again. Klassen brings his Canadian charm and pure imagination to the stage as he intuitively navigates through his performance, almost like he were connecting the dots on some fantastic map before the audience’s eyes. You don’t feel like you’re observing from afar, but rather sojourning alongside him.
Unlike many singer/songwriters, Klassen’s band “gets it” too. Besides Jordan’s guitar, banjo, and ukulele, the Jordan Klassen band features some brilliant violin, electric guitar, bass, piano, drums, and various percussion and vocals provided by almost everybody on stage. Except for a couple instances of harsh feedback, which everyone knows isn’t their fault, every small sound was pleasing to the ear. An unexpected cover of “Love Song” by Canadian pop band Sky had everyone feeling nostalgic as they were led into the chorus by Klassen, gracing the notes as if they each meant something dear to him, as he did with each song in his eight-song set.
The band triumphantly bid farewell to the crowd of radio lovers with Klassen’s mighty “Call and Answer,” which is the second single from his recent EP, Kindness. The show ended much like it began, but this time with Klassen, the band, and everyone catching on, and melodically crying out: “Ya-aa-aaa-aaaaa–Ya-aa-aaa!”
THE BOMBER JACKET spoke with Klassen after his performance at the Chilliwack Music Festival. He shared about his songwriting process, his relationships with band members, his future plans and other news…
TBJ: Do you have coffee backstage?
Jordan Klassen: No, I don’t think so. Coffee would be great right now…I am so tired!
Well, including your current project, how many musical endeavors have you had since you started songwriting?
When I was in high school I had a band called Broken Leash that was like grunge/rock… It was horrible, just horrible. After high school I played in a band for few years under the moniker Sub Rosa. We were a three-piece indie rock band that wanted to be The Shins. Actually, funny enough, I feel like the stuff I do now sounds more like The Shins than I ever did then. I also did some writing under The Mallets, with my friend Brian Chan.
Your past two records, Tempest and Winter and St. Brigid, are full of some very clever, quiet and thoughtful material. However, Kindness sounds quite stirring and leads me to believe that something has liberated your songwriting. Can we expect similar songs to “Go To Me” and “Call and Answer” on your forthcoming full-length album?
Yes, there will be for sure. I feel like my first two records were themed in winter. Especially when I wrote them, it was a very somber time in my life and kind of reflecting and sad in a lot of ways…I think that it was a combination of finding a lot of hope and also finding a real love of “the single.” I wanted to write some really fun songs and I think that that kind of thing works way better live as well.
You’ve mentioned in a different interview that among other things, your faith inspires your music. Do you think that where you are now as an artist is directed or indirectly related to where you’re at in your faith?
Umm, I think that art says something, and that is the purpose of art, to say something, and no matter what you are saying, it comes from a faith and something that you deem important. So, to me that self-expression has always been derived from faith. I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily intentional, because it’s just kind of who I am… If somebody is struggling with cancer and they have a hope and they write about that hope, no one would say “Why are you writing about that?” People would of course identify with it because it’s something that’s happened to them and I feel like my faith is something that has happened to me. So of course it is going to be part of the way that I express myself.
You’ve performed with a full band numerous times before, and over the last year you toured with a few new faces as well. How important do you think it is to have the right band members as an independent singer/songwriter?
I think it’s vital. The idea is for people who believe in something to be moving toward spreading that something…We have the same goal. I feel like my band is committed and that we are best friends. In a lot of ways they are my community and they are my family. That is really important to me, especially with the nature of touring. With all the ups and downs, if you’re not on the same page, or if someones’s just in it for themselves and not the community, then it’s disastrous. So, the people that I choose have been people that I know have some maturity of love.
You recently toured across Canada with your current band, and you’ve toured before, but not so extensively. What can we expect in the next year? Is it possible we might see you touring Europe in 2013?
Yes, I am pretty positive that next year there will be a U.K. tour, at least that is my goal. And I know for sure that there will be a tour down the west of the states. It’s pretty ridiculous to live in Vancouver and to not go down the West Coast where there are so many amazing venues, cities, and music scenes.
You recently got back from Toronto where you had a corporate gig, and before that you’d just returned from the Peak Performance Project “Boot Camp,” and before that you won the first place prize of $10,000 at a different performance contest. All this in a matter of about one month! What are the super foods keeping you alive in this very exciting time? Either real food or metaphorical…
At the PPP boot camp we had amazing food, in fact, I think that some people would have literally died that week if we didn’t have such great, healthy food.
This is going to sound cliche, but I think that having people around me that know me and love me and that I can feel safe with; also being intentional in taking time to be alone and to re-focus is really important… So much of a person’s success as a live performer and even as a songwriter is based on emotional health. I find that if I’m not focused and grounded I just sleep a lot and don’t get much done.
The grand prize for the PPP is $100,500. Have you thought of what you would do with all that money??
It would all go back into my career. I’d spend most of it on touring, showcasing, and rehearsal spaces. $100,000 is amazing but it doesn’t mean you’re set for life or something.
You mentioned you’ve got an album under your belt and that you’ve been working with Ken Beatie (of Killbeat Publicity) on the release. Do you have a release date in mind?
January or February 2013.
How do you feel your move to Vancouver this summer has affected your career as an artist?
I think in a lot of ways the city is more inspiring. There’s more industry, more shows. It’s inevitable that it had to happen. I love the Valley, but in Vancouver it’s not odd to be an artist and to make that you’re goal–to pursue your dream.
You’ve covered Joanna Newsom’s song “On A Good Day” with the ukelele a few times and lately, you nailed it. Is she someone who you’d like to eventually meet and even collaborate with?
Well, I mean of course. She is perfect, poetically. Her songwriting sometimes just makes me cry. It’s so good. So, I would love to meet her one day, but I doubt that will ever happen.
These have all been fairly serious questions. Umm, what’s your favorite vegetable?
My favorite vegetable is…broccoli!
I was picturing something green. But broccoli isn’t a common choice…
Yeah, I think broccoli is actually a cross between cauliflower and brussel sprouts; which doesn’t really say anything about me at all…