BY JULIA CIRIGNANO
In 2010, singer-songwriter Ashley Jordan was just one of many street performers in Boston until she released her debut album at only 17 years old. Six years later, Jordan is currently in the process of releasing her fourth studio album titled He’s Crazy and has gained substantial recognition. She has won over twenty awards from radio stations, country award organizations, and magazines, including Limelight Magazine.
“I started playing the guitar and singing at about the age of 13,” said Jordan. “I started doing open mics in the area and one night I was at Amazing Things Open Mic (in Framingham, Mass.) and the featured performer was a guy by the name of John Gerard. He was an incredible performer — he was so passionate about every song he performed and his guitar playing and songwriting were so meaningful that I had to meet him. I was a shy girl and John was a tough looking guy with tattoos and a mysterious demeanor but I walked right up to him and introduced myself.”
This moment of bravery opened a giant door for Jordan. She ended up working with Gerard for several years and took advantage of every opportunity he gave her. He introduced her to busking (street performing). She met many street performers through Gerard and he helped her become one herself.
“I started doing busking myself on the streets of Harvard Square and that’s really where I learned a lot about performing and writing songs that people wanted to listen to,” Jordan said. “John had a close family friend who had a home studio (Steve Rapson) and John introduced me to him and asked if he would record me. I had already written a bunch of songs – so we started recording them one by one and it turned into an album!”
This was her first experience with recording and it wouldn’t be her last. Jordan continued her story as she talked about her appreciation for the other people and producers who have helped to propel her career.
“At the age of 19, I completed my second album called Liquid Words with producer Don Hooper at his studio called Juke Village Records in Shrewsbury, Mass.,” Jordan said. “Don heard me perform at a festival and said he believed in my music and decided to not only produce my second album but covered all the costs as well. Then when I was 21, I recorded my third album called Nothing In Doubt with Adam Jensen at Night Owl Studio in Boston and the album was funded by my generous fans through a Kickstarter campaign. With my latest album this year, He’s Crazy, I had the honor of recording with Joe Merrick at his Guilty Dog Studio in Marshfield, Mass. The amazing male vocals/harmonies you hear on my newest album are Joe’s voice and he also played many different instruments on my album. It was really great working with Joe!”
Jordan wrote every single song on her debut album and has continued to make songwriting the focus on all of her other albums.
“Songwriting is as important to me as performing because the songs I write are usually written by me alone and are very personal and provide the emotional connection that goes far beyond performing a cover song,” Jordan said. “I feel strongly about songwriting and feel that there’s a huge difference between an artist who just performs music and an artist who writes and performs music. It’s just feels like a different level of connection.”
Jordan gave the backstory into the life of a young girl with a passion for writing that turned into a woman with a talent so compelling she was able to make a career out of it.
“I started writing lyrics before I even would call them lyrics,” Jordan began. “They were more poems or thoughts in a journal when I was 11 or 12 years old. I was a very shy child and loved to sing alone but never would perform in front of anyone. One time my family and some close friends overheard me singing privately in another room and they came running in to hear me. I recall thinking, ‘Oh, maybe my singing is good?’ So I secretly entered a talent show in sixth grade and shocked my parents by marching up on stage and belting out an Avril Lavigne song. The overwhelmingly positive reaction I got was probably what pushed me forward. I learned to play the guitar and suddenly all my journal writing became song lyrics and things sort of moved on from there.”
Now a seasoned songwriter and musician, Jordan has played shows with many big names in country and pop music.
“Probably the most memorable show was when I won a contest to open for Mixfest 2015 by Boston radio station Mix 104.1 and got to open for 40,000 people at the Hatch Shell in Boston,” she said. “I got to hang out with Phillip Phillips and Christina Perri (and more) and it was an amazing crowd in Boston that really responded to my original music.”
“Another memorable show was more recently when Nash Icon Radio asked me to open for Trace Adkins at Indian Ranch in Webster, Mass.,” Jordan continued “First of all, Indian Ranch is an awesome place and Nash Icon Radio in Worcester is an incredible group of people! I was so excited to share the stage with Trace and what made it even more memorable was that they asked me to do a 45 minute set. That gave me the time to really play full-out to a country audience and I felt like my music was a fit!”
Jordan recently finished her fourth album He’s Crazy. While it is for sale at her shows in CD form, it hasn’t been officially released yet.
“I have some interest in the album and I want to be smart about making the full release,” Jordan explained. “I’ve decided to release one song, ‘Weapon’ and it will be available on iTunes in the near future. The response to my album so far has been incredible. Matt Reid, music director at Mix 104.1 Boston radio, got an early copy and he loved it so much he decided to play every song on the album (he played one song each night for 10 nights) because he said he loved them all and couldn’t decide which ones to play.”
Reid was recently quoted saying, “My favorite album of 2015? Adel’s 25. My favorite album of 2016, so far? Boston singer/songwriter and Open MixFest 2014 Winner, Ashley Jordan’s He’s Crazy.”
Jordan talked about the surprising way in which her fans of responded to “Weapon,” which is one of her own personal favorites on the album.
“I guess I really love ‘Weapon’ because it resonates strongly with me,” Jordan said. “I actually wrote it about a relationship but people have been coming to me and responding to the song at a whole different level given the violence that has been going on in our country recently. So it’s touched a nerve and I love that.”
Jordan explained why He’s Crazy is different than her previous releases.
“I’ve taken a long time to release it,” she began. “My past albums were completed and it was a rush to get the physical CD in time for the release shows and everything going on. This time I have the album in hand and now I’m sort of sitting on it. I’ve been selling it at shows but I’m waiting for the right time and circumstances to move forward.”
“Recording this album was a different process than past albums because when I wrote the songs I could hear every single instrument and harmony that was going to be in the song,” Jordan explained. “I could just hear it. I knew what I wanted very clearly.”
Along with those differences, He’s Crazy is also far more personal than Jordan’s other albums.
“I think the songs came together more quickly because I had so much material to use given a tough breakup and other things that were going on in my life,” Jordan explained. “It cleanses the soul to write about a crazy ex-boyfriend but that’s not all my last album is about. I also seem to write songs in clusters. I’ll be in a creative mode and songs just flow out of me. Then there will be a quiet time. At any given time I may be working on three or four songs.”
With a life that circulates around her songwriting, it’s a blessing that Jordan finds writing so self-healing.
“It’s like therapy only much cheaper,” she said. “There’s so much emotion behind a lot of my songs that sometimes I can’t record them for a while because I am so emotional when I perform them but I’m not embarrassed about that because the emotional content is what I think people connect to. My songs are honest and I try to tell the truth.”
Jordan also spoke about her recent experience meeting Garth Brooks at the IEBA conference in Nashville.
“Garth Brooks is amazing. He is bigger than life and a total sweetheart,” Jordan exclaimed. “I was in Nashville doing a showcase as part of the IEBA conference which books shows for artists and entertainers at venues/casinos etc. Garth was being honored and received an award and later they had an incredible show with performances by Randy Houser, Eric Pasley and more. It was a very small and intimate setting and all of a sudden there was Garth just hanging out! He was so cool and I was in awe of him. I had performed a pre-show for him at the DCU Center some time ago so we had a small connection!”
Jordan said there was one specific moment with Brooks that she will never forget.
“He is such a gentleman,” she said. “An elderly woman who is highly regarded in the industry came into the room and the whole room sort of quieted down. Garth bowed down to her, took off his hat, and she cupped his face in her hands as she walked by. It was so sweet and exactly what I would have expected from him and so cool to see in person.”
Check out Jordan’s newest single “Weapon” which was released in late October on iTunes. You can also keep up with Jordan on her social media pages by clicking on the following links: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.