Jordannah Elizabeth Premier: Borders

July 20, 2015  |  Featured


This week at the Oaktown Indie Mayhem blog we are premiering the release “Borders“, from Bay Area artist Jordannah Elizabeth.  Take a listen, and check out our interview below!

Oaktown Indie Mayhem:  How did you get into music, did you have family or friends that played, or teachers, or did you just take to it on your own?

Jordannah Elizabeth: My mom and dad love music.  My uncles are musicians and played in a band together when they were young, my older brother is a lyricist.  I grew up in the church.  Music has been a part of my life since I was born.  The radio was always going in car rides and at my grandmother’s house.

I sang in choirs from elementary school through high school and college . I took private classical vocal lessons for a few years in college.  I can sight read music, sing in French and Italian all that…but I was the kid who was at the black board in music school singing Pink Floyd: “We don’t need no education!”  I told my vocal teacher that I was going to do whatever she asked, but I was strictly rock and roll and I wasn’t going to go pursue a career in classical music.  I think she took my statement seriously.  She never gave me a solo while I was working under her tutelage but she did recommend I attend one of the best music schools in our region when it was time for more to move on from junior college.  That meant a lot to me.  I did not pursue music on a university level.  I took a few more private classical lessons in Los Angeles a few years later but that was it. Music, singing lessons and choirs were automatic choices for me.  Choir was always an easy class that I could get credit for.  Ha.

OIM:  How long have you been making music in the Bay Area?

JE:  I played San Francisco for the first time in early 2013 at The Box Factory on Bernadette Bohan’s show Latenite Bubbles with Bernadette. Later that year, a young, ambitious Bay Area based PR assistant offered me free studio time at the now closed recording studio, Studio SQ in the Bay View.  I took the opportunity.  I was living in Baltimore at that time and put a band together and had my old NYC band mate Jacob Hales come down to Bmore to help me compose the songs and record the demos.  Jacob, cellist, Kate Porter and I flew to SF to record “Bring to the Table” in November 2013.  During that week of recording we played Café Du Nord, The Night Light and a secret show at 50 Mason as a favor to a friend. The first song I wrote in San Francisco was a demo b side called “Another Love Song (What You Need)” in December 2013.

OIM:  With Borders, where did the inspiration come from and what are you hoping to express? 

JE:  A friend of mine from Baltimore wrote this as a comment on my soundcloud for the song “Run Away”

“This track feels personal.  Like you’re peeking in on a couple’s first kiss shuffling along home from a club near Charles Village at one o’clock in the morning and the streets are shiny and slick from drizzle.” 

I love people’s interpretations of my music.  I like to peak people’s imaginations, and more importantly, I like how their emotions are usually very close to what I was going for.  I try to make intimate records.  With the tone and experience of “Borders”, my only goal was to make people feel like they were sitting in the room with me.  When it comes to Emma’s description of romance or a first date, yeah – I write simple love songs because I think lovers like each other the most when they’re just near one another and nothing is wrong and nothing is right.  “Run Away with me, catch a plane with me, catch a car with me….”.  People do that.  The words are simple but there’s a quiet promise of adventure within them, even if you’re just walking down the street to catch a cab after a show.

I didn’t mention this in other interviews because “Charleston (Settled in the Lord)” came to me in a dream the morning of the recording session, but a line from the title track, Borders, came to me in a dream weeks before the recording session. The line “We ain’t nowhere near the end, borders don’t mean we can’t pick up and start again” came to me in a dream and I woke up and found a pen and pad and wrote it down.  So, the song and album is called Borders because of that one line.  I don’t know where it came from, but I know it’s embedded inside of me. Anyway, I’ve traveled a lot throughout my life and career and the bigger concept of the album is about “imaginary lines on a map”, borders, boundaries, and limitations. I don’t look at those words as negative, it was just an exploration.

OIM:  What artists do you really enjoy or consider an influence?  Anybody from the Bay Area?

JE:  For Borders I was directly influenced by Lightenin’ Hopkins who I’ve been gleaning from since I made “Bring to the Table”.  Not necessarily his guitar style or even his songs, but his vibe.  Roberta Flack was an influence as well.  I was going for vintage, roots gospel and blues sound, which is why the guitars are raw and sparse, to mimic the “self-taught” old school folk/blues music style – and to intimate raw recordings in the 20s-40s.  Also, with Negro spirituals and gospel music, Black American slaves weren’t allowed to read or write – that’s why my songs on Borders are simple and redundant – to shadow that.  I’ve always written simple songs after early American gospel music.

Indirectly, Conor Bourgal of The Changing Colors from Colorado Springs has had a big effect on my folk and gospel songs.  I met Conor when I was about 18 at a house party and I was playing The Vaselines’ song Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam on an acoustic guitar.  I was mashed out of my mind and was probably acting a bit cocky and Conor took the guitar out of my hands and told me I was playing it wrong and played it correctly himself.

He was right, I was playing the song wrong. I’ve always been a lackadaisical guitar player and I had omitted a chord from the song, simply because I didn’t feel like playing it and didn’t think anyone would notice.  Conor’s audacity at the moment foreshadowed his effect on me as a teacher.  Subconsciously, I think I’ve spent many years just hoping to come close to some of his work.

Local influences? Of course: Lee Gallagher of San Francisco’s Lee Gallagher and the Hallelujah was supposed to work on this album with me.  That was the plan.  He and my lead guitar player, Scott Franklin of Buzzmutt were both traveling/on tour until July and we were all supposed to get together around that time to write and record the album.  We wanted to release this record in August…..but my producer Breck Brunson called me and offered me free recording time in L.A a month early….and I just went for it.

For me, I hope to be alive for some time, so when Lee and my band are all settled and in one place, we’ll work on something and put it out.  Everyone has been supportive and they understand me.  I think anyone would have taken that session if they were in my shoes.

I am influenced by lot of Bay Area artists:  Makeunder, Known to Collapse, Ghost Town Jenny, King Woman, Mark Matos, Annie Girl and the Flight, Travis Hayes, Jimmy Dias, Luke Sweeney, Old Earth and Xiu Xiu’s cover of Nina Simone’s Don’t Smoke in Bed and Down Dirty Shake’s song Stoned Love are all influences. I really enjoy Bay Area local music. I listen to it and know it well.

– Michael Bang

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