Jordan Max is just your standard 23-year-old guy from Oldham. Blessed with an extraordinary voice that spans decades and genres he was handpicked by Jorja Smith herself to support her on her recent UK tour. The two singers managed to sell-out almost half of the shows on the tour, Max pulling in a bigger crowd than your average support act. That probably has something do with the act he’s currently being backed by one of the greatest producers of this generation, Danger Mouse. Having released his last few singles on the producer’s 30th Century Records, Jordan Max is emerging as one of the most exciting new singers in the genre.
His lyrics are refreshingly open and honest, covering topics such as social injustice in “Hell” and breakups in “Out of Luck”. Unlike most pop, which tends to cover these topics in a formulaic and superficial way, the singer puts his own unique spin on these topics, vocalising feelings that we’ve all felt, but rarely find musicians covering honestly. To get to know just where the singer got his incredibly unique voice and poignant lyrics from, he answered a few questions for Notion in an exclusive interview.
Hey Jordan, how did you get into music?
I started out making a few bassline and drum & bass beats towards the end of school with my friends. Then started playing the piano at 17. Not long after that I realised I could sing, and writing songs followed on naturally for me.
For someone so new you have a pretty established and unique soulful sound- how did you find your voice?
I guess that after years of working on the music dream, my sound kept getting better and one day I wrote ‘Hell’ – that track became the direction for my sound and my passion for music has driven me to keep expanding and experimenting.
Tell us who your biggest musical inspirations are.
It all started with Ray Charles, my friends and I watched the biopic ‘Ray’ one night, after watching that I immediately felt the need for a piano. I found my voice when my Uncle played me Sam Cooke ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ when I was 18, that literally blew me away. Throughout this journey the soul legends have been a driving force of inspiration and always will be.
James Brown’s definitely got to be in there to provide me with the funk.
The content of your music is pretty deep, like in ‘Out of Luck’ where you refer to yourself as ‘damaged goods’, ‘broken by a friend of love’. How do you turn your pain into sound so eloquently?
It’s true my music can get deep, at that time coming out of a relationship I just felt slightly different, a little colder towards love. When it comes to writing I just write what feels natural and these songs came out of darker times, they are a perfect reflection of that chapter in my life.
Talk us through your typical songwriting process.
How I write songs has slightly adapted over the years. In the beginning I used to write the songs by just jamming over the same chord structure and writing lyrics as I go. I wrote some good songs on my acoustic guitar working like this. Later on, I started imagining the sound just from the chords and then I would start making the beat on Logic. When the structure of the song is there I would just loop each section and map out my vocals.
How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it before?
Dark and soulful with plenty of hope.
So, you’ve just finished touring with Jorja Smith, what was it like?
I loved being on tour with Jorja, it was tge first tour for me, so couldn’t have asked for better. Six days of soul back to back with a great audience.
You must’ve been pretty excited. How was the reception?
I was excited to get up and do my thing, and also to warm the stage up for Jorja. The reception was great, funny when people don’t know you, but by a couple of songs in people were starting to vibe.
Are there any favourites you like to play live?
‘Hell’ is always a great one to do live because everyone can vibe with me and sing the lyrics. I’ve been playing one of my unreleased tracks live recently and I’m feeling that because it’s one to groove to, which people love to do.
Is there an album on the horizon?
100%. First album will come next year but in the meantime, I’ve got another EP coming real soon. I’m excited to show people what I’ve been working on. You can expect plenty of music from me this year.