"The Rise and Fall of Rock Music - Q&A with Jordan White" (May 2011)

Jordan White recently took part in a Q&A session with musician/writer Ethan Cramer who is working on a piece titled "The Rise & Fall of Rock Music" that will be published soon:


Ethan Cramer: Who are the influences that inspire your songwriting?


Jordan White: My influences are just fantastic song writers.  People like Jackson Browne, Van Morrison, Stephan Jenkins, James Taylor.  Not necessarily those only, though.  I'm asked this question often and I usually just say "great songwriters" because that's really the truth.


EC: Have you released any original material online or on a CD?  If so, when?


JW:  Sony picked up a song I wrote called "September" - it was released nationally online in early 2010.  It's on iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, etc.  That's the official release, so far.  


EC:  Which do you prefer, (playing) originals or covers?


JW:  I did the cover band thing for awhile.  The money is good, but I never felt satisfied, and I felt that people had the wrong impression of me.  I didn't really "feel it" when I was singing songs like "My Own Worst Enemy" by the band Lit.  Anyone who's a musician knows every cover band plays that song to death.  And I had to sing it, because it was my job.  


EC:  What's your take on the national music scene?


JW:  I've opened for national acts and I can tell you they're regular people just like you and me.  The difference between them and the bands on the local scene is that they never gave up.  Music was their lifestyle and not just something they did on the weekends.  They thought like national acts, were talented, and thus became national acts, which came down to opportunities and crossroads.  But rarely was it ever easy.  They played for years before anyone cared or more than 6 people showed up to one of their gigs. We've all been there, I've been there, we know how it feels. 


EC:  How do you feel the music has changed from the time you were growing up until now?  


JW:  Well, for awhile, when Napster had basically taken over the industry, for me, it was like wanting to be a weatherman all your life, then growing up and suddenly there was no weather.  The industry has adapted, but it took too long and they really lost out big.  I still have images of Lars Ulrich on MTV talking about why he was going after Napster.  I really don't blame him in the end; it just got out of hand.  For the music itself, it's very beat driven now but the great music is out there. 


EC:  Do you want a record deal?


JW:  Well, technically I had a "recording" deal where as song I recorded was released (September).  Now that doesn't mean I became very wealthy (contrary to popular belief about recording contracts) -  but a song that I had already written and recorded was released.  Do I want to get a "record" deal at some point?  Of course, but that's not the only goal.  My goal is to bring music to a world that has given me so much music of it's own.  For a while, Island Records was interested in us, but it fell through.  You'll have 1 or 2 times where it seems like you're going to get it and it falls through before it actually happens, it seems.


EC:  Do you think the music scene will continue to evolve?  If so, do you think it will continue to rotate from rock music to pop and back again?


JW:  Probably.  A great example is a band like Matchbox Twenty.  Their first album came out in 1996, and 15 years later, they're still at the top even though wave after wave and trend after trend has blown by them.  The boy-bands, the Latin invasion, the pop-punk movement, the dance movement, etc.  They've seen it all, all the hype, that came and faded.    


EC:  What are your thoughts on the music industry and radio stations in general only playing/promoting top 40 acts over and over again and not helping out the local acts? 


JW:  It's a double edged sword, because if you're fortunate enough to be one of those top 40 acts then you're going to get played out the ass. 


EC: Is it the radio's job to help break new bands, or is it the job of the bands?


JW:  I guess I could say it's both, but it really depends on the listener.  If it's something they'll want to hear again they'll go buy or download it or request it on the radio.  The radio plays what they think their listeners want to hear, and if you don't want to hear songs with lyrics such as "It's getting hot in here / so take of all your clothes" - and I sure don't, you can change the station.  I don't buy the notion that the radio forces people to like music.  They're in the business to make money, advertising dollars, received from having listeners actually listening between songs.  They don't always have time to try to make people like something and hope it works out.


EC:  Does the term "Rockstar" mean anything anymore, or is it just a word that is thrown around in the same context as the word "party"?


JW:  The problem is that two words, "rock" and "star" somehow became 1 word, and therefore, it's become close to meaningless.  Not that there aren't individuals who really are rock stars.  Axl Rose is still a rock star, and I suppose Adam Levine, Rivers Cuomo, or Patrick Monoghan are rock stars.  Being a rock star is about two things: confidence and ability. 


EC:  How are the venues you've worked with? 


JW:  For the most part the venues I've worked with have been great, but not always.  I mean, I've shown up for a gig only to find out that the club manager "double booked" which means he booked two acts for the same night accidentally.  And there's only one stage, and whoever showed up first got to play the gig.  And most of the time, I arrived second.  That doesn't happen to me anymore though.  


EC:  What are you thoughts on the "pay to play" meaning you have to sell tickets to be on the show?  


JW:  There are 2 types of venues - those which have a regular crowd come in consistently, even if it's just for the chicken wings, and those which are the bottomless dark pits where no one shows up unless they bought a ticket.  There's a venue in Allentown that treats their bands like crap, who once docked two thousand dollars from our contractually agreed performance fee because they thought the band was "rough" that night.  This is a venue that really pushes the pay to play bit hard.   


EC:  Do you feel the original music scene is dead in this area?


JW:  The cover bands are everywhere.  And I know, I performed with one of the most popular ones on the east coast.  We had no shortage of venues or money.  I'd come home at the end of the night with $500 in my hand just to sing a dozen songs and to fuck around on the guitar or keyboard.  I didn't take it seriously. To succeed in the original music scene it takes a lot of guts but there's a lot more glory.  I have nothing against cover bands because often when you actually get to know the people who play in them they are writers at heart.  But to answer your question,  I don't think the original music scene is dead.  It's about due for a big shot in the arm.


EC:   Do you think there is still a place for CD's in the technological age?


JW:  I will always buy CD's for two reasons, because I want the liner notes and lyrics and also I like to support the bands I enjoy.  It's much more satisfying for me, still in the year 2011, to physically travel to a store, purchase a hard copy of a CD, sit in my car outside in the parking lot, and listen to it while I look over the lyrics.  There's nothing remotely as wonderful as that, when it's an album you've looked forward to for a long time, for me at least.