Monday, April 4, 2016

Volume 20 - Jordan West

Volume 20 - Jordan West

Let me first say that I am thoroughly impressed by this young lady. A Drummer, Singer, Guitarist and Songwriter just to name a few. Secondly, I am biased when it comes to drummers who sing. Jordan is no novelty by any stretch of the imagination. She's a musician who works hard and deserves all the success coming her way. Her Band Trackless is definitely one of my favs now and heading for some great things. I'm looking fwd to seeing them live maybe even share the stage with them.
but for now, I have to settle for a kool interview and she did not disappoint. Jordan walks the walk and Talks Chop right now...

Name or Stage Name: Jordan West (it is my real name, sometimes people ask)

Where are you from? Fort Wayne, IN

How long have you been playing? I've been playing music since I was about 6 (started on piano, then french horn), but started drums officially at 11. So about 15 years. 

Do you have a genre preference? Not really. My musical taste is really eclectic. I'm a sucker for great melodies - whether it's Cher or Nirvana or Herbie Hancock. I love it all. 

How did you get where you are now? 
Where am I now? Haha...sometimes I don't even know. At about age 13 I realized that the only thing I wanted to do was play music. It is a language I feel like I speak naturally and understand better than I understand anything else. In college I began gigging professionally as a freelance player (mostly jazz), and then when I was about 21 I started my group, Trackless. I was in a songwriting class at Ball State where we had to write 2 songs a week. Before this class, I'd never written any music and didn't understand theory, so I would just sit in the studios and play what sounded good on the piano and sing. I had my best musical friends come help me record the demos, and after a few sessions we knew something great was happening. So I kept writing and we kept playing the songs. I've spent the past year dedicated to Trackless and getting our most recent album finished. I worked in sales at Sweetwater during this time, and that was a fantastic experience in human interaction and work ethic. I really loved the company and the people I worked with, but I've always wanted to play full time. So this summer I finally decided to take a leap and move out to Los Angeles to seriously pursue a music career. My husband and my band came along, too. Since the move I have been writing, playing, collaborating, and working as a product specialist for Roland. The gig I have with them is great - I get to travel the country to play and talk about drums. 

What are your goals, short & long term? 

My short term goal is to get Trackless gigging around LA regularly and then record a new EP, all the while getting to know the people and places in LA. My ultimate goal is to make a living playing my own music with my friends and travel the word doing it. 

Artists you would like to play for? 
There are so many! I would love to go on the road with just about anyone - its a great experience. My top three would be Justin Timberlake, Tori Kelly, and Bruno Mars.  

(btw- i'm really feeling the Tori Kelly thing, that would be dope!)

List some of your accomplishments: 

I recently won a songwriting contest sponsored by Avid for a Christmas song I wrote called "Hold Me Close". My band has released two full length albums. For the most recent, self-titled, album, we held a huge release party in Fort Wayne. That is probably one accomplishment I am the most proud of. We rented out the venue, an old theatre where I also had my wedding reception, and then were in charge of bringing out our people. We went crazy with promotion and worked extremely hard to get the word out, and ended up selling out the venue. We performed with a 20-piece band - horns, strings, background singers - the whole deal. It was a true production, and it was the first time I really felt like we were putting on a concert. Fans were singing our songs with us. All of our families got to be there. It was awesome. 

Do you have your own band or do you freelance?

I do both. I've freelanced in everything from modern jazz to punk rock to cover gigs. I also do studio work and I love that.

Your band Trackless, definitely have your own sound, how is the reception of your music to the masses? People seem to relate to the music a lot. It's a nice blend of soul, pop, and rock - people can move to it and it's energetic. But it's also got a lot of heart. Jeremy and I singing split lead adds the element of almost constant harmony, which I think people like.

Trackless - Jeremy Wendel Jones, Jon Nelson & Jordan West

What's the bands songwriting process like? I usually write a song and then bring it to the band. It never ends the way it started, and that's why I love it. When I bring a song to the table, we sit and learn it together and then change things, try things, and sometimes write new things to add on. Sometimes one of us plays a riff and then we write together off that. Sometimes Jeremy or Jon bring a song to the table. But we always arrange it together. 

You're a singing drummer, lead and background. I know what this is like for me, what is it like for you? 
I really like it. It lets me concentrate on groove and I end up playing supportively. I'm not into flashy stuff - Steve Jordan is one of my favorite drummers. Singing and playing gives you a real connection to the song. 

"Can't Stop Falling" - Trackless live @ The Philmore.

Do you think more people freak out because you're a female drummer or because you sing and play drums?
I think the female thing is probably the bigger deal for many people. It's just not something they've seen a lot of. 

"Give It All" - Trackless live @ The Philmore

What has been the dumbest thing someone has said to you being a Female Drummer? 

Oh I could go on forever on this one. The most irritating and consistent thing I get is "Wow, you're the best girl drummer I've seen" for one thing, they usually haven't seen any other women playing drums but more importantly, I view myself as a musician who is a woman. I've worked most of my life to be a good musician, not "good for a girl."

(So enough of the "girl drummer" stuff people! - DeHaven $.02)

Do you play any other instruments? I typically sing while playing drums. I also play guitar and piano. 

What are your touring experiences, if any? Until now I've spent most time playing around the midwest as a freelancer or studio drummer. I have done some short tours with my band, and those have been really fun. We are currently planning our first official tour for fall 2016. 

Describe your current set up & gear - heads and sticks included and why you choose these items? 

For shells I have always used Ludwigs. My first kit was a bright red Ludwig accent that I played on until I was 22. I stripped the wrap and stained the wood and that thing sounded killer with the addition of a nice snare and some quality cymbals. Now I have a Ludwig Classic Maple in champange sparkle which looks as gorgeous as it sounds. I choose Ludwig because I like the vintage, big sound. To me, they are gritty in all the right ways. I play a lot of soul, jazz, and R&B so for me this vibe works. For cymbals, I've had trouble deciding on one brand. I use a Tama metalworks 13" snare most of the time because it has great definition and I'm big into ghost notes. If I hear a cymbal I like, I buy it. Never in packs, and never matching. I like the diversity of sound I get from using totally different cymbals. My usual set up is a 22" Meinl Byzance Ride on the right, a 21" Istanbul Mehmet Turk Sizzle (which sounds like butter). Sometimes for fun I add an 18" Formula 602 Paiste and a 10" Zildjian K Dark splash. For hats, I use either A Customs or a custom combo that is Zildjian New Beat for the bottom hat and Zildjian thin 14" crash on top. That sounds pretty heavy, I like to use it for live gigs and soul stuff. For sticks, I use 7A's or Peter Erskine's from Vic Firth. Sometimes I use Sweet Ride Sugar Maple sticks by Vater because they feel great, too. 

Do you have multiple kits and snares? 
I have a few snares but can't seem to get away from using the 13" metalworks Tama I've had since I was 14. I have an acrolyte from the 80's as well as an 8" all maple with maple hoops from PDP, but most of the time I stick with my Tama. Since I just recently moved out to LA from Indiana, I only had room for my main kit. I'm looking to buy another soon - bigger drums for sure, possibly a Ludwig Vistalite.

Do you have a “Dream Kit”? 

Not really. I'm more into playing what I have well and making it sound great. I've never been much of a gear-head. If I hear something I like, I buy it. I've heard people make "dream kits" sound like a nightmare and cardboard boxes sound like gold. 

How do you describe your drumming style? 
I would describe it as high energy groove. Ideally, I strive to sound like the drum child of Steve Jordan and Steve Gadd.

"Press On" - Trackless live @ The Philmore

Why the drums? 

When I was 8, the school I was at had me take an instrument aptitude test. I went into a room and tried just about every instrument you can think of. The woman assessing me said "You should definitely play the drums" so of course I chose to play french horn. After a couple months of whole notes, I switched to the percussion section of my school band and never looked back. 

If you weren’t playing drums, what would you be doing? I can't see a life without them. But if all of my appendages fell off, I suppose I would just focus on writing and singing primarily. When I was younger I wanted to be an animator for Disney. 

How has drumming impacted or changed your life? Music in general hasn't changed my life - it's made it. It gives me purpose and meaning, and it is all I want to do. It has taught me discipline, collaboration, tenacity, and perseverance all the while connecting me with so many people and the world around me. I love playing with different musicians - it's like getting to know someone on this deep level without even saying a word. Its great. 

Is the music business your career? 

Yes. In addition to performing and writing, I am a product specialist for Roland. I demonstrate their products at conferences like NAMM and festivals like SXSW. I also train sales teams on how to use the gear. 

Are you involved in the local music scene in your hometown, other than just playing? 

I was extremely involved in my hometown scene when I lived there. The band and I played a lot in Fort Wayne - it was tough to leave. We have really great fans who still support us and we are so thankful for that. We're planning a tour with multiple stops back home for fall 2016. 

Name 5 of your drumming influences? why? 

-Steve Jordan - groove
-Steve Gadd - agility 
-Mark Guiliana - creativity
-James Gadson - pocket
-Joe Morelleo - musicality - his solo on Take Five was one of the first drum solos I truly loved. I still don't love most, and rarely play them. But when I do, I try to be as musical as he was. 

Name an inspiring concert that made you want to go home and start shedding? 

I saw Snarky Puppy this past fall and watching "Sput" play was so inspiring. He is one of the greatest drummers playing out today. 

How much time do you practice? 
Not as much as I should, haha. It has always been my philosophy to make a majority of my time practicing time playing with other people. Jamming on standards like Autumn Leaves or Sugar in my middle school jazz combo is how I learned to play. And of course hitting the practice pad is important for keeping chops up, and practicing with a metronome is key, but for me thats not what I've been about. I don't really ever learn licks or fills. I used to, and it really felt like I was being put into a box. I love creating something organic and spontaneous every time I play, so I try not to learn a bunch of licks and then think about working them in. If the artist I'm playing with wants something the same each time or I need to record a written part in the studio, I'll definitely do that. But when I'm playing in my group, I like to keep it relatively fresh. 

What do you work on in those sessions? 

Playing a simple groove with a metronome and making the clicks disappear. I do it until it becomes like a trance. To me that's always helped me be steady in the pocket, and I can definitely tell when I've been away from the metronome for too long. I also do some chop stuff on the pad - rudiments, subdivision exercises, singles with Mohler, isolated fingers, and push pull techniques. 

Do you record drum videos of yourself? 
Yes. I'm relatively new to it but there are a few on my YouTube: Jordan West Drums. 

I see you're involved with Roland V-Drums and you have an E-Kit. How do like playing on an electronic kit? 

To me, the electronic drums are to acoustic drums what electric guitars are to acoustics. It doesn't feel or sound exactly the same, but I don't think it needs to. I like how the V-Drums feel. They add a whole different element to my playing - I play stuff on them that I wouldn't think to play on my acoustic kit. They also make me more versatile for freelance gigs. If someone wants an 808 kit at their show, I can do that. If I'm playing for a church and they want total volume control, I can do that, too. 

You're in an ad for Roland with fellow percussionist/singer Chastity Ashley. That's gotta be pretty kool, right? 
Yeah! It was my first ad and photo shoot for Roland and that was a fun experience. What you don't see in the photo is that we were playing full-on for about 2 hours to get the perfect shot. It was a fun jam. 
 Chastity and Jordan
also check out their video for Roland Sessions...

Do you prefer studio sessions, local live gigs or touring? I love playing live in general. The studio is fun too, but there's nothing quite like getting on stage and playing for people. Local gigs are always fun because the people know the songs and dance, and you know they're going to have a great time. Touring can be a little hit or miss, but when the crowd is on it is great - the feeling of making new friends and fans is awesome. 

Do you prefer being in a band (artist) or being a sideman?

I love the band life. It can be stressful and frustrating and crazy trying to get multiple people to agree and commit to something while also feeling like an important contributor/member, but the outcome of all that work is something so much greater than the sum of its parts. 

Do you have a crazy or interesting gig you can share with us? 

Once, Trackless was touring around Wisconsin and we stopped one night in Madison. We decided to grab our instruments and play the street outside a strip of bars. We played from about midnight to 2:30am and at one point there were so many people watching/dancing that the police came in on horses. And it was my birthday - best birthday gig ever. 

What are your words of wisdom for your fellow drummers out there? 

Listen more, play less, groove harder. 

Any Last Words, Links, Hashtags and Thank You’s??? Thank you so much for having me on Talkin' Chop! What an awesome blog and great questions. 

My Links:

Jordan West, Thank you so much for taking the time to share your Drum Life with us and letting me interview you.
Isn't she great?! She's the real deal....and how about her band Trackless?!! Please connect with them on soc. med. and more importantly buy their music! #SupportIndieArtists

As always, if you or someone you know would like to be interviewed, please contact me:

DeHaven -

#DrummersSupportDrummers  #TalkinChop

I'm Out!

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