When I first heard Jordan Occasionally's voice on Tik Tok, I immediately got chills. They did a video on what their verse would be on "Kiss Me More," and it was just so dreamy and gorgeous, I had it stuck in my head all day. Their album Indigo is a disco-laden, emotionally honest piece of work that is defining what we need from artists in 2021. Vulnerable but still a good time, radiating this energy that you can just feel through the music.
Let's start with how you got started in music.
Jordan: My whole life, I've been surrounded by music. I started writing my own music when I was 15. In high school, I was part of this a capella group, and it was really fun. We competed in competitions. It was like a real-life glee club. My teacher was the one who inspired me to actually pursue music for real because I was like, "You can't be an artist." And my choir teacher's like, "Yes, you can. What are you talking about?" I went to this camp for the arts, I'm from Tennessee, but I went to the north for this camp for the arts. And there was this slam poetry class that I signed up for. And after that class, I'm just learning how people live all around the world and the things that they go through. It made me really want to use art and use music as a vessel, telling stories that people need to hear. So that's how it got started. I just got my degree in music business, and I'm just really enjoying making music and doing what I love to do.
That's awesome. Where did you go to school for music business?
Jordan: I went to the University of Memphis, which is my State school. I got a full ride for performing.
I feel like Memphis is so weirldy small, one of our writers is from there, and she loves it. She's so proud of being from Memphis.
Jordan: For real, that's how it is. When you come here, you've got nothing but pride. And that's what makes it fun when you visit.
And there's a lot of history and music history there. So that must be a really good place to kind of shape your music.
Jordan: I feel like growing up and just really being inspired by our soul history, our blues history, BB King, and then also Tina Turner, queen of rock and roll - grew up just 50 miles outside of Memphis. So just a lot of rich music history is here. Even country music is here. And so to know that disco-- we have disco club that's been here since the 80s. Disco is just a Black, queer, and trans genre. It's kind of been hidden for a while, but it's coming back up to the surface more recently. And I feel like this is my chance to revive disco and talk about that history and talk about how important it is to keep uplifting Black, queer, and trans voices. So that's what I try to do in my music, use it as a tool to talk about things that matter.
Tell me kind of about Indigo and the process behind it and the story behind it.
Jordan: Indigo is just my album of joy and pride. Because of the music I made in the past, I feel like I was finding myself and finding my voice and trying to figure out who I am. Indigo is like the revelation that I am who I am, and I'm proud of myself, and I'm proud of the community that I have, that I've made. As a Black, queer artist that's also nonbinary, in the past, I wouldn't use pronouns to talk about my love interest. Fans would be like, "are you queer? are you going to have songs that express that?" and I think they're valid in saying that because why wouldn't I? Because I really don't have any songs that express that. So, I was like, "I want to make it more clear that I want feminine characters, masculine characters, I want to have songs about love that's sloppy. Like in "Issaparty," It's all about somebody who was already in a relationship but still goes on a date with somebody else. I want to have songs like that because that's what my friends are experiencing. That's what we go through. So I was just like, "You know what? Fuck it. I just want to have fun." And that's really what it is. Something that'll pick you up no matter where you go.
Can you tell me about your songwriting process?
Jordan: Indigo was made with my partner, and we live together. It was recorded in our studio, in our bedroom. And this past year, during the pandemic, we were just kind of able to find music, focus on the music. And so how it happens is Noah has a beat, and then he creates, and then he collaborates with other people. I just kind of go to my headspace, and I write about something that really matters to me. And I feel like putting Indigo together was very intentional. It's this introduction to this kind of lost soul who was falling into probably bad relationships but also friendships. Then as you go through the album a little bit more, it's kind of about that internal love. And that's what I had to figure out in the pandemic, just sitting with myself and having my friends around me. But then there were times where I couldn't have my friends. And I didn't have anyone to hold me accountable. So I had to do that for myself. And I had to push myself to understand myself. So it's kind of what I wanted to talk about explicitly in Indigo, just like a self-love journey that understanding yourself, but also realize that you have a community around you as well.
I mean, I feel like the pandemic definitely had a lot of good music that came out out of it, if anything.
Jordan: Absolutely. To be honest, I'm still looking for that drive sometimes, even this year. I feel there's some good stuff like probably some new artist that we never would've discovered, have not been forced to look at them differently.
I feel it was so hard to create anything just mentally. But I look now back on it and like, wow, there's so much good music that came out this year.
Jordan: I love that you said that because I feel Indigo-- because there were so many things going on like when it came to, I was writing in the middle of school, and I was also organizing protests in my city. So I would still come back home and kind of use music as an escape from it. And I wanted to feel that joy. I wanted to feel that I was supported. I would create my own reality in my music. And it was kind of a manifestation like, "I'm going to have fun. I'm going to go to this party. I'm going to do this." And I just kind of saw it as a mantra for my future. I feel that's where that comes from. I would still be struggling to find my niche and my crowd had I not been forced to really just sit with my music this past year.
And what has been kind of one of the biggest challenges for you in your music career?
Jordan: I think the challenge right now is performing live. That was when I went to school and got my scholarship for it, and now we just don't have it anymore. So I'm forced to connect with people and tell my story over the screen all the time. I think that's also a disadvantage as an independent artist. Performances are where artists not only get their money, but the fans get to see the party that that person created in their head. I'm forced to just really get to know my fans and get to know what they want to see. And I'm just conforming to this new way of life. I think that's a challenge, but it's also making me stronger. Because now, I'm becoming more multi-faceted, and I'm learning the music industry from a firsthand perspective instead of being in school like a college setting. I'm really in it now. So it's just a learning process.
For sure. I bet you put on a great live show.
Jordan: Oh my god. Like I have so many dreams, like amazing outfits, beautiful dress, eyeliner, the band dancing. Kind of like a Solange thing but more like a disco version of it. I have so many dreams, and I know I can make them happen. So it's just a matter of places opening up again.
I went to my first almost kind of live show over the past couple of weeks ago. It was a small backyard live thing. It was so weird because it was like, "Oh my gosh. I haven't been to a live show in over a year." It was so emotional for us.
Jordan: That's just like how I feel as well from a fan perspective. Live shows were my life. I can see my favorite performers in a new light. I'm streaming their music, but seeing them perform live and seeing how they interpret their music is just different. You're there with your other friends, and it's just unmatched. And now, as an artist, I want to make people have an experience that they always look back at and remember how they felt at that moment and how they felt after. It makes you cry. It's something you'll remember for the rest of your life. And I'm ready for that to come back safely.
And I do feel that's when you really get a lifelong fan at a live show.
Jordan: Yeah! People I never even know. When they have the headliner that you've never even heard their music before, and all of a sudden, after their show, you're like, "Oh, I'm a part of the fan club." I'm ready for that moment. I just can't wait.
I feel like TikTok has done so well for you too.
Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. TikTok is just-- I don't know. It's so wild. I feel like that's how I've gotten the most followers I ever had. My music, when I look at my stats on Spotify-- because I can see that it says that I don't have a label. And just seeing people from TikTok-- obviously, they are from TikTok. I mean, the playlist that they make for me, it's just so cute. And it's really nice that I get to show them my personality, and I get to show them the other things I'm interested in. But also, I get to know them too. I feel like fans kind of become family in a way that I never thought they could.
I think TikTok has helped me make friends, actual people that I want to hear what they think about my music. I think TikTok's impact on the music industry is so wild and real, very real. And it's not a fake impact. People want to say, "You're just a TikTok artist." That's so demeaning. I feel like, "No, these are artists too." You just didn't know they existed because they never had the money, the platform, the opportunity that a label would have provided them. But now, they can set their own rules and kind of be their own business.
I definitely think it's leveling the playing field a little bit.
Jordan: I mean, look at Olivia Rodrigo. Of course, she was doing High School Musical. But I wasn't watching High School Musical: The Series because I didn't have Disney Plus. I wouldn't have known about her until TikTok. And now, I'm like, "I'm so glad," because I love her stuff. There are just so many great artists there, and it makes me happy that the playing field is being leveled because we're all human at the end of the day.
What else do you have coming up for yourself this year? Are you doing more releases?
Jordan: I have some new songs that I've actually been working on. I'm so excited, and I can't wait for y'all to see it. And I also still want to create some live visuals of the songs. So still working on that. And really, the future is so bright. I'm getting so many different opportunities.
That would be amazing.
Jordan: I've gotten some different opportunities as well, and maybe my music will be on some shows and stuff. So it will be really nice just to see my future, and I'm excited to have fans that grow with me at the beginning stages. This is only my second year putting music out, and this is the first album I've ever released. So this is just the beginning, and the future is just so bright. So I'm glad to see people here with me.
How do you stay motivated? You're so positive and optimistic!
Jordan: Listen, I appreciate my time off the internet as much as I appreciate my time on. When I'm not trying to get people to see what I'm doing and stuff like that, I collect plants. I spend so much time repotting things talking to my cats, and just actually doing things in my community, like going outside of my house and getting to know people and where they come from. It's really nice to see other people grind, knowing that the circumstances that they have are always just so tough, but they continue to believe in themselves, and it inspires me. So when I lose inspiration, I go and look for it. That's how I stay motivated, and that's how I grow as an artist.
What's your best piece of advice to your younger self?
Jordan: Oh, I will say to my younger self, "Never stop learning. Never think that you could know everything because there's inspiration everywhere. And the scariest thing about making music is releasing it. It's not even the making music part." So I would just say, "Live in the moment and make sure that you know how amazing you are and how capable you are, and remember that every single time. Because the journey is more important than the result." So that's what I would give my younger self." I'm still learning. I'm 22. So I feel I'm young. But I needed to hear that when I was younger, that I don't need to have everything figured out, and I'm not perfect, and I'm going to keep growing in my music.
Music aficionado and editor-in-chief at The New Nine. I'm most at home at festivals and concerts. I would love to start a band of all Kanye covers all on keys. I'm a dedicated Jack White fan and when I saw him in concert it changed my life. I'd never seen someone so passionate about music and preserving its history. Every project he does I just worship. Follow me on Twitter and Insta: @etreadgold