Jordan Laz Songwriting Interview

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Jordan Laz (photo by Brian Hamm) at DFW Sofar Show http://www.flickr.com/photos/sofarsounds/8553856153/in/photostream/

SXSW (South By Southwest) is a month away. Like all music festivals it’s music overload.  Too many choices to see everyone. Running from one venue to the next.  Hoping, if you don’t have a wristband, that you make it through the line in time to see the act you wanted to see.  Sometimes even being surprised by who you get to hear while standing in line.  That’s how I heard The Zombies last year.  Standing in line at the Paste Showcase. I even have a friend that maps out a schedule in Excel with back-up options and the time needed to leave from one venue to reach the next.  Last year I took a different approach for most of my SXSW visit.  Friday Night I decided to spend the night at the Communion showcase at St. David’s Church.  It was a magical night of music.  Beautiful venue, quiet and appreciative crowd, incredible line-up (The Staves, Lucius, Lucy Rose, Half Moon Run, Joe Banfi and Leif Vollebekk). Saturday afternoon I was able to finally attend a Sofar house show. The schedule for Sofar shows in my home town never co-ordinated right with my work and gig schedule.  But, I was able to make this one.  Jordan Laz was one of the performers on this house show.  I knew Locksley but had not heard his solo songs.  He was energetic, engaging and involved the crowd in his songs.  So, I was thrilled when Jordan and his brother, Jesse, agreed to do interviews.

JORDAN LAZ

Current City- Brooklyn, NY
Most Recent Release-  Individually released ‘2013’ for online streaming
Band affiliation- Play bass and sing in Locksley, recently playing on my own as well.

Brief intro/Bio:  I’m twenty four years old, I was a child in Wisconsin, and currently living in Brooklyn, New York. I started writing music at age 16–pop songs. They were enough to get offered a role in the band Locksley, and began playing with the band at age 18. I’ve been in New York since.

Our Scattered Words: What is your songwriting/composing process?
Jordan Laz: I’ll start playing a progression, and start singing or shouting some form of a melody on top, over and over, until it sticks. That’s usually the chorus. Then I add the rest. Then I come up with words, something that sounds like the noises I was making when developing the melody, which tends to work really well. It’s always my subconscious trying to say something.

Our Scattered Words: Do lyrics come quickly or do you revise them over a period of time?
Jordan Laz: They come quickly for me, the best ones do. I try and limit myself when it comes to lyrics, less is more I think. If a song takes me more than day to complete I tend to lose interest and find that it just wasn’t meant to be.

Our Scattered Words: You joined Locksley, which your brother Jesse started, about 5 years after they started.  How did that come about?
Jordan Laz: I was still in high school at the time and had been writing songs and playing guitar for about a year. I also played drums as a kid and did some early recordings with Jesse, playing songs on demos of all the  fellas that Locksley would later record. The guys asked if I’d be interested in joining the band. I’d have to learn how to play bass, which I’d never done, but the songs were easy enough… Also I had to learn how to sing. Seven years later I think I’m finally an amateur.

Our Scattered Words: Is the whole group involved in co-writing the Locksley songs?
Jordan Laz: Not really. We all write songs on our own, and structure them individually. Then we’ll bring them to the band and really just play them over and over till they lock in. Everyone contributes ideas once we bring it to full band, for the arrangement. But the songs themselves are pretty well structured by the songwriter. More recently we’ve been writing them together, it usually begins with someone playing a groove, or singing a line, and we’ll jam on it for awhile until something starts to form. Often times however, once the “jam” takes a form, we all start thinking about it too much and some of that natural honesty is lost to the process. We’ve always dreamed of being in a set up where everything we played was recording all the time. The amount of magic that has been lost to circumstance is maddening. All our best songs and performances existed at one time in one room on one day, and then forgotten forever… Always be recording.

Jordan Laz at SXSW Sofar House show


Our Scattered Words: I really enjoyed your performance on a Sofar house show during SXSW last year.  You really involve and connect with the audience. Your solo songs are pretty different than the Locksley material.  Tell us about that.
Jordan Laz: Thanks very much, that was a real special experience for me. Locksley had come to a sort of halt at the end of 2011 for various reasons; and everyone became involved in different things in their creative, and personal lives. Over the course of my time in Locksley we had released two albums, Don’t Make Me Wait (which I wasn’t involved in at the outset) and Be In Love (which is the only album I recorded and contributed songs to). Over that time however, I had probably written nearly 100 songs. Not all of them were good, most of them on a look back are garbage, but by 2012 I was starting to understand myself as a songwriter better. As Locksley played less and less in 2012 I wasn’t focusing my songwriting efforts on music that I thought the band would play, as I had in the past. I had spent so much time listening to other things that were exciting and moving to me that at the time I was really connecting with, material that was far removed from the influences that had come to define the Locksley sound. A combination of listening to singer-songwriters like Bon Iver and Tallest Man on Earth, while also ingesting a lot of R&B and Hip Hop. It was all interesting to me, and it was beautiful. And it made me feel things I didn’t know I felt. It wasn’t a conscious adjustment, making music different from Locksley, making more introspective personal music happened naturally at the time, it allowed me to say things I wanted to say to the people in my life that I wasn’t able to say. I played a handful of those Sofar shows in Texas last spring. I left New York in December, and spent the rest of the month finishing a collection of music I had been working on all year that I put out right before I travelled and spent time other places exploring, writing, and performing. The time in Texas was especially satisfying because of those shows that I got to play. I’d never performed in any capacity that wasn’t the high energy experience Locksley provided–which I love doing, it’s still very much a part of me, but not all of me. Every Sofar show I was able to do something completely different, because I was doing it alone. Which was freeing, and also limiting. It’s much easier when you have a team. So I need both, I’ll keep recording and releasing and performing on my own. Meanwhile, I look forward to creating and performing with Locksley again, because when our team is playing its best, I think there’s no one better, humbly. 

Our Scattered Words: You have an “album” of songs called 2013 on your website that’s a tribute to last year.  How did this come about and do you think you’ll do a similar album this year?
Jordan Laz: I did that for the first time at the beginning of last year. On January 1st, 2013 I released “2012” which was a ‘tribute’ to the year before. At the end of 2012 I had this collection of songs, high quality demos really, that so perfectly summed up what that year meant to me. It was reflective of my own experiences, but felt very honest, and relatable.  Without even being conscious of it at the time I felt the songs I had written and recorded told a perfect story as you travelled back. At the end of 2013 I noticed the same thing. It was a very different story, but still interesting and accessible and I thought a progression from the music I had released before. It’s hard to say if i’ll continue to release music in that format, I suppose if it keeps happening this way I won’t have a choice.

Our Scattered Words: What are you most proud of?
Jordan Laz:  I’m proud of the development I’ve made as a songwriter and a performer since I first came out to New York to play in a band. I’ve always felt that I didn’t really pick music, it picked me in a way. I’m glad it did, I still have a lot of work to do, but it keeps getting better.

Our Scattered Words: What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
Jordan Laz: Of my Locksley material: “Why? Well, just because” of my own material I like, “When my time comes, sing me love songs.”

Our Scattered Words: What advice would you give to young songwriters/composers?
Jordan Laz: Be honest

Our Scattered Words: If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?
Jordan Laz:  Beatles ‘White Album’. And ‘Stankonia’

Our Scattered Words: If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Jordan Laz: Bob Dylan. I don’t know if he’d have the ability to be as insightful as I may want to him to be. But at least I’d be able to say that I sat down and talked about songwriting with Bob Dylan. 

Please stop by Jordan’s Website and stream his original songs
Plus, here’s one more live video of Jordan from a Sofar house show

I’m keeping Jordan’s Songwriting playlist here this time.  It’s all streamed tracks, no videos which is nice variety

1.One of my favorite songwriters/artists/thinkers is my oldest friend from Wisconsin. He goes the moniker Yip Dap Xi (pronounced chee), I’m afraid there are no videos of him playing but this is one of my favorite songs he ever wrote:

listen to the entire vast collection at yipdapxi.bandcamp.com

2. A different close friend’s band. I think Locksley fans will really like this, I think everyone should:

3. Another lo-fi recording of a great song by an old friend

All interviews and Bonus Materials  will be archived alphabetically HERE for easy access in the future.

I hope to see you at SXSW, please let me know if you’re attending

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Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words

 

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