While transcribing this interview I couldn’t help thinking about Justin Bieber calling it quits. Sixteen months on the road, the same music night after night, few hours of sleep, the long haul and the fact that thousands of hugely successful bands and even those with a modest following eat up miles of road and eventually ask themselves, where did yesterday go?
Sass Jordan comes at this by letting the past catch-up to her. Racine Revisited or re-imagined is an updated makeover of the Billboard US Heatseekers Album charted Racine that reached #2 and raised Jordan’s profile by delivering four Top 15 Canadian hits, “I Want to Believe,” “Goin’ Back Again”, “Make You a Believer” and “You Don’t Have to Remind Me”. Starting August 11, Jordan travels from BC to Newfoundland to Europe and has a final stop at Aeolian Hall, November 15 in London, Ontario. I caught up with Jordan during a recent stopover in Toronto. Here’s part of that conversation.
What was the inspiration in re-imagining Racine, an album dating back to 1992 and a top seller then?
First, because it was a top selling album.
I just started working with a new manager I adore and he actually brought it to my attention; the album is twenty-five years old this year. I thought, what? I would have never, never noticed. Interesting, there are quite a few doing this 25th year thing – k.d lang's “Constant Craving” record - that was a busy year, 1992.
First of all, it gives you something to talk about. The fact that it connected with people and meant something and shockingly enough, there’s a lot of people that not only enjoyed but are even interested in hearing it reimagined, which I find fabulous.
It would seem like a scary proposition. Did you try to approach the songs differently?
There’s a lot of thought I put into that because if the record was special to you or anyone it would be special to them the way it was. I didn’t want to go too far off the deep end like coming up with fabulous new arrangements. I wanted to keep it pretty much true to the original. There’s a noticeable change to a couple of songs in arrangement and that’s because I’ve been doing them live for so long and are just way better in this style – “Cry Baby” – “Windin’ Me Up”. You just have to forget about all else and be in the moment when you go into the recording studio. I’m a musician, I love music and just going to play music rather than shredding it apart and breaking to bits and really talking about. That’s not really the point of music to me. You listen to it, you like it or you don’t.
Have you been able to stay close to your fan base over the years?
Oh my, yes. It’s called the fabulous Interweb. It’s amazing. It actually puts a face to people. I can get an idea of the vibe from people enjoying the work.
What are some of the most common questions people would ask you?
We have to go to the Facebook page and see what they are saying. I’ll do that right now. First of all, regarding Racine Revisited, there’s tremendous support and enthusiasm. You are never guaranteed that. I’m pleasantly surprised by that – it could have gone, oh – screw this – who wants to hear the record again? Honestly, that would have been more my thing. What if Tom Petty redid one of his records? If he had did the record with “Refugee” and “American Girl” – if he redid that now, I’d be fascinated with it. Those sounds are so much part of the fabric and soundtrack of our lives.
As for Tom Petty, he’s played those songs live for years and in some way, they find themselves in better condition in the later years.
Exactly, that’s what I was saying with a couple songs on Racine Revisited. The thing about it is, it’s also a completely different group of musicians. We are all in a different space in our lives. Those songs have been played over and over – you can’t recreate something note for note, that’s been done as such – that’s part of the joy of life. You can’t recreate your childhood – you can’t do it.
What comes to mind when you think of 1992?
It was such a whirlwind – so much happened in that year for me. It was like a decade in one year. I was on the road most of the year and grotesquely overworked and didn’t know how to say no - I can’t do this, I’m too tired, I need to rest. I didn’t have the awareness at that time. I paid a price for that physically and emotionally in a massive way but it did give birth to my follow-up record which is perhaps my favourite I’ve ever made called, Rats. It was crazy – there’s piles of stories I’ve got to start telling in the Racine Revisited tour I’m doing in November. It’s going to be semi-acoustic; with the carpet and candles and like a small audience. I’m going to ask people to write down questions when they come in that they want me to answer during the show. I’m so excited to do this! This is going to be such a riot and so much fun, like we are all hanging out in someone’s living room and have just made a fabulous dinner. My time to sing and tell stories. I’m very, very excited about it. Two sets, stories, songs – people talking back.
Some artists are more comfortable off stage than on – much more engaging.
It depends on the type of venue. When I’m doing a big rock show it doesn’t lends itself to stories etc. Bruce Springsteen does that though – that’s his thing, he’s been doing it a hundred thousand years. I’ve never made it through an entire Springsteen show so I don’t actually know how he does it. I’ve got to have a look at some of that.
Bill, I also find the invert to be true – a lot are more sociable on stage than off.
What keeps you motivated and feeling alive in an industry that packs up and frequently moves on?
As redundant as it may sound, it’s music, period. I think there’s a ton of amazing new music. I don’t agree that all the good music has already been done. I don’t hear new styles, it’s all the same thing. As my friend in Cheap Trick says, “three great chords, four great guys”. That’s the truth. Its really about the energy, the essence, the emotions, vibrations, and feelings I get from the group or the singer or whoever the musicians are. That’s what makes the difference. Everybody has a unique song, a unique tone – even if it’s a knock-off type song. Everything I’ve ever done in my opinion is totally derivative musically. I’m not some fabulous experimenter at all. I use the usual structures. I write in my own voice as far as words and lyrics go. I’m certainly not reinventing the wheel. I’ve never had any desire to. The structure that is there is infused with who I am. It’s my expression of that and it connects with people. I don’t think you ever run out of enthusiasm and joy for music. I’ll tell you what you do run out of - joy for the industry and the feeling you have to do it to make a living. I’ve come to a place now where it’s back to the actual joy of doing it.
Do you ever ask yourself, what was I thinking at sixteen years old?
I know what I was thinking at sixteen. I had a one-track mind with absolutely laser-like focus – I was going to be a rock star. And nothing was going to stand in my way!
The Rolling Stones, Cheap Trick, The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Jethro Tull, Tom Petty, Blondie the list goes on and on and on of those acts that influenced me.