You can easily roll through Marc Jordan’s songwriting credits, and they read like the credits at the end of a billion-dollar movie.
You’ve heard his songs thousands of times, voiced by some of the most iconic vocalists of our times: Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Chicago, The Manhattan Transfer, Rihanna, Joe Cocker, Bette Midler, Bonnie Raitt, Cher, and many others. Still, Jordan and his own interpretations are uniquely his in their craftsmanship and delivery. The voice is warm and expressive and much like having a “best friend” in your presence.
Jordan in person is equally approachable and maybe the best conversation you will have that month. He’s all about the art, the music and living in the moment. Humility and creativity have a way of channeling the grandest moments in all of us. Jordan just does it so well.
Marc and I go back a few decades, and our conversations are much like a barren canvas that invites plenty of colour, broad brush strokes, and the unexpected. What follows is taken our most recent sit down at CIUT 89.5 FM.
Bill King: You lament the loss of CDs and the like...
Marc Jordan: Yes. I was just sitting about two weeks ago, watching something on television and grabbed a box of old photographs with letters and cards in it from my kids. I went through it and there were a lot of things I hadn’t seen – pictures of Amy (Sky) when she was a teenager, and it was great to feel and see.
I remember being a kid of maybe 12 years old and in the closet in my parent’s room was an upper shelf and on this shelf in the back, a box of letters between the two while he fought in France during World War II. It was so touching to read through their private thoughts about separation and love. They were songs themselves.
There is something about the physical act of writing. When I’m writing songs, I still actually do them longhand. There is something about that moment, that kinetic thing – and just the scribbles on the page - I relate to it, and it feels like emotion to me and looks like emotion.
The lines left on the page are the lines the music will flow along. On Both Sides you worked with arranger Lou Pomanti. Where you able to listen to the arrangements as they were taking shape?
Yes. I was there the whole way. He did the initial thing, and I’d tweak it.
What was the inspiration for Both Sides and song selection? What’s the process in determining whether a song fits the voice or not?
Mostly it is not an academic decision - usually, I like songs that fit my voice, and sometimes I hear songs that I could sing differently, but I have to love the song, bottom line.
What is your daily routine?
I get up and usually go into my studio and figure out what I want to work on then I go downstairs and get a giant cup of coffee, and from then on, I try to pry myself away from music; however, for the last six years, I have been painting. I call my painting work, "flat Music" and when I take a music break I go and paint and usually wrap up around midnight, unless there is a Leafs game on.
What is it you listen for when the headphones go on and the music plays?
I listen for something special which might be in the groove or a guitar part or wherever. If it's a song of mine, I listen for everything. If it is not a song I wrote, I look for the things that draw me inside the music.
How specific were you in getting what you wanted from each player?
I think, that casting is the most important thing. If you want a Mick Fleetwood drum groove -hire Mick or someone who plays like him. I am not very technical, being self-taught, so I often employ the best players in the genre that I can find and allow them to play before I start being the boss man. I've learned so much from great players
Any post-recording thoughts?
I always find small things I could have done a little different but I must say, I love the new CD and if I could have afforded it I would have loved to do five or six more songs.
As an artist who has been doing this for decades, I’m sure with this recording comes the thought – there’s no reason to stop as long as you can find that creative center and still express yourself.
There’s no reason to stop. I wouldn’t know what’d I do. When I get up in the morning and go to my studio before I go down to breakfast, I want to do it. I’m driven to do it and it’s all coming from inside. It’s the whole point of my life and my kids are now doing it. I think everybody has something inside. Everybody has something – that other side of their brain. I feel I was born at the right time when there was money in the music business, so I didn’t have to do anything else. I watch my kids now, and they must do everything and struggle. I remember a record company or publisher would give you a little bit of money so you could do what you wanted to do. I feel lucky to have been in that era.
I was listening to Nile Rodgers talking about new sources of income that have opened up, and how we should focus on that. “Every song has its own profit and loss statement and people don’t seem to realize that. Each song is its own independent business,” he said. “The most amount of money I have ever made consistently is by investing in myself,” said Rodgers. (CNBC Make it)
There are things out there that don’t occur to me. I don’t readily have a connection. I see my kids mining those things and it’s a lot of work.
You have a concert coming up at Jazz. Fm April 2, 7-9 p.m. With strings?
We’ll do the songs we can do with my band and there is not going to be an orchestra there.
You’ve been doing a show at Jazz. Fm and it’s quirky.
Yes - it’s called, Songs I Wish I Had Written. There are a million songs. I have lots of piano players and horn players and I just play jazz. I often explore the relationship between songs and instrumental music.
I think if I were a gifted song-writer, I’d want to be a Hoagy Carmichael: “Up the Lazy River", "Stardust”.
He was trained as a lawyer and attorney. It’s a good thing he didn’t go into law.
Those opening notes in “Stardust” are remarkable.
So simple, so good. How many have there been? Ten or twenty of these guys who were so good. The music has lasted decade after decade.
I love the stories of these composers – they are as complicated as the music.
They were immigrants. It’s the story of America. If you have the power to observe what’s happening around you - that’s what Lou Reed was so good at doing. I did “Walk on the Wild Side” on the record. To me, that song absolutely captures a moment in New York that’s the connective tissue between beat poetry and hip hop. The song is so amazing.
I would have loved to have been at that recording session.
I have a story about that. The bass player wanted to get paid for a double session. That’s why they have an upright bass and electric bass. That bass line is so great.
There are songs that touch us like no others and you say Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy” makes you cry.
It’s stunning and the saddest song ever written. The melody says exactly what the lyrics say. That’s the key to great songwriting. Melody is as much language as language is. You have to listen to what the music is telling you. If you get a great song and slow it down, it pulls people in. It pulls me in for sure. On this album, a few of the songs like the Hoagy Carmichael song, “Nearness of You,” is something my dad used to sing. I’ve always wanted to sing with an orchestra.