Jordan Kootenay Interview
SBS: Alright! Jordan Kootenay – homegrown talent from right here in Canada, up on our pages – welcome my brethren! Hopefully that name of yours is still fresh in the people’s minds & the music in their ears from back in January when we first checked out your single “Far & Long Gone” in Kootenay & Co. – but of course, simply posting up that cut from YouTube was only a snapshot of the whole story that brought you to make music to begin with, and from my perspective, not your own more or less. So here’s your opportunity to help set the record straight entirely in your own words, to help those out there that aren’t familiar with your music & what you do yet catch up. Where did it all start & what made you into the artist you are now? What inspired ya to make music…specifically as you can pinpoint it for us…what made it go from something you thought about doing, to something you NEEDED to do?
Jordan: So where I like to start it – I recall seeing my older brother one time, taking interest in a guitar he had kicking around. I remember him placing a tab book in front of me, guitar in my hand, and showed me how to read it & showed me a G chord – then I would be left alone to learn my first “Riff”, which would be the intro to “Enter Sandman” from the Black album by Metallica. Again, I think for many people out there, this group is somewhere along their musical endeavour, for some anyways… Journeys, whichever you wanna call it.
So this was an early introduction to music… I can easily go way back into further detail. But I’ll keep it simple and leave it here. I was starting to listen to more heavy metal records and wanted to be a lead guitar player, and at this time I was really really into Kirk’s guitar playing from Metallica… And everyone who knows me well enough, or played alongside of me back in those glorified Metallica cover days will know. I was heavily into that. I was determined to do that role.
I remember my first record I got my hands onto (asides from the Kill Em All record), it was Iron Maiden’s live cut of a show they did. It was the Live After Death album, and when the “Aces High” track kicked off that CD I was just blown away to want to dig deeper into that genre. So to revisit more of the question, metal music really inspired me to make music, the creativity of the riffs, the lead guitar solos and fills – at this time, I wasn’t too into the vocals, I was just liking what I was hearing instrumentation wise.. I just decided to need & want to do music. I don’t regret making such a spontaneous decision. It’s taken me to some interesting places in my life.
SBS: Listen, I’ll be real with ya brother and tell ya the truth…I lived in BC for the first thirty-six years of my life and only ended up in the neighbouring province of Alberta where you’re based out of a handful of times at best…maybe really on two or three times if memory serves me. But at least one of those trips did include Edmonton, your own hometown. Anyhow! What I remember of the music-scene, and honestly what I’ve experienced from there both before & since via the internet, really seems to stick to a very strict diet of County, Hard-Rock, and Metal…with very few little spaces in between – that fair to say of the scene out there? Before you started to make your own music, back in the preparation stages – when it came to the sound you wanted to have and choosing to go with such a massive range in making both Country & Metal music…I guess the obvious question was why not choose one over the other? Has there been an advantage to getting your music out there into the world through two defined styles, and are there any disadvantages that you’ve discovered as well? I’d imagine it might be a pretty big shock to the system for some having listened to “Far & Long Gone” and then “Northern Autopsy” afterwards, know what I mean? Is it realistic to assume that fans of one style of your sound will like the other stuff?
Jordan: When it comes to making Country or Metal music…It’s really simple – I just like doing both musically. Country represents the roots where I come from, and the Metal is an interest I grew into growing up…I grew up on a farm..and I took on the roles of being a farm-hand with my dad & brothers taking care and helping around there. I did choose one genre over the other actually (for a time) back in my teens, I remember we would arrange jams in the barn and jam it out till 4am some nights…sort of that “rebelling” phase if anything playing metal music (Jam spots would vary…).
But the farm jams in the barn were always great. Being in an isolated area, we didn’t have much restriction on how loud we can be, we cranked it up, and that’s that… The reason why country came back into the picture was, because of the truth behind the music (in most cases & I am speaking in terms of older country) whether if the song was about troubled times, heartaches, cheating songs…you name it, it all started to resonate with me as I grew up and started to relate to it all. It definitely got me through some dark times…whether if I was sitting in an empty bar, I’d stack tracks one by one in the jukebox of sad shit and sit there and drink till I forgot to pay my tab and get a call the next day to come and pay it. Or if I needed to hear a song to help me realize I ain’t the only heartbroken fool out there (I’m past this by the way, FYI).
I didn’t really view it as an advantage, doing two genres man…to simplify it – It all has to do with sticking to my comfort zone, although I do have a soft spot for blues playing as well. I suppose the only disadvantage I found so far, is the consistency with players, some guys only want one thing – Metal or Country. Not both. This is why I took: “Kootenay & Co” to a larger extent, reaching out to other session players who can share the same idea. Not because they are freelancers or anything, but the similar goals or ambition of being diverse…I can sort of pick up on a shock from some when it comes to the huge change up of music, but I think I should put it out there – sometimes some tracks need a little more, of a bite to it.. and having a track like “Northern Autopsy” raising the awareness of addiction, needed it…then a track like “Far & Long Gone” – it needed a backing like how I arranged it to be & the storytelling side to it…
SBS: Is Kootenay & Co. open to other styles of music potentially as well do you think? Your songs, as you note, are based on real-life experiences…surely that can’t mean ALL Country & Metal is going to represent the entire tale of your life, would it? So what becomes more important my brother…staying true to the story, or staying true to the vision you have for the sound of Kootenay & Co. – or is there a way that you’ll be able to do both? What’s the most important aspect of a Kootenay & Co. song?
Jordan: This is just the tip of the iceberg man! Yeah the recording project is potentially available to other genres. Right now, it’s the Country music and Metal music on the side. Main focus is on the Country collaboration’s I’ve been doing. Probably will be this way for quite a bit though, before checking into other genres… Yeah, so the real life experience thing is primarily aimed towards the Country music. More fitting to me… The Metal tracks will consist of different lyric writing styles on other subjects that are not based on my personal life. Just to clear that up… To answer, what is important to me? Well what you mentioned above are both pretty important things to keep in mind for the project…staying true to the story is important to me with the Country. But the vision overall: This would be a collaborative recording project, but a working/gigging line up to have people on board for either genre or one is also in the works. Because I would like to eventually get these songs on a stage… But the idea I have in mind for this current Country Album/EP is to keep it as is. The background of it really was the purpose to share my creative input, to produce an album/EP based on my own vision I have for the tracks. I really lucked out seeking the talent I found for this project I gotta say…but the idea for the next Country album/EP was to have it simplified, in a sense of having a 4 or 5 piece group, me on lead guitar taking on the role of fills and leads. So I can be more involved with lead guitar playing…I think both things you said above are working in their own pace naturally – given the mindset I just expressed. If this makes a little bit of sense…lyric writing would be open, it wouldn’t be based on a single person’s experience, if anything the songwriting would be open… The most important aspect of Kootenay & Co. is diversity. Being an addict/alcoholic in recovery I got to see all walks of life, and got to sit down and hear a lot of peoples stories…so I took the concept of being as diverse as I could with this, taking what I am comfortable with doing. And it all happened to work out.
SBS: So…songwriter Jordan…what’s stopped you from singing these tunes of yours? Honestly, I think it says a lot about ya as an artist…but maybe you’ve got a different perspective on this. To me, it strikes me that in a project based around your words, direction, and real-life experiences…it’s almost a bit strange to find you’ve got guest vocalists that sing these songs as opposed to you handling that part, like I’d assume people would likely expect to find. So was it as simple as vocals not being your department, or was it something else? How do you find the right voices to tell your story through these songs, and how do you know they’re the right fit for that particular track, or moment that song represents for you?
Jordan: So you noticed I didn’t put: “Singer/Songwriter”, but just put: “Songwriter.” [laughs] It’s a simple catch, but really glad it is being brought up here. What stopped me from singing these tracks is because I was never a vocalist/singer (yet!). I would hum time to time, but I don’t think people would be driven towards a hum driven album/EP – doesn’t make sense to me. [laughs] But I actually been really curious to try it out; consider some vocal coaching…but this would be in consideration once I would have the guts to do so.
But to answer the next part..yeah I suppose it does say a lot about me as an artist…but I wouldn’t think I would be considered a bad artist because of this choice, because I did think of this approach, I didn’t walk blindly into this project… Everything was thought of: thoroughly before even starting the project. So yes, it did have to do with vocals not being in my department.
Finding the voices wasn’t as hard as I thought though! I did get to hear many takes on tracks from vocalists – it really narrowed down to 2 singers. The one you hear in the alternate version of “Far & Long Gone”, and this current female vocalist that will appear in the whole duration of the album and will be featured in the “highway 1A” single release. I sort of took on the perspective of someone “re-telling” my times, and allowing the world to check it out. I didn’t over complicate that aspect. It’s a collaborative project. I should have cleared this up before as well earlier, but it’s said here now…I know they would be a right fit based on how they sing it. And producing this – I do share my honest input with them, and there are times on occasion where I would ask to correct parts where I feel like it can be done differently to my vision and it always works out in the end.
SBS: How about the players you’ve selected as well…let’s tour through those names you’ve had assist in essential ways to get the Kootenay & Co. project off the ground – and are they permanent fixtures, or guest-stars in a rotating lineup – what’s the story there? You’ve mentioned that you’ve got a stellar lineup of local musicians with ya, but it also sounded like you hinted some might have moved on, perhaps outside of Alberta from these notes I’ve got here too. Is there really any border on the music you’re making, or is Kootenay & Co. an open-door invite for the right musician for the right song?
Jordan: So these session players for this current collaborative Country Album/EP release are a current lineup that will be swapped out for a permanent lineup for the projects coming up. They are all aware of this, that this first album/EP would be a collaborative recording project… So yeah – I guess I can agree to the part when you say: “guest-stars”…no border at all with this either, If anything this first album/EP is based on an international level of session players. Not tons, but I don’t mean having a Italian on bass and someone else on guitar from Russia – not that kind of international. [laughs] I am speaking in terms of our neighbouring pal, U.S. – they are based out of there mostly…but there are Canadian session players involved as well!
Thing with locals I find in my experience (within this project), is that you get the people who take on the interest but when it comes time to meet up and jam it out or progress, they become a no show. Or you would get the one wanting one thing only. Or finally, the “my way or the highway” musician… In all honesty, I was just really ambitious to start this…so I reached out to freelance session musicians that eventually became players that would just take on the full interest for this first album/EP. But I do have a local lineup in progress as mentioned…I figured about halfway through this first release I would start my search, that way I am doing the “2 birds 1 stone” sort of thing. So when I complete this, I’d have a lineup ready to go (hopefully), for further recording and jamming/gigging…so there is definitely an open door for the right musicians, of course…if anything – due to covid, collaborations have risen drastically…I like this.
SBS: Alright…let’s do this…we’ll consider this a two-parter of sorts. If you can brother-man, please take us through a song like “Far & Long Gone” and highlight what it’s all about for the people out there that haven’t heard it yet, and help us establish that connection it has to the real-life story behind the scenes.
Jordan: So the anatomy of “Far & Long Gone” at its core is best described, as a hardship that I have personally encountered…whether if it was the addictions, or the heartaches I allowed myself to run into… I wrote it the way I wrote it for 2 reasons…to help put it into a better perspective, & to lay it out in a relatable perspective for the listeners (who can relate, I ain’t saying everyone should be able to relate)… For those who haven’t heard it yet – you are in for a tale of alcoholism/Addiction at its finest and heartache that I put myself through because my addicted mind couldn’t see it any other way. Today, I can say I hold myself accountable for even allowing myself to go through that sort of pain… “Poor me poor me” eventually turned into, “Pour me another drink” – I overheard this somewhere, its stuck with me since…
Now speaking in terms of the behind the scenes of the track… It starts with being caught up on a bender, on days off from work…I remember not being able to get back to where I was staying at the time, I am 100% sure I was couch surfing at this time… This has gotta be 8 to 10 years ago now, can’t really narrow it down for you… I was walking along a dead (secondary) highway going into town, with the occasional light post to light the way. I remember finding my way back, sat on a park bench and asked myself why I allowed myself to take it this far…I took my last tokes, found a place to feed the habits some more…and I remember walking that sidewalk all alone and high (lyric reference) wondering why I was leaving everyone wondering what I was really up too with my life. I eventually turned into a guy I really despised in the end, before making honest efforts in changing my behaviours…
I really put some people through some hell because of this addicted path I was choosing to live. In my very first attempts in sobriety these years back, I’d keep it together all day, but nights were the worst…I’d be back on the bottle. At this time, I was only on the bottle, I was pushing away the drug part out to try and justify that I am “doing better ” than I was from before…but anyone with a clear mind can call out BS, because I can even agree to this, today… Those crazy nights; I was speaking in terms of some of the things I might have saw or had to deal with… With work, it was such a drag then as well.. I was miserable, trying to make it through another day with the addictions at the back of my mind, nagging to want get a fix… End result, it pushed away that current relationship I was in (No longer give a shit about it FYI), and pushing away family, friends…sort of getting to the point of people not wanting to associate with me. I really only associated with people who had the same problems I had with addiction. I didn’t get into much detail with this song, as I wanted to keep the story consistent, about this time in my life.
SBS: Now let’s discuss what changed & why! You recently reposted “Far & Long Gone” as an alternate version not too long after the original…what was it you heard that you felt could be improved upon, or different, or what was it in general that had you going back to that song for another round as opposed to moving on to something new? We can spend our lives making one track if we let ourselves my man…it can be extremely tough to find the point where everything is truly finished…and in many cases, they never are. So yeah…tell us about the changes between the two versions, and give us an idea of when a song is truly able to be considered complete when it comes to the music you make Jordan? How do you know when it’s time to officially stop – what is it you’re listening for that tells you it’s finished?
Jordan: [laughs] So you want to know the changes? – absolutely nothing…it was just a flaw I couldn’t handle seeing…talking about the bottom of the original video where it showed where the track is available. I had taken the music down from streaming services to look into better options for distribution, plus I feel like I might have rushed that process. So I got it re-uploaded with just the cover art so I don’t feel like the track isn’t giving false info to the listeners, about having it available elsewhere (Spotify, Apple Music etc…). That is all. But if I were to give anyone my opinion when it comes down to sharing: “my ideal stop when a song is truly completed?” I would think it be the time when you have run out of ideas, at that moment. I always like to revisit and try new ideas once they come! How I know personally when to stop? Well, when the song starts to sound “too perfect”, once it starts sounding like that, I think that’s just the commercial side of things kicking in. I like the raw, indie side of things…where things just sound natural. There are situations though where things have to be 100%. So I think it all comes down to personal preference or what your situation is though…this is my current opinion and I am 100% sure it will change as time progresses.
SBS: I cannot even begin to imagine what life would be like trying to start up a band in the Covid-era and the challenges you’ve likely already faced in getting this all off the ground. So I won’t! Help the rest of us understand the obstacles this whole pandemic has put in the way of Kootenay & Co.’s debut year, how you’ve had to adapt, & the overall impact it’s had on your motivation to keep it all going from here.
Jordan: No obstacles within the project, I didn’t let things get over complicated. But the obstacles raised from personal life though…being sober and all is great, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I am cured, never has been that way for me. Some people work their programs! (A.A. etc), some people change routines, which I have done…cutting ties with people still caught up in their own battles, and changing my mindset. I ain’t involved with A.A. these days, although I have given the chance before of checking it out.
I like to also view this 1st collaborative recording project as a virtual journal if anything, that steers away from my actual written journals (I still journal on paper as well!). My motive is typically there, but there have been times where I would discourage myself, and think twice on the project as a whole. Really over-analyzing my music, thinking it is not good enough to standards. But then I pick myself up and keep going. Challenging negative thinking really.
To sum it all up! This pandemic did stop me from going the route I originally wanted though! By starting a group in the area and goiing from there…but I didn’t wanna stop there, which is why I went the way I went with this first album/EP. But now the doors are starting to open again here in the province, I can now go the route I originally intended. (We’ll see how long it lasts before shutting down again.)
SBS: Speaking of the future! I finally had some breathing-space to listen to the new demos brother, and it sounds like you’re working on some exciting new stuff over there. Care to share some details on that? What can the people out there listening to Kootenay & Co. look forward to from ya this year in 2021?
Jordan: Thanks for that, it really is appreciated. So some details on the material written, I did open some doors to express my creativity a little more, so you’d definitely hear some different approaches to the tracks, whether if its traditional sounding, or alt sounding, or etc…I am open to checking out more. All the listeners gotta look out for is more music in the making! Really looking forward to getting some music out there, and continuing to do so.
SBS: Specifically out of the new demos I heard, it was “Mistreated, With Reason” that caught my attention…I think honestly for its title at first, but also for the sound too of course. It got me thinking about the direction of the Country genre as a whole, and how it’s kinda now parsed itself into fragments of a larger scene, creating these niche pockets of Modern-Day, Traditional, Alt-Folk, etc. etc., the list now stretches out quite long, but you get the idea. To me, you’re rocking with a more Traditional approach to the genre…and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with that whatsoever, it did get me thinking – how hard is it to bring something new to something that’s based on the roots of a style, you dig? I’d assume it’s gotta be extremely tough…but perhaps it’s not even necessary; some folks out there love to hear more of what they’re comfortable with as well, and that’s equally cool in my books. So how do you view all this genre-based stuff Jordan? When it comes to Country, what’s important to you personally when it comes to the music you wanna make & where inside of all these pockets of the scene do you see it fitting into? Flexible on all that? Firm? What’s the scope of Kootenay & Co.’s Country?
Jordan: Music is changing as we speak (my opinion!). Metal has evolved into many sub-genres, Country has branched off into many sub-genres I didn’t even know existed. Personal opinion? Some of it is really ridiculous… Creative opinion? It’s great people really took the time to put it out there for the rest of the world to hear, of what they came up with, or I should say, “their take on the genre.” I am pretty flexible within the genre. I can respect anyone’s interest/take within their genre of choice…but when someone tries to power their genre over another person’s, even within the same genre, I think it is a mask they put up on insecurities they have within their own music.
But I can’t speak for someone else… This is just a quick cheeky opinion I have to share. It will more likely change as I learn more. I am learning day by day with music, even the “politics” of it all… I try not to complicate the process of bringing something new to the table that’s based on the roots of the style…I suppose the only important thing I keep in mind when it comes to the music I want to make is, the consistency & diversity of it… I don’t really expect it to really fit into any pocket you referred too, although it is pretty intimidating at times when I do think on it, wondering if it’s even good enough to make a certain scene…
But my overall goal isn’t to blend or fit into it. I believe it’ll find its place itself, over time. Don’t want to get ahead of myself. I have made this mistake before… So I am pretty flexible when it comes to music, I am primarily open to ideas and letting others bring ideas to the table, but I am also the type to work ideas together, rather than trying to overpower ideas on top of one another. I’ve been in groups like this, where I would be asked to share creative input, but when it was made; the idea would be put aside and something else would be put in, creating a barrier/intimidation it would seem like. Given the circumstances, I do believe there will be circumstances where ideas will have to power over one another just based on flow for the track. Disagreements/agreements will be there… It’s just something that will always be there regardless.
SBS: What is the most important move you feel like you can make for Kootenay & Co. over the next five years to come? How will you go about rooting yourself permanently into the scene & creating a legacy?
Jordan: This is a good question to raise awareness on, thanks for bringing it up! So, rooting myself into the scene and creating a legacy, yikes… Well I definitely don’t want to cut corners and rush to root myself into the scene, I think the hard work and dedication will pay off if I do it step by step which is to keep going forward with it… I also think creating a reputation naturally would also help create a legacy within the scene. But I don’t necessarily think like this man, I am honestly in it for the pure enjoyment and passion I grew for music as a musician. I think the most important move I can make for Kootenay & Co. is: to not give it up.
SBS: You sir, according to my notes here, are currently sitting on four months clean & sober. First & foremost – congratulations – sincerely, every day counts, and every day you’re here on this floating rock we all call home is another good day with a whole new set of opportunities ahead my brother. I think a lot of people out there would love to know about the role music has played in your recovery & sobriety – sure we can appreciate how it’s been there for ya during this time, but take it deeper – how essential has it really been? Is it fair to say now, that your music has saved you to a degree? What are the most crucial things you can personally do to keep making music the number one priority from here Jordan?
Jordan: Yeah 4 months clean and sober. Thanks for bringing it up, thanks for the acknowledgement. I sort of brought it up before, how I sort of treat it like a virtual journal, which can be an interesting take… But I think this whole song writing and expressing myself through music has been a great tool in my recovery. Music creation has been really essential to me, to continue to chase that sobriety. Sort of treating it like a “power greater than myself” like that saying in A.A. – because if I weren’t doing it for this reason, I think I’d be back on the beaten path again… I can’t speak on anyone else’s view on this, this can be a touchy topic to discuss, but I am speaking in terms of my own here…music has saved me, always…even before songwriting and starting this project, I think a lot of people can agree to this. The things I can do to make music a #1 priority is to keep my day to day simple and involve music in it. Once I get to caught up in other things, music tends to steer away, and I’ve watched people go through this. I am not saying I ain’t prioritizing important things in my life, of course I am doing that in the process, I am just saying, rather than…“a meeting,” I am making music instead… I do read the A.A. book time to time to get that reminder, whether if it’s from the beginning of the book, or the personal stories in it. It all helps. The simplicity I created for myself, is also a prevention to overwhelming myself and creating a risk of using or drinking again.
SBS: Hey. Hey…psssssst, over here. I’ve got notes that tell me your new single “Highway 1A” is pretty much supposed to be OUT by now, or could be dropping anytime soon…what’s the hold up here yo?!?
Jordan: Yes, it should be out, given the date I told you. But sometimes time doesn’t work in our favour. This has been delayed to the 12th of April for its release on SoundCloud, Bandcamp & YouTube only. The two singles: “Far & Long Gone” & “Highway 1A” will have set release dates very soon! For April… Then from there, the album/EP prep and finalization before that release will be set for early May/late April as well. This is just on the top of my head! Don’t take my word on it. Updates will be on the site and social media accounts though!
SBS: Ye olde SBS Open-Floor my friend, and you’re certainly as welcome to it as all of our guests here at the Bag. It’s always impossible to get to absolutely everything in a single shot through any one interview…so if there’s anything I’ve left out here that you want the people to know, or anything else you just feel like telling them on the way out the door here, this is your moment bro & have at it hoss! Many, many thanks for your time & answers Jordan – looking forward to hearing much more from ya over the years to come & where you take Kootenay & Co. from here. All the best to ya – keep in touch!
Jordan: Thanks for the Q&A here, it’s appreciated! I enjoyed getting to sit here and get some answers out there for any listeners or followers out there…I enjoyed the Q&A and I look forward to more in the months coming up!
Find out more about Kootenay & Co. from the official pages below!
Official Website: https://jordankootenay.com
Magical Multi-link: https://linktr.ee/kootenayco_
Listen to Kootenay & Co. and the new single “Highway 1A” on the SBS Podcast:
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