Chicago based singer-songwriter Hayley Jordanna, better known simply by her last name Jordanna, is on the brink of releasing her debut sultry and soulful solo EP, Sweet Tooth (say that five times fast...) After moving to Chicago to study Music Business at Columbia College, Jordanna first dipped her toes into the local music scene by fronting the politically-driven rock band Glamour Hotline. Now, she has branched out and dived into completely new sonic territory, focusing on more personal topics in her songwriting. Before Jordanna unleashes this brave and refreshing new material next week and before her massive EP release show (appropriately deemed Candyland), I caught up with her to talk all about her past and present. From her first memories of music to her goals for the year, here are six things you need to know to get acqauinted with Jordanna.
Ballet Got Her into Music at a Young Age
Jordanna says she remembers being invested in music from a very early age, but it wasn't actually playing music that got her started. "I would say my first music memory is actually not me singing, but I grew up as a dancer. I was in a pre-professional ballet company as a child. So my first memory is very movement based. I feel like I was born with the rhythm, and I have all these classic music memories lined up from a very early age," Jordanna recalls. "The reason I started playing music was because I’m like 5 foot 0 and a very curvy woman, which was not acceptable in the ballet world, so it was a very natural transition from moving to music to making the music that other people can move to," she continued.
As far as her first song she wrote, Jordanna says, "My first song I wrote after my great grandmother passed. It’s not even real chords, it’s just like me figuring out how to play guitar with two fingers probably. I was 13 when I wrote that song, and it’s like the most depressing song to touch the earth."
Much Like The Chicago Music Scene, Her Project is Collaborative
It's been a few months since she released her debut single "Lucky For You," but lucky for us (get it??), we won't have to wait long until her debut EP drops. Detailing the recording process behind her EP, Jordanna says it was a very collaborative project. "We recorded at Audiotree, with a producer named Brok Mende. He’s one of their main engineers. I met him because I was on a song with Mykele Deville. I was featured on one of Mykele’s tracks and I recorded with Brok, and I definitely fell in love with his technique for recording. He is very...he will give his opinion. He will tell you if it is not sounding too hot, or if I’m in my head. It’s important for me to work with someone so honest and good at what he does. He’s also just the kindest person. In the music industry it’s hard to find that. In the studio especially."
After finding her engineer soulmate at Audiotree by collaborating with Mykele Deville, Jordanna also found the perfect balance with a backing band. "I work with a backup band on this album, these guys in their own band called 8:33. They play backup for me and they also play for me live" she says. The collaborations don't end there though! "I brought in a girl named Grace Kinter to do some backup vocals. It was very collaborative. Just the most beautiful process. I’m so proud of this music and all the people who worked on it are incredibly talented at what they do, and I feel blessed. And we got this guy Joe Meland on keys. It was crazy...he had never played with us before, he was just a friend of Brok’s. He was like, you should just ask him to come in. He came in and just played perfectly on every single track. We were all just like who is this guy?! He only needed to be in the studio for like 20 minutes. He did the entire album in 20 minutes and walked out," Jordanna added.
She's All About Repping Non-Binary and Female Artists
While on the subject of collaboration, Jordanna reflected more on the community here in Chicago, saying, "It’s the most collaborative city. I don’t even know why...maybe because we’re not New York and LA and we have to help each other. It’s super collaborative and a good place for innovation. I’ve seen a lot of people do things I haven’t seen anywhere else. The collectives and DIY venues...the network is insane." She also shouts out some of her favorite spaces to play, who go out of their way to be an inclusive community. "In addition to how collaborative it is, what impresses me in the DIY scene specifically is the opportunity to create safe and diverse spaces. The Dojo in Pilsen is like the most inclusive space, as well as a place called AMFM Gallery. They’re both in Pilsen. They’re amazing and all run by young artists in Chicago who want to make spaces more collaborative and inclusive as far as race, gender, religion and all of that. I’m blessed to be a part of a scene that is inclusive and creates space for some many different kinds of people because--I think this was a problem in the punk scene, and that it was very white washed," she says.
For Jordanna's release show and party on February 17th, she's done an incredible job on not only booking artists of all artistic mediums, but representing artists of all different backgrounds. You can check out the full line up here, but Jordanna has also prepared a spotlight of everyone involved. Catch a glimpse of those on the official event Instagram, or head to this part of the site. "There’s a lot of fusion happening [in the Chicago scene]. I will definitely be taking part in all of that, like with the show I’m organizing in February. It’s become way larger because I can’t contain my enthusiasm. It is certainly very diverse. We’re pulling musicians, installation artists...I’m trying to get poetry and all sorts of things," Jordanna said about the show, before the lineup had been officially announced. Needless to say, the lineup has held up to her teasers.
Her New Material is Some of Her Most Vulnerable
Jordanna touched more on her transition into a solo artist path, following the success of Glamour Hotline. "Glamour Hotline is no longer. We’re still all best friends so it’s fine. It was a natural transition. That was a very radical, feminist movement part of my life. It was not built to be sustainable for longer than two years. It was a lot of emotional stress to make that kind of music, and performing that music a lot. Now I’ve transitioned into this solo, R&B world that allows me to be vulnerable and still have power but not so aggressive," she explains.
She talks more about the energy and power shift behind the new project, adding, "Glamour Hotline was very easy to hide in like being angry. I was able to be like 'don’t touch me'...'I don’t need anybody'...'I’m strong by myself'... 'don’t talk to me!' All these things...and I mean that’s just not a sustainable way to live. The way I am with my art, it consumes me. It’s everything I am. So it was so unhealthy. I was cutting myself off from people. I was like this is who I am, that’s it. When it ended I was like, Oh shit. Who am I?? It was this period of just being lost and being forced to find myself. It was just facing reality. I was dealing with some weird relationship things. And mental things. I was like well I guess this is what I’m gonna write about now. And it was about heart break and being lonely. Before I would write about being lonely like GOOD. And I needed to finally admit, I can be sad and still be powerful. There can still be strength and power in sadness. And owning it. Just being honest with yourself and other people."
Eventually, Jordanna started playing solo shows when she came to terms with her new realization that she could be vulnerable and powerful. "The first couple months [the shows were] very much performance art. I would use a looper pedal and involve the audience. Asking them to answer questions. That was how Jordanna started. It was performance art and a form of therapy. Very emotional. Then as I started to do that, I started getting stronger and owning that vulnerability and being proud of it. That’s when I started bringing in a full band to back me up. I was like, this is powerful. It moves people," she says.
In being more vulnerable, Jordanna also started writing more sexy songs, she says. "There’s a song called 'Sugar,' which is the opening track on the EP and it’s very like ok, let’s go...what’s good?! It’s just very seductive and I remember the first time I played that live, watching people look into my soul. Like oh my god, they’re seeing everything. But it’s so liberating to be like we all love having sex and going on dates and being cute...So in a way I feel like my evolution of music in Chicago has maintained a political aspect in it. Even though the music I play now is maybe more 'commercial' or more accessible to a larger audience. It’s still putting people in a place where it’s like this queer woman is talking about sex openly and invitingly and I can feel hot too. And abandoning, for the moment while you’re listening to my EP, you can abandon your anger. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be angry. Because especially right now there’s so many reasons to be angry. Like I’m furious, but the moments where I play my music, that’s an opportunity for us to feel empowered. Then take that empowerment and use it for political change afterwards," Jordanna mused.
As far as other powerful artists who influenced this sexy, soulful sound of hers? "Amy Winehouse was a big influence when I was growing up first writing music. A lot of my music is based on her work. Her...classics like Etta James were really important to me. Contemporary R&B artists like D’Angelo are really important. Even like The Internet, SZA, Kali Uchis...all of these people," she says.
She Believes in Investing in Her Work
One thing I immediately noticed when I was first introduced to Jordanna was how together she seemed, despite having only one single out under her solo project. She has this incredible brand already worked out, and that's something that many artists tend to overlook, especially in the early stages. Jordanna credits her education at Columbia College for inspiring her investment in her art. "To be honest, I am one of Columbia’s biggest advocates. I know people hate on it. Cause it’s art school. I majored in music business, and I genuinely feel like I use my degree. I swear I use my degree every single day. It was super important to me as far as registering my music online and all that," she says.
However, one teacher in particular, left a lasting impression...Chances are if you majored in music business at Columbia, you (like Jordanna) had at least one class with Bob DiFazio. "The first class I had with [Bob]---I did a bunch of business courses with him and one that was more technology based. The one thing he said that I literally can picture him saying and writing it down in my laptop--he said 'If you wanna be successful, you have to invest in your art.' Cause that was so against everything I believed at the time. I was like 'DIY! You don’t need it!' But if you really care about your work at the end of the day, you have to invest," Jordanna recalled. "Those words have really driven me. I still think about it when I’m poor as hell and panicking about rent. It’s like oh, maybe cause I’m spending a lot of time working on my music. But it’s worth it. It’s gotten me where I am, and it’s gonna get me where I want to go. So to anyone who reads this who is struggling, it’s all worth it," she continued.
Jordanna has applied this principle to her album release, going all out with Candyland. "Sweet Tooth is the name of the EP, so [the event is] called Candyland. I think part of what has kept my Chicago music career going so far is that you need to act like you have it more together than you really do. Part of that is having an official website. Having a brand. Fake it till you make it!"
Her Idols Also Inspire Her Marketing
In addition to investing in her work, Jordanna said she's also studied her idols in order to strategically market herself. "As far as my visual brand, studying your idols helps," she says. Continuing on, Jordanna adds, "It’s all about the Gram[Instagram]! I actually more so studied--this is dumb--but brands like Supreme, and Vans, and looking at brands that people just follow to look at. At the end of the day, people are just following you to look at you. So following streetwear brands, all of their social media is on point."
Jordanna also gives a nod to some of her favorite local influencers. "Stitch Gawd [who will be a part of Candyland] is this girl who does cross stitch fashion for a lot of hip hop artists. Her Instagram is really good. There’s this guy JoeFreshGoods. He’s a local fashion designer. He’s really good," she says, also adding Jovan Landry, Oliv Blu, and Drea The Vibe Dealer as some of her favorite local musicians and artists. "They’re all amazing people as well. I could list some amazing artists that I love right now. But then you meet them and it’s a bummer. Like just making other people feel inferior... I don’t like that. We’re all trying," Jordanna concludes.