Tacoma musician Will Jordan said making his new EP, Be Good, which releases Monday, Oct. 13, was like going from “living on a diet of fast food [to] having soul food for the first time in a long time.”
At a time when the country is hurting in myriad ways, Jordan’s EP offers a respite: it’s a collection of music that both soothes and engages. The EP is a joint project between Jordan and producer Eric “E” Jones, with every song written by Jordan and produced by Jones.
While Jordan has found notable success as a sought-after songwriter — one of his most popular co-writing credits is on Nicki Minaj’s “Fly” — he’s found his calling as an independent artist, self-releasing his music.
Music has always been a part of Jordan’s life. He grew up in a music-loving household, and frequently performed at his church in Hilltop as he came of age.
“I don’t even really remember where it began,” he said. “I kinda can’t remember not being a musician or not making music.”
Even though music came naturally to him, Jordan noted that his development and confidence as a singer was something that required more work to refine. He recalled spending hours working in the studio honing his technique, and taking cues from a vocal coach he found on YouTube.
“I think an important part of my story, and the thing I always want people to know, especially artists I’m working with, is that I wasn’t a natural-born singer,” he said. “I didn’t grow up a gifted vocalist by any means. I struggled a lot for years. It wasn’t until my maybe mid-20s for me to even accept myself or even consider myself a singer.”
Jordan’s work ethic is subtly alluded to in the music video for “Back to Me,” which premiered late last month. In one memorable scene, he’s riding in an elevator, carefully practicing a melody to get it right.
Working on a project for himself — meaning one on which he isn’t writing to speak to a different artist’s feelings — has felt amazing, Jordan said.
Jones first approached Jordan with the music heard on Be Good during a difficult time in Jordan’s life: he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next. But when listening to Jones’ offerings, he felt alleviated — a feeling he aimed to evoke lyrically.
For this project, Jordan focused on what he wanted to say; he didn’t worry about critiques or commercial potential. The objective was to give listeners a peek into his soul by writing candidly about his personal experiences.
“It made me feel safe, being vulnerable and being transparent with the lyrics and talking about my life,” Jordan said. “And I hoped that maybe when people listen to that, it would help them to let their guards down as well and to open up and to feel like they can relate to someone else or that someone else was going through something that they may be going through or experiencing.”
While COVID-19 has affected Jordan’s ability to perform live and collaborate with other artists, police brutality inflicted on Black Americans has weighed especially heavily on his heart and taken up space in his mind this year. The death of Manuel Ellis in Tacoma at the beginning of the year, which has been ruled a homicide, particularly affected Jordan.
“It was a reminder that like, no matter what kind of success I think I’ve found, or no matter how far I feel like I’ve gotten with my career and how safe I feel, anything could happen any day,” Jordan said.
Ellis and Jordan were around the same age, and, like Jordan, Ellis was a drummer in his church. Jordan said hearing Ellis’ story was difficult for him.
“And it was frustrating, and it was scary, because it’s like, no matter what, no matter how hard you work to improve yourself or to be the best version of yourself, everything can be taken away from you,” Jordan said.
In the wake of recent protests and people’s demand for justice, as spurred by the police killings of Ellis and other Black Americans, Jordan said he hopes using his platform to share his stories is a positive contribution, and that this EP will “soothe those in Tacoma and beyond.”
Be Good comes out Monday, Oct. 13. Jordan will be performing live that day to a select few at Salamone’s Pizza. If you didn’t snag a spot to see him in person, you can still see the show via a live-stream on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitch.
Once released, the EP will be available on streaming services.