From Caledonia to the home of country music. Jordan Harvey is set to embark on his next chapter by releasing his debut EP, It Is What It Is.
As part of King Calaway, Jordan performed on national TV across America and even opened for one Mr Garth Brooks. Now, it's time for the Scot to step into the spotlight as a solo artist...and that spotlight is already so bright
Jordan took some time to chat to us about his journey from Scotland to the States and the making of the EP.
Hi Jordan! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. You're chatting with us from the UK right now but you're otherwise based over in the States, in Nashville. You made that move a few years ago now and it's a big move. What made you decide to go for it? It's a massive jump, right?
Massive jump. I'd done London for a while [but] it wasn't the scene for me. I always loved country music and had such a heart for it. I had between a thousand and two thousand pounds in my bank account and thought 'I'm doing it, I'm gonna jump on a plane and see what it's like'. That's what I did. As soon as I touched down in Nashville, I knew this was where I was meant to be and where I wanted to be. After eating a thousand tins of beans and sleeping on sofas for months and months and months, I got my first job playing drums on Broadway. After that it started to snowball.
I was relentless. I still am relentless. I met people, I went to concerts. Network, network, network. There'd be times when I'd have forty dollars in my bank account and I'd need to get this person out for lunch. I'd take them out and the bill would be thirty-four dollars but I'd pay for it because that's how much I wanted it. I want this so bad [that] I'd put everything into this and not stop until it works for me.
You're only a little bit older than me and we're both from Scotland. I'm curious to know how you got into the genre. I know for myself, at that time, country was still on the downlow so to speak, still growing and still relatively hard to find. What was your first taste of country music?
My dad was a mechanic at my grandad's garage. On Saturday mornings, my brother and I would go along and my dad would spin Johnny Cash records on a vinyl player in the corner of that garage. I fell in love with Johnny Cash from a super young age. My mum would sing Kenny Rogers songs to put me to sleep at night. I don't think I knew what they were at the time, as I was four or five. I kept loving Cash and thought there had to be more than just Johnny Cash in country music. I'd go to a record store and [this] guy would have a cool hat and it was a George Strait record!
I'm also a huge Scottish and Irish folk music fan, too. I love The Pogues. I love Shane MacGowan and Dougie MacLean...I love music that has a rich story to it. There's no better music in the world than country and folk to tell great stories.
I knew I wanted to live somewhere like America, I'd always dreamt of America. I knew that country music was the place for me. I remember I was sat with my dad one night on the sofa. I said 'there's a massive gap in the market for someone from Scotland in country music, there's no-one that's ever done it...I'm gonna do it'. That was twenty years ago, and we're just getting started!
Speaking of starts, what was your starting point in regards to performing? You're a multi-instrumentalist as well as a singer-songwriter - you play piano, drums and guitar! How did you get started?
Drums was my first, that was the first [instrument] I started on. It wasn't until I got a call, I had just graduated university and I wasn't sure what to do with myself. I had been playing at the Edinburgh Festival, on The Famous Grouse stage on George Street. I was doing like ten gigs a week there. Someone from the BBC saw me. My friend called me to say the BBC were holding auditions and they'd seen me in town and wanted to meet me. That was how I started on Let It Shine on BBC. I got right through to the final, which was amazing. They'd kinda branded me 'the country guy' which was great. After that, I was like 'I have the credentials in terms of exposure to build a good case to get a visa for America...now is the time to do it'.
I'm very fortunate. I grew up working class. The fee for me to get my first visa was five thousand. I didn't have any money, my parents didn't have the money to give it to me but they did. They found it, somehow, and they gave it to me which I will forever be grateful for. If it wasn't for them, and the people who took a chance on me in Nashville, there's absolutely no chance I'd be here.
You move to Nashville and you cut your teeth playing the graveyard shifts at honky-tonks. You also, of course, join King Calaway. How valuable were those times in regards to you being here now as a solo artist on the cusp of releasing your debut EP?
I love the King Calaway guys and everyone to do with that. It was such an amazing time in my life, and if it wasn't for that time then I wouldn't be here - I wholeheartedly believe that. My time on Broadway trained me to be in a band and a band setting dynamic. I'm so grateful for both those opportunities.
The stuff that I did on Broadway was some of the best nights of my life. Drinking Tequila shots at one in the morning after playing for three hours and people having an absolute riot of a time in Nashville, that was so much fun. I loved it, and I love how much more I learned about country music.
People give you requests. They'd put twenty dollars in your bucket and request a song. One night, my friend turned around to me and goes 'let's play a bit of David Allan Coe'. I was like 'sorry, who?' My mate comes up to me and goes *imitates drumbeat*. I start playing this beat, the songs starts and it sounds absolutely class! Right after that, I went and binged David Allan Coe for a bunch of weeks! I was exposed to so many artists that I'd never heard of before because, like you said, we don't get a lot of country music in the UK, especially not a lot of the older stuff unless it's Cash or Hank Williams or Alan Jackson. We don't really get the legends of America. David Allan Coe is massive in America and I never knew that, he wasn't globally massive. I'm very grateful for the time on Broadway. It taught me about how to write and play a great country song.
Arguably your debut track 'Alabama Girl', which features on your EP, is indeed a great country song. It went viral on TikTok! What was your reaction to that?
'Why is my face all over the internet?' *laughs* The weirdest thing is that I walked into Starbucks the next day, ordered a black coffee and [the barista] gave it to me and said 'it's on me, I saw you on TikTok last night'. What the...? It was the weirdest thing! Could you not have given me that coffee when I was eating tins of beans!
[Going viral] was very strange but I was very grateful. It opened up a lot of doors for me, and that was a very lovely experience.
And one of those doors that's opened is, of course, your debut EP - It Is What It Is.
I know! It's crazy and I'm excited. A lot of artists try and play it cool but I had the time of my life making this record. I poured my heart and soul into it. The producers on it, they're my best friends and we're all up-and-coming together.
My best friend is a guy called Tom Jordan who is in Seaforth. He produced one of the tracks for me, and he's one of the most talented people - he could, should and will be one of the biggest producers in Nashville one day. He's just got this thing about him that no-one else [has]. His ear is phenomenal and everyone is starting to hear that in Nashville now and I'm so excited for him.
Kevin Bard, who is a dear, dear friend of mine, has never produced a record with anyone, outside of demos. He's got three on this with me. It was just me and my best mates making this record. There's just so much love put into it.
What was the creative process for the EP like? Working with friends must've made the project, and the end result, all that more special...
There's a bunch of producers in Nashville that are very well-known. I said to myself, I'm a very young upcoming artist, brand new. Producers work on a lot of records - they might be working on my record and also [say] Thomas Rhett's record and Sam Hunt's record...realistically, who is going to get the most time put on their record? Most likely Thomas Rhett and Sam Hunt. That's not to say this person won't do a great job, but I wanted someone who would be living and breathing this record.
When you make music with your mates, they don't give you everything that you want - it's almost the opposite. When you work with someone that you don't really know that well and say 'can you put bagpipes on this track' they're probably going to be like 'that's amazing, let's get a set of bagpipes!' When you say it to your best mate and he goes 'absolutely no chance', you're like...maybe you're right. It was great to do it with my mates because they kept me on the straight and narrow. They wanted [each] song to be the best it could be as much as I wanted it.
I had my mate from LA, Kev, who produced a few songs, call me at three in the morning [about the songs]. That's what I wanted. I wanted [people] who are ready to go with me to the end on this record, and care as much as I did. When we got the mixes back, we'd be jumping about the room like 'it's amazing'. We were like kids in a candy store making this record.
It Is What It Is is out 20th January.
For more on Jordan Harvey, visit his website.