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The Haystack interviews Jordan Putt

In your own words, who is Jordan Putt?

I’m a musician, and I write songs about my personal experiences to help myself process them, and share in the hope that others will be able to benefit from that practice of reflection.

Your socials list you as being originally from Canada, but where are you based now? And do you consider yourself a Canadian artist, or do you feel more rooted in your current location?

I live in Orlando, Florida! Although I spent over half of my life and most of my growing up years in Canada, the longer I spend in the US, the more confused about my identity I feel. I’m a dual citizen, so I’ve always ended up being “the American one” amongst Canadians and “the Canadian one” when I’m in the US. At this point it doesn’t matter too much to me.

Your Spotify bio says that you were born “at an extremely young age.” Can you elaborate on exactly how young you were when you were born, and whether or not you feel you have grown as a person since then?

It depends. If you go by East Asian age reckoning, I would be born at the age of one, since they use ordinal numerals, but if you go by Western age reckoning, it would be the age of zero. Either way, it’s an extremely young age. Thankfully, I have developed many “adult characteristics and traits”, which has been extremely helpful in getting a job, using fine motor skills, and myriad other wonderful things.

Your Bandcamp releases tell a more in-depth story of your development as an artist than other platforms. You especially have shown an affinity for old hymns. Can you talk a bit about what draws you to songs like Give Me Jesus, Come Thou Fount, How Firm A Foundation, and so on?

I was raised in a fairly traditional church, and we sang our fair share of hymns. As a pastor’s kid, I moved around to a few different churches, and was exposed to different cultures and worship styles. I attended Weimar Institute from 2010-2014, which—for those who don’t already know—is one of the more theologically conservative self-supporting Adventist institutions. I think that’s where I fell in love with hymnody. One thing that I will always look back fondly on is being in a room of 50-100 of my peers, every single one of them singing enthusiastically. I think what makes old hymns so special to me is that the good ones have such a depth of meaning, words that you can continually draw life and encouragement from. I don’t mean this to the exclusion of contemporary music, but there is something that resonates with my heart within the poetry and theology of hymns that have stood the test of time.

Honest To God came out in 2018 and seems to have been pretty well received. Can you tell us about any potential plans to release new music?

I have a bunch of songs that I’m working on, all in varying stages of completion—but none of them are done. Between graduating from university, starting a job, and getting my feet under me, I haven’t had as much time as I once did to work on music, but rest assured I don’t plan to stop.

Let’s talk about the track Opening. It’s the shortest track on the album, but also seems to be the most lyrically elusive. God figures pretty clearly and prominently in the words of the other songs, but on this track, you manage to paint quite a word-picture with only a few short lines. What inspired your writing on this one?

Most of the best lyrics on Honest to God came to me while I was doing some kind of manual labor. I think I was mowing grass for Southern [Adventist University]’s landscaping department when I wrote that one. It was going to be part of something larger that ended up getting scrapped, but that one short stanza stayed with me. I think it encapsulates the themes of doubt, isolation, and feeling haunted by personal demons or sins that I deal with on the rest of the EP; but ultimately, the knowledge (even without the sensation) of the presence of God through those low points.

There is a yearning, aching emotion present throughout Honest To God. It feels deeply personal. Can you talk about the relationship of your personal spirituality to your songwriting?

Honest to God came out of a period of searching for answers. I was dealing with, and still deal with feelings of inadequacy, of distance from God, of being unsure where exactly I stand in relation to God, religion, and the world around me. The songs in Honest to God were born out of my attempts to process those feelings and make sense of them. They helped me understand that it’s okay to acknowledge that the Christian walk is difficult at times, that God understands those feelings and continues to draw me in grace and love toward a deeper relationship and understanding of Him.

Your songs give voice to brokenness, pain, and particularly to the unique struggles of Christian discipleship. Do you have anything to say about the relationship between Christian spirituality and mental health?

I think many of us have been [consciously or unconsciously] led to believe that if we’re not actively experiencing joy, or if we don’t always feel the “peace that passes all understanding”, there’s something wrong with us. It makes us feel like we don’t belong or that we’re missing something that everyone around us seems to have. We’re culturally conditioned to put on a face that doesn’t always reflect what is really going on in our lives. What we end up with is a group of people who are all so focused on looking spiritually healthy to each other that they’re unable to see that each person is struggling in their own unique way. As we are vulnerable with ourselves and with each other, we are able to truly fulfill the function of the church as a community of believers and the Body of Christ as we come alongside each other, encouraging and lifting each other up.

For the genre you’re creating in, there’s a bit of a deceptive “lo-fi” aesthetic. What I mean is, on a technical level your production quality sounds really good. What was the production process like for this record? How was the production work split between you and David Siahaan? Any favourite moments from the recording process?

Honest to God was, with the exception of the guitars on “Praise Interlude” (those were recorded on my iPad when I was in Korea in 2015), entirely recorded in David Siahaan’s room in Talge Hall at Southern Adventist University. The setup was pretty minimal, basically a couple MXL and Audio-Technica mics into a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, recording into Logic Pro X. We didn’t do much in the way of sound isolation, so we just tried to mic as close as we could. All of the keyboard instruments were VSTs. David and I spent hours looking for free VSTs and plugins to make it sound as natural as possible. David made multiple emails to extend the free trial on the GoodHertz plugin bundle!

As far as David is concerned, Honest to God couldn’t have happened the way it did without him. He really took on the project and took ownership of it just as much as I did, and that was such a motivating thing for me. I feel like he did most of the heavy lifting in the recording and production process, I brought the songs and he made the magic happen. Between the hours of mixing, guiding the string arrangements, singing background vocals (and writing his own vocal parts), his fingerprints are all over the album, and I owe so much to him as a friend and as a collaborator. Not to mention all the creative and design work that he did, creating all the promo videos, the ALBUM COVER, and working on organizing and planning the release party and show. I could write a whole essay on everything he did. He’s a gem.

I think one of my favorite moments from the recording process was when we realized that we wanted to transition seamlessly from “Broken” into “For Me”. When we listened to it back for the first time and heard the transition from electric to acoustic guitar, and the little instrumental interlude that bridges the two songs, we got so unbelievably hype. That was one of many little moments that we knew we were creating something special. Honorable mention: recording the piano for “Benediction”, I played the first take and we basically said “well, that was really good, but let’s do a couple other takes to polish it up a bit.” but no matter how many more takes we did, nothing really captured the magic of the first one, and that’s the one you hear on the record.

You performed alongside Aren Bruce. Any other artists or musicians that you’ve shared the stage (or recording studio) with who you think people should know about?

Is this just about Adventist musicians? I have an internet friend named Noah Gray who makes music under the name Kerning. He has an absolutely wonderful album called Blue Springs, I’d highly recommend checking it out.

I also couldn’t talk about other musicians in my life that inspire me without talking about Ben Mixon, who you can find on streaming services under Spacesuit or benjamin k mixon. I love all his music but especially his 2017 project “Pop Tape”. It’s great bedroom pop that deals with God, family, relationships, partying, and finding oneself in the world.

People don’t necessarily always speak about folk music as a modern or current genre, and yet it seems that this genre continues to persist and evolve. What about the genre speaks to you? And can you talk a bit about what kind of impact you think folk music can potentially have within Adventism?

This could probably be joked about, but in all seriousness, I think folk music’s greatest quality has always been its accessibility. It’s music that is primarily designed to carry a story or message, and the musical packaging that message comes in is usually simple and easy to digest. It also has appeal across lines of division around music style or worship style.

As far as what draws me to it, I have been a fan of 60s folk revival acts like Simon and Garfunkel, CSNY, Peter, Paul and Mary, and their contemporaries since I was a child. In my teen years I was introduced to indie folk acts like Sufjan Stevens, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver who all had a great influence on me as an artist. The Christian artists that I have been most drawn to over my entire life have been folk-leaning singer-songwriters like Andrew Peterson, Rich Mullins, Andy Gullahorn and others, who don’t shy away from tackling the whole gamut of human emotion as it relates to spirituality in their songs.

What’s one thing you would like to say to anyone reading this?

I often feel as though I have nothing of value to say. The process of making and sharing this album taught me that was not true. Use your voice, create, share, don’t be afraid to speak up or be vulnerable because you think you’re alone. You will find community, you will find others who resonate with your thoughts and experiences and value them. Don’t be afraid to take your doubts, fears, and questions to God. He can handle them. Don’t give up.

More about Jordan Putt:

Hometown: Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

Current residence: Orlando, Florida, USA

Genre: Folk

Artist Links:

BandcampInstagramFacebook Spotify


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