Dive into the world of multi-instrumentalist, songwriter & producer, Jordan Rakei.
Having withheld distinguished creative qualities since his childhood, Jordan Rakei was destined to soar beyond the cosmos throughout his evolution. Mastering an array of instruments from piano to guitar, developing into an eclectic musician, or a jack of all trades, his growth would cease to amaze none. Originally from New Zealand, Jordan would then move to Brisbane, Australia at the age of 3 years old. From there, he was always heavily influenced by the music his parents would introduce to him early on in his formative years as a child. At the age of 21, Jordan began to take things serious and considered music to be his career as he continued to dedicate all of his interests and attention to beat-making and songwriting. In 2013, he released his first EP via BandCamp titled “Franklin’s Room”. Less than a year later, Jordan released his second EP “Groove Curse” via the Soul Has No Tempo label.
At this point, Jordan was generating a notable buzz for himself and becoming somewhat of an established sound on the internet. Unexpectedly for him, a groundbreaking & futuristic creative collective designed for musicians, DJs and tastemakers worldwide by the name of Soulection would then discover his music. The collective shared his content through their respective networks and platform on SoundCloud back in 2014. If you can recall those times, it was in the midst of an emerging streaming era, and most importantly the debut of the “repost” feature on Soundcloud. This helped Jordan acquire millions of streams which then transferred into gaining fans from all over the world. Jordan proved that risk was something he wasn’t afraid of, taking his talents halfway across the globe to London, where he now resides. Moving forward and not looking back, Jordan aligned with other talented acts like Tom Misch & FKJ [French Kiwi Juice], creating timeless sounds and influence throughout the sonic realms globally. Since those times, Jordan has taken flight, into the stars, seeing every corner of the planet and selling out shows across Europe, in the U.S., even reaching as far as eastern Asia. Luckily for you guys, I was able to catch up with him for an exclusive interview via international phone call, right before he takes off globe trotting once again. Here we discuss his evolution as a musician, his individualistic nature, and take an in-depth examination of his brand new album, ORIGIN.
Paint me a vivid landscape of what your childhood was like. What was it like moving from New Zealand to Brisbane to London? What feelings were you experiencing at the time of such a heavy transition?
Music has always played a great role in my life. My parents exposed me to so much musically, constantly playing music in the house. For example: when they were cooking and that sort of thing. My two brothers and I were given a piano from our neighbor when we were about 5 years old. We all sort of just bashed away at it, didn’t take any professional lessons or anything so seeing that this was the case, I was self taught much early on. As my brothers eventually lost interest in piano, I kept playing for some reason. My dad then introduced us to guitar so my brothers and I picked that instrument up at the same time, yet again. I kept playing while my brothers lost interest. This said something in itself as I thought, “maybe this means something, maybe I enjoy this more than most people”. At the age of 11, I started writing my own music and making beats on an MPC, which is kind of where I began to take interest in old school hip-hop producers and their influences. From 11 to 18, I would sing the choruses on my friends’ rap songs and from there, they would tell me “Jordan, your voice is great, the beats are great, why don’t you start writing your own full songs?” which brought me to another growing point. The first six songs I wrote happened to be the first EP “Franklin’s Room” that I released back in 2013. Being self managed at the time, I was still figuring out how it all worked. About 4 or 5 years ago, I started uploading on SoundCloud, where I was then discovered by Soulection. My music was shared on their platform and that’s where the exponential growth starting kicking in since the 2011 era was at its peak during this stage. Going from what only seemed like the people in my neighborhood knowing my music to now having fans worldwide from the U.S. to Europe, I thought to myself, “there’s people around the world that like my music, maybe I should consider relocating..”. I released my next EP “Groove Curse” which held songs like “Add the Baseline” & “Alright” and that’s when I made the move. I was constantly going over in my head “what can I do to challenge myself further?”. I had such a strong urge to continue pushing myself and I felt like I was getting too comfortable in Brisbane. I was going to either move to Berlin, LA or Melbourne but I chose London because it gravitates more toward my sound. There were massive talks about my music there in London because of Soulection & others like Tom Misch and FKJ [French Kiwi Juice] also, all of whom introduced me to that realm. I just knew in my mind that I had to be there, I had to be alongside those people. Every week in the first year, I was trying to meet as many people as I could. 4 1/2 years later, I found my circle and I’m not looking back. I think this is the place I will be for a long time, at least for the next 10 years.
Your brand new album “ORIGIN” is emotionally forward. What in your life inspired the theme of the album?
It’s really a mixture of my fascination with how technology is having an impact on the current world and my projections & visions of how it can affect the futuristic world. It’s sort of like method acting, which I find very interesting. I put myself in a world that doesn’t exist and I tried to conjure up lyrics based on that futuristic place. The other part of it refers to my temptations and struggles with my own devices such as my phone or laptop & how easy it can be to get carried away. For example: social media applications that give you an unrealistic idea of who “likes” you, which as we all know releases dopamine into the brain. Before you know it, you have someone with a boosted ego. I have always been aware of that so that’s why I made this idea the main concept surrounding the album. I also feel that as technology grows exponentially and essentially becomes stronger, it’ll become more enticing. Then, we should be asking ourselves, “can we control our urges and temptations or are we going to choose to fall victim & become more of a slave?” I’ve made adjustments in my own life as far as the amount of intake. It’s really given me a freer headspace. I know it could work with the masses as well but I guess it’s just something that has to keep being talked about.
What are some of your most memorable experiences since you began your music career?
Wow. The first thing that comes to mind I would have to say: my first ever show in Los Angeles. I was touring all over the world at the time and I was consistently getting loads of messages from my American fans, asking when I would be coming to the U.S. I ended up finally coming and it was like a reunion. This was during the debut of my 2nd album, “Cloak”, plus, the “Groove Curse” EP was another one that they hadn’t seen live yet so it was only right to play really long sets. I performed songs from all of my projects so it was like a huge party. My band always talks about how it was one of the most special, most intimate shows. Everyone knew the lyrics of every song. The energy was insane. Another memorable experience I’ve had in my career is getting the chance to meet people like Quincy Jones, Terrace Martin, and Robert Glasper. These are like my idols, & here they are speaking to me like peers. It gets surreal. I’ve only been doing music professionally now for like 5 years or so. Sometimes, it’s a bit strange knowing that all of these people love & respect my music although I still feel like I have a lot to learn. It’s very humbling when you’re traveling to different territories and hearing everyone sing your lyrics back to you. For example: when I was in South Korea, everyone was singing the lyrics during my whole show. It just blows my mind.
From first discovering you back in 2014 via your “Groove Curse” album, how would you say you’ve developed since then? What elements in your work would you say you’ve maybe done away with, kept or added?
At that stage in my life, I was really only listening to D’Angelo, Dwele along with some early Tribe Called Quest. I wanted to create a loop-based, soulful solo project meshed with a sort of hip-hop element. That’s when “Groove Curse” came out which in turn happened to be my burst into the world. People from all over the globe began to hear my music. As my sound progressed over the years, I always liked to experiment with each album. My first album “Cloak” has a lot of live instrumentation where I also explored many different songwriting techniques. My second album “Wallflower” had more of a darker theme to it, very simple chord progressions, not crazy with the hip-hop beats. The vibe was more melancholy. My latest album “ORIGIN” is more of a collection of every sound I’ve ever studied. It’s a mixture of soul, hip-hop, & electronic sounds which I think defines me the most as an artist. I’m not specific to one genre. I stand across maybe 4 different types. I’m always up for change though. Me as a listener, I love listening to artists that know how to switch it up. You never feel like you’re listening to the same thing. People have asked me “why don’t you make another “Groove Curse” album since that’s the sound we want?” but I don’t know if they actually do want that. I feel like if I tried to release the same exact project, it wouldn’t live up to the “Groove Curse” that they originally heard in that same vibe which then leaves them with a B version of the album. I like to keep my listeners on their toes by switching up my sound.
What are the 3 most important things to you in your life right now, outside of music?
My first one I would have to say is trying to get enough rest as I can. The second one would be my wife. The third one would be my new dog. She’s a golden retriever. When I’m not touring or writing, I’m trying to spend as much time on these things as possible. For example: in the middle of touring, I could leave on a Thursday and get back on a Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday, I will try and write 3 songs so I never fall behind. I would hate to be in a space where 6 months down the line, I have no new content to work on. I always try to do this, even in the middle of a touring period. I also keep in mind that it is okay to rest & take a bit of a break. You can perform & write better when you’re in a clearer headspace. Taking the time to care for yourself is extremely important.
Who are some of your role models & what aspects of their characters do you most admire?
I love poet/rapper Saul Williams because he’s always pushing his own sound. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks and I think that’s a very courageous characteristic of his. I love Q-Tip from Tribe Called Quest because to me, he’s a triple threat. He’s what I aspire to be one day in a sense of I can be a producer for other musicians, I can feature on songs, I can come in and make a beat for someone, I can oversee as a tastemaker in terms of executive producing. He’s got a really great vision, and the way he articulates those aspects is what I really admire. A 3-spear headed machine is how I view him. He can truly do it all. I’m always following Saul and Q-Tip. If there’s an article or an interview involving these two people, I’m right there reading the entire thing to see what I can learn.
What 6 songs currently reside on your radar?
1. GODTET – Alice: Melbourne has a lot of great music coming out of their music scene. They specifically have this experimental sound. It sounds like they’re blending African rhythmic percussions mixed with modern jazz and psychedelic rock. It’s a strange collection of sounds. It’s inspiring because my music is a bit more straight down the line. I’m always listening to music like this because it allows me to pull some inspiration which helps me grow my own sound.
2. OSO Leone – Virtual U: This band is from Spain. The lead singer has such a beautiful voice. It’s also on the soulful tip as well with a slightly experimental electronic acoustic vibe. Whenever I leave the house and trying to find music to listen to in the car or what have you, I’m always coming right back to this album, or track and just letting my mood deter from there. It’s a really nice listen.
3. Bon Iver – Hey Ma: It’s a super emotional song. I feel like sometimes I can go on a tangent & listen to experimental jazz or electronic music but this song basically brings me back to more simplicity. I appreciate the lyricism and the strong, yet basic chord changes that evoke these particular childhood memories. It’s a song about him growing up and I can definitely relate to a lot of it.
4. Jai Paul – Do You Love Her Now: I think he’s got an album dropping soon. It’s interesting because he released music years ago and then took a hiatus, not releasing any music for a while. This is his first official release and it’s pretty trippy to hear all the elements he’s incorporated–Prince with a bit of D’Angelo. It’s a soulful, psychedelic track with an 80s vibe.
5. Flying Lotus feat. Anderson .Paak – More: I love this tune. The beat is crazy. I feel like anything Anderson .Paak is on at the moment, he’s absolutely killing. Good summery vibes.
6. Joni Mitchell – Edith & The Kingpin: This album is just super offbeat and weird to me. Very jazzy & groove based. Jaco Pastorius and Herbie Hancock also play on the album. It’s an amazing collection of jazz artists paired with her folk style. She’s got this very interesting approach to songwriting. It’s a fascinating blend of worlds.
Jordan Rakei’s album ORIGIN released at the top of summer, June 14th. Consisting of 11 songs, the album is filled with vivid imagery pertaining to Jordan’s vision along with an array of sounds and textures. Following the release, Jordan has already done a series of shows in support of the album and will continue on his expedition on August 17th in Brisbane, Australia. See below for updated tour dates.
Aug 19: Melbourne, Australia – Melbourne Recital Centre
Aug 21: Sydney, NSW, Australia – Metro Theatre
Aug 23: Auckland, New Zealand – Powerstation
Aug 24: Wellington, New Zealand – San Fran
Aug 27: Bangkok, Thailand – De Commune
Aug 28: Singapore, Singapore – Kilo Lounge
Aug 29: Taipei, Taiwan – The Wall Live House Gong-Guan
Aug 31: Hong Kong, China – TTN Livehouse
Sep 01: Manila, Philippines – ABS-CBN Vertis Tent
Sep 03: Tokyo, Japan – Cotton Club
Sep 04: Tokyo, Japan – Cotton Club
Sep 05: Tokyo, Japan – Cotton Club
Sep 25: Stockholm, Sweden – Nalen Stora Salen
Sep 26: Copenhagen, Denmark – Byhaven, Pumpehuset
Sep 28: Hamburg, Germany – Mojo Club
Sep 29: Berlin, Germany – Columbia Theater
Oct 01: Cologne, Germany – Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld (CBE)
Oct 03: Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso *Sold Out
Oct 04:Paris, France – La Maroquinerie
Oct 05: Brussels, Belgium – Ancienne Belgique (AB)
Oct 08: Dublin, Ireland – The Academy
Oct 10: Birmingham, UK – The Mill
Oct 11: Manchester, UK – Manchester Academy 2
Oct 12: Leeds, UK – Leeds University Union
Oct 15: Bristol, UK – SWX
Oct 16: Brighton, UK – Concorde 2
Oct 18: London, UK – Roundhouse
Oct 24: Seattle, WA – Neumos
Oct 25: Vancouver, QC – Biltmore Cabaret
Oct 28: San Francisco, CA – August Hall
Oct 29: Los Angeles, CA – The Regent Theater
Nov 03: Chicago, IL – The Bottom Lounge
Nov 04: Detroit, MI – El Club
Nov 06: Toronto, ON – The Opera House
Nov 08: Montreal, QC – Le Belmont
Nov 09: Washington, DC – Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
Nov 10: New York, NY – The Bowery Ballroom
Nov 12: Philadelphia, PA – The Foundry at the Fillmore
Nov 13: Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
Nov 14: Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
Press play on Jordan Rakei’s ORIGIN below: