With the release of Silent Empire Part One firmly under their belts, City of Sound’s frontman Jordan Wright sat down with us to talk about the road ahead.
Towards the end of 2018, Loud Hailer had the honor of premiering the music video for City of Sound‘s “Odyssey.” The band released each song from Silent Empire, one song at a time, and are currently working on part two of the three-part album. This fully independent indie rock outfit do everything themselves, from writing/producing, to recording and marketing. They have already established a strong and growing fanbase and we’re excited to see what is in store for them.
Jordan Wright took time out of the studio to catch up with us, and let us in on what City of Sound are up to right now and what they have planned.
LH: So you’re in the studio today, right?
Jordan: Yeah, we’re in studio today. My production partner and I, he’s actually the guitarist, we produce for other artists and stuff too. So we’re kind of on those projects right now.
LH: Oh, I didn’t know you did that actually. That’s interesting. That probably helps you with the band itself, just getting the experience of producing other artists must be really great, opening your mind up to different things.
Jordan: Oh yeah. I mean, and when I first came out here too, I mean I was songwriting for other artists anyways. That’s kind of how I was getting by. So even like songwriting and stuff, you kind of get to see like every side of the world, right? You kind of get dumped into every genre of music. So, it definitely puts into perspective, you know, how and what you’re going to create.
LH: I read in one of the interviews that you did, someone asked you, “How did you get into music?” And I think you got an injury, right? And then thought maybe you would go into the military or you were going to fight and that sort of put an end to that. And you sat down at the piano one day…….
Jordan: Yeah, basically I broke my shoulder. You know, I had a bunch of things. I had two failed surgeries on it that didn’t work. My shoulder still barely works, my right shoulder. I can’t lift my arm above my head, like stuff like that. But it is what it is right? So it’s all part of the game. And so it was while I was injured, you know, I was in a sling for like six months and I was just at home and I had nothing to do. And we had this really crappy out of tune piano just sitting in our house, you know, it was all beat up like missing keys and stuff. And so I just sort of sat down and started playing piano. And then I just kept kind of going with it.
LH: And were you from a musical family? I mean there’s a piano in the house, but were your family musical or are you the first one? Did you grow up around music?
Jordan: No. My mom’s like an amazing musician and singer, but I never like… it never like appealed to me at all. It was something I grew up with, but I was never really interested until I got hurt and I was kind of forced to sit there.
LH: Yeah, no option.
Jordan: Yeah. I had no other way out.
LH: Growing up, I always loved music and growing up my grandad was a bass player. He was in the Royal Marines, so he started out playing brass bass.
LH: But then he was a session bass player and he actually played with Tom Jones once when he came to town in England.
Jordan: Dude. That is awesome.
LH: Yeah it was. And we saw Tom Jones here at the Chicago House of Blues. And it was really weird night for me because I was stood watching him and I’m like, “Wow, I wish I could have told my granddad back in the day, you know, that I’d be stood watching this guy while living in Chicago.”
Jordan: That’s amazing.
Jordan: Yeah. And you know, Chicago House of Blues is like one of my favorite venues in the world.
LH: Yeah. I saw that, that was one of the ones that you said that would be one the places you would love to play.
Jordan: Yeah, I absolutely… I’ve seen so many bands at Chicago House of Blues. I’ve seen Chevelle, gosh, I’ve seen Alter Bridge. I’ve seen so many different … I think I saw Bullet For My Valentine there.
LH: Oh really?
Jordan: Yeah. I love Chicago’s House of Blues. That whole saddle behind the honeycomb, that’s like a love of mine.
LH: I agree. I think that the Music Hall is one of the best live rooms in Chicago. I think that along with Park West. Park West is one of my favorites as well.
Jordan: Yes. Yes. Dude, absolutely. Yeah, I’m all in! You got me!
LH: I talk to a lot of musicians and tons of people speak about that kind of light bulb moment in terms of a record that they heard, or something that really just lit them up. What was it for you? Did you have one of those?
Jordan: You know, it’s weird. I was asked like somewhat of a similar question like this, but it was like what album? I don’t know. What album defined me falling in love with music or something. And I didn’t have an answer. And I know that’s such a crappy answer.
LH: No, it’s not.
Jordan: But every interview I hear, everybody’s got like some like epic moment where like they’re listening to this one track on the album. And then it was just like, from here on out, this is what I’m doing. And like I just didn’t have it. You know, my whole … I think kind of my whole influence, and I think you hear a little piece of it, like in anything we do do with City of Sound is like … You know, when I first fell in love with music, I was listening to heavy metal, and then I was listening to oldies like Motown. And I love Motown. So, I had a really, I guess, wide range of what I really loved even when I was growing up. And all those things like movie scores, Motown, like heavy metal, like those really, really, really, really influenced me, for sure.
LH: Yeah. And I think it’s interesting that you say you like movie scores and things like that. I really like your sound and I was trying to think how I would describe it to somebody. And anthemic was the word that I came up with.
Jordan: I love that though. That’s great.
LH: It’s like when I listen to the album, it is like an arena rock album -which I know is what you guys were going for. I can imagine you guys playing these songs to like a huge audience in an arena because that’s the kind of feel that it gives me. It actually reminds me a lot of Thirty Seconds To Mars, it’s the same kind of sound.
Jordan: That makes me so happy. You’re like, you’re filling my ego up for the studio session we’re about to go into.
LH: Ha ha! Before I interview someone, I always try to think of how I would personally describe that sound. And that that was the best I could come up with.
Jordan: And dude, that … For real, that means a lot to me to ’cause that was literally the goal.
LH: Oh, excellent.
Jordan: When I first came out to LA to be like, “I’m going to do this for real. Let’s start this band. Blah, blah, blah.”
Jordan: Our only rule in the studio is if it doesn’t punch you in the face, then we don’t put it on the song. That’s literally our rule. So, we have it up on the wall in our studio.
LH: One thing I was interested in talking to you about, and I’ve talked to like a lot of different musicians, older guys and younger people, and I’m always interested to talk about the way the music industry is changing and people’s reactions to that. You get a whole load of different reactions. And personally, I can see all sides. I think technology is changing the way things are done. And I think that has a positive and a negative impact sometimes. But the positive definitely shows with what you guys are doing, right? You’re independent, you record your own music. You know, equipment is in such a place now that you can do that yourself, you can distribute it yourself very easily electronically. And I know that you’ve talked about Spotify and how important that’s been to your band. How do you feel about the discussion around the royalties, and Spotify and Amazon’s reaction to that? Because personally, from my point of view, I’ll say it from being a huge music fan, and working on Loud Hailer, I found that really disappointing because, without the artists, they have no business. So, the fact that they appealed against a decision which guaranteed musicians and songwriters an increase to a level which is still, in my mind, too low was really poor. And I just wondered what were your thoughts on that?
Jordan: Yeah, and it definitely was. I mean, even when BMI was hoping to pass legislation through the House, it was a very like hopeful and encouraging thing. The fact that it was getting so much support on such like a widespread spectrum of just different people, even people who don’t even necessarily know the music industry were in such strong support of it. I’m also a songwriter and producer. We run our own studio, which is where we do all of our City of Sound work from. So, you know, we’re writing with these artists and we’re doing all this stuff with these artists, and the songs are being released and all this stuff. And the weird thing for me is to see such a visceral reaction out of Spotify. I think that’s what was weird. Because they kind of market themselves as ‘we’re the lane for you to find artists that you would never hear’. So, I feel as if they’re kind of countering their own branding, which is weird to me. Because you would think that they would be for the songwriter, the producers, the ones who created this music.
But man, you know what? We actually had a talk. And this is gonna be, I guess my answer’s a little bit, not off subject, but maybe like a different lane. It’s funny you asked me this question, because I’ve been thinking about this a lot with all of this drama. You know, in the music industry, it’s like all the drama right now. We even found, even on Instagram and stuff, they’re making it harder and harder for us to get in front of our fanbase. Instagram’s algorithm keeps changing to make it to where you have to pay in order to get in front of your full following. You know we have like 13,000 followers, and our engagement is only with like 0.3% of them right now.
LH: Yeah, I totally agree with you. The algorithm changes and things like that make it a nightmare.
Jordan: Yeah. And I mean, you know … And I get they’re trying to make as much money as possible. They want you to pay to promote your page. We finally sat down with the band, and I told everybody, I was like, “Listen guys, you got Spotify not wanting to basically pay out to the songwriters and wanting to like push producers and wanting like equal representation right across the board. We’ve got Instagram changing their algorithm, trying to make it so we have to pay to get in front of our fanbase and our following”. And I finally told them, I was like, “Guys, screw it. We’re going to get a following the old school way. We’re going to play live shows. And then when we play live shows, that’s going to turn people towards the music. Those people then … like it doesn’t matter if they follow us or not, they’re gonna follow our music. That’s what we care about.” And so we kind of … this is funny you asked this question because we literally had this talk like two days ago. I was like, “Look guys, we have everything right now, not really working for us.” Right? “But we chose to be an independent band”. We chose for when this shit hit the fan that we have to figure out how to come out on top. And so I just told them, “We’re not worrying about Spotify, and we’re not freaking worried about Instagram, we’re not thinking about any of this shit.” What we’re worried about is that show. And when we leave that show, people are going to see us as the headliner.
And we’re going to focus on the people, focus on the people who love our music, who love the message, who love the feeling they get when they hear our music. And they’re going to know who we are, they’re gonna look out for us. They’re going to go to our websites. And they’re going to listen to our music. And I was just like, “We all have to agree on that now. So we know that, you know, it’s a longer, harder road. But it’s a road that we can take, like we can make it happen.” And we all kind of just agreed with each other like, “Yeah man, screw it. Like freaking Spotify, freaking Instagram, they’re not going to dictate how we’re going to like push and write and create our music. They’re not going to.”
So right now, we kind of have this big old chip on our shoulder. Ever since the Spotify litigation came out, we’ve had a big chip on our shoulder, ’cause I’m just kinda like, you know, man we’ve been in this journey for two years. We have played the smallest of small shows. But we’ve had so many great moments in all the shows. And I would say we’ve built like a small but mighty fanbase. And we truly believe in what we’re doing. And I’m just like, I don’t give a shit how big your company is or what it controls or who it controls and goes in front of, you’re not going to stop us. Like that’s not what we got this in for. So, I guess that’s my answer.
LH: That’s a really great answer. And something that I believe passionately in is the power of live music in my life and for others. And that’s one thing that maybe, maybe through all these changes in the music industry, hasn’t changed too much. There are a lot of bands that have done it through just pounding the road and getting in front of people and spreading their message like that, and then letting people tell their friends. And so I think that’s a fantastic approach to it, I really do.
Jordan: Maybe it’s the metal head in me or I don’t know what it is. But there’s this old school side of me, like I would rather do it no other way. Like I don’t want to blow up on Instagram. I don’t want to like get big because we post a cover on Instagram. I want to do it the old school way where it’s like we play these shows, and it becomes just undeniable that the experience, the message, the feeling and the emotion that we bring to people as this collective in the room. People want to a part of it, you know? And it’s funny ’cause when I say that it sounds cheesy. But I, like deep down in the depths of my soul, believe in what I’m saying right now.
LH: Yeah, I’m totally on board, but I think you can see it even in talking about being a metal head. I mean, look at a band like Metallica, they’re like the hardest working guys in the business and that’s how they stay where they are, right? If they were just releasing albums now, they wouldn’t be half the band that they are.
LH: They’re there they are because they take it on the road and they’d do it relentlessly and they never stop.
Jordan: And they’re so damn good live.
LH: Oh they are. Yeah. I mean, it’s unbelievable. And there are other examples of it. I mean there’s a guy like, Butch Walker. We got to see him twice at the House of Blues, and the first time we went, it was like a madhouse. People just love him.
Jordan: Yeah, just losing it.
LH: And we went back a second time and it was exactly the same. You know, with a lot of people, you mention Butch Walker’s name and they might know him as a producer and a musician, but he’s not in the public eye all the time. But he’s such a phenomenal live performer and he’s built this loyal core of fans that means whenever he goes out on tour, he’s going to fill a House of Blues-size venue everywhere he goes. And those people love him and will be with him for life. And so, I’m on board. I think it’s the right way.
Jordan: Yeah, and it’s also, you know … Again, it’s been great because we’ve done quite a few shows already since the beginning of this year. And we are starting to see this … I have this rule when we play live, and it’s the crowd either gives in, or it’s going to feel awkward. Like it’s one of those two. And I’m like, regardless who the crowd is, we’re going to be who we are, we’re gonna believe in the words that we’re saying, we’re going to believe in the music that we’re playing. And I’m gonna scream and yell and I’m going to pound my chest at the crowd and scream at the crowd. And at the end of the day, we consider it loving people. I’m like, “Guys, that is us loving people, when we come out there and we give them everything that we have.” I’m like, “The more free we are on that stage, the more free people can feel comfortable to be out in that crowd.” And it’s like, who knows? That might be the first time in months that they’ve actually been able to just like let themselves go. You know, just release the stress of their lives and the anxiety and everything that’s like worrying them, or like anything they’re dealing with. That might be the one moment where they just need to… they just need to scream. They just need to jump up and down to go crazy. And the cool thing is ever since our final show of last year, we came around, we started playing again this year, and people are starting to really buy into that. And our fans, they like … Well, our small fanbase that we have, they started calling themselves “The Madness.” And I love that because we released “The Madhouse” and they started calling themselves The Madness and I was just like, “This is beautiful!”
LH: That is great though.
Jordan: This is exactly what we want! And then all of a sudden, in the last three shows we have played, like, man, I can’t tell you like the encouragement that we get as a band from a crowd that is like, from the moment you step on the stage, they’re giving into the next hour that they know is just basically going to be absolute beautiful chaos.
LH: Yeah. They’re ready to just let themselves go with it.
Jordan: Yeah. And it’s really cool to start seeing … like we’re starting to get that reputation, which is what I wanted. I want people to feel like they’re the hero of a damn movie at the time they leave our show.
LH: Yeah. I wrote in our blog about it from the perspective of a fan, and you’re saying exactly what I was saying from the other side. I wrote about one experience where it had been a bad week. It was the week Tom Petty died and there’d been the shooting at the Country Festival. We went to a show in the middle of that week and what it did for my mood, it was incredible. You know, we go to so many shows, we see loads of live music, and it makes such a difference when you can see that the band on the stage are totally into what they’re doing, they’re enjoying themselves, they’re lost in it. As opposed to a band just dialing it in, it could be your favorite band in the world, but if they’re just dialing it in, it just doesn’t work.
Jordan: God. And why would you dial it in? Why would you dial it in when you have people paying money to come see you play live. And I’ve got a rule in the band. I’m like, “Guys the day that we go out on the stage and we don’t go all in, that would mean we’d have become real full of ourselves, that we didn’t care about the people out there”. And we all agreed, “So, if I go out there, and I start dialing it in, that’s it. It’s done.”
LH: Yeah, that’s it. I think it has to be. And it’s a shame that there are some bands that do that, but not you, thankfully! I just wanted to talk really quickly about songwriting and it’s always a question I like to ask people like songwriters about their process and things like that. But particularly you, when I read interviews and things like that, you said some really interesting things about what you’re doing at the moment, and the fact that it’s a social commentary. But what I liked about what you said was, you had a period where you were writing about everything you saw around you. And then, you thought, “Well, maybe I’ve got to think about how I behave in this as well,” and started writing from your personal perspective – the things that you saw in yourself. And that kind of rung true with me because I know I can get very like that. I can get on my high horse about things in the world today, right? I mean, in the UK everyone’s divided over what’s going on in politics. In the US, I don’t think people have ever been more polarized.
Jordan: I agree.
LH: And I can easily fall into that pattern of being the guy who’s like you’re all idiots, you don’t know what you’re talking about. And it’s taken a lot for me to sort of recognize that in myself and go, “Just because someone voted for that guy or did this doesn’t automatically mean they’re a terrible person – you need to consider it from their perspective and stop behaving in that judgmental manner”. And was it that kind of revelation for you? Was it like, I’ve got to stop, I’ve got to get out of those patterns?
Jordan: Yeah. I mean. Look, I kind of have like this … Again, you know, we’re all about rules here at City of Sound apparently. But like I kind of have this rule when I’m songwriting like it needs to be like I’m going to war with myself. Like when I’m writing … and not in a destructive way, but in a very honest and in a very vulnerable way. I don’t know if that makes sense. But it’s just if I’m not willing to be honest with what I’m writing in our songs, then I’m simply not willing to write a good song. And that’s kind of like that’s how I approach it.
And yeah, man, when I started writing all these … you know, I was writing a bunch of songs for college a few years ago, and they were just funny because I would write these lines that were like really, really critical and like really, really judgmental. And I was just like, there was something in me that was just like, I knew that I was just simply trying to … I don’t know if like pander to a crowd was right, but I was just so full of myself. And I realized that a lot of it just came from insecurity. Like a lot of those needs to make those statements came from me being insecure and came from me actually just wanting to, I dunno, be accepted by some side or something like that. And yeah, it really forced me to look inside and I was like, “Damn. Everything I’m writing about in this song as a social commentary right now is everything I’m doing at this moment as I’m writing about this social commentary.” And it really, really hit me hard, where I was just like, “Damn, like I have got to do some serious reflection.” And then it’s cool though, because I found a lot of power in it. And I think a lot of people look at self reflection and these things, is that they see them like a defeatist attitude, depression – they see the sadness. And I’m like, “No, that’s so bullshit.” Like the moment that you’re just honest with yourself, it’s so freeing and it’s so relieving and that’s even why … like our song, “The Madhouse,” when I wrote that song, I loved that song because I wrote it, looking at a painting called The Mad House.
LH: Yeah. Oh, I know that painting.
Jordan: I was just writing it. And that song took me like eight months to write. Because I needed it to capture what I felt other people truly experienced when finally being introspective but also what I was experiencing. So I was trying to catch all these worlds. And that final line, I actually think it’s a really cheesy line, but that whole, “You’re damn right, I’ve come to make The Madhouse get behind.” It’s kind of a cheesy line. And like, I know it’s a cheesy line. But it’s literally how I felt like. I was like, “This isn’t going to be poetic. This just needs to be straightforward. Like I’m angry as hell, but like I’m pumped, I’m amped.”
LH: Yeah. So, I’m just gonna say it.
Jordan: Yeah. And so like that whole songwriting thing is just like … man, at the end of the … look, again, you know, City of Sound is full of rules. Another one of my rules is it must always end with hope. I was very angry growing up, an angry young adult. I was very irrational and having all these stupid issues that were created by my own insecurity. And it was all bullshit. It was nobody’s fault. It was just bullshit. And I was just like, “Okay, anytime we’re writing any of these songs, in any of these anthemic songs, it always has to end in hope.” So even if it’s darker…… we’re getting ready to release part two of our album and it’s the darkest part of the album. And so, I was telling everyone in the band, what we have to make sure of is that, at the end of every song, someone still feels hope. That we don’t write about this stage of self reflection and like who we are as people and all this stuff. We can’t write about that if we’re not going to make sure that at the end of it they feel like something can be done. And so that was … I guess that’s always been a big part of the songwriting process.
LH: And that’s a good message. So, I know you’re releasing it in three parts, as a songwriter, how did you approach that? Did you sketch out the narrative arc at the beginning? Have you written everything or did you sketch out at the beginning how you wanted each part to be, and then you write along the way too to fill that?
Jordan: Yeah. I mean, you know, we know that this might be the only album we ever get to make. We’re very aware of that. The way we’re trying to do it, the way we’re trying to release it, we totally understand this might be the only music we ever get to create together as a band. I think it was about a year and a half ago when I started etching everything out. So I got into my lyric book. Then I started drawing diagrams, and all of these different concepts of how I wanted to do these three stages, like how I wanted it to progress, where I wanted the through line, how I wanted to tell the story, like all this stuff. It looked like a crime scene. It looked just like a detective’s map up on the wall, like to the point where Lacey, I was like trying to explain it to her. And she was like, “This is crazy.” She was like, “You’ve lost your mind.” And so like … yeah, it was always planned, but not all those songs are written. So, I also wanted to do a thing where I etched out the whole, I guess, vision of it. But I wanted to make sure that some songs were written during the process because that’s where I’m going to catch the best lyrics and the messages for the songs. ‘Cause I’m actually in the process of recording music with the band, right?
LH: And the world is changing around you, as well.
LH: The world’s all changing as you go through the process. So you’re going to maybe take some turns that you didn’t see coming.
Jordan: Yeah, exactly. And so that’s why even for part three … Andrew’s parents live in Colorado, and we’re actually thinking for part three doing something completely different when it comes to our surroundings. And we’re thinking about going out to his parents lake in Colorado for two weeks. And I’m just going to write part three there, ’cause I just want to see what comes out. Part three is the most like hopeful side of the album ’cause it’s like what do you do when you come out of this process? Which, in my opinion, is you invest in others. You know, you see in others what they can become, that whole thing. So, we’re going to go write the rest of the songs after that. Yeah, sorry. I went on a huge rant on that. But yeah, I basically diagrammed it out like I was in a police precinct trying to figure out a crime.
Keep an eye out for parts two and three of the Silent Empire trilogy, and any upcoming tour dates for City of Sound. We are excited to see what the future holds for these guys.