I remember when I was singing in a lounge as a solo act in the mid 80’s. A guy who had been sitting at the bar came up to me and said “I don’t come here to think! Can’t you play some other kind of stuff?” I was taken a back and in an apologetic tone explained that I was a folk-singer and that was the kind of music I played and maybe he should come back on the weekend and hear the band. Now, if someone thinks my music should be more like …(fill in any other style of music) I don’t feel the need to apologize. Over 20 years later, I’m not only singing songs that tend to be on the “thoughtful” side, I’m writing and recording them.
Truth is, my roots were in the “coffee house” era of the late 60’s and 70’s. My favorite artists were Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, James Taylor, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Melanie and a faith-based singer called Honeytree. I loved their lyrics because they made me think, or rather they touched thoughts and feelings that were already inside of me – like love, pain, the environment, the war, politics, God and everything else that went through a young person’s mind at that time when they were trying to make sense of their lives.
In the midst of knowing I wanted to learn to play guitar and sing, I was also clear on one thing; I wanted to be a teacher when I “grew up.” I wanted to be able to influence people in ways that could change their life for the better. Sure enough, I ended up teaching elementary school for 5 years and became a “singing teacher” that oftentimes brought my guitar into the classroom for impromptu sing a longs. I find it interesting that now many years later, I’m leaning more in the direction of being a “singer who teaches.” Whichever order it’s in, those two passions have always stayed with me.
I think it’s the teacher in me that loves to write about things that I hope will move, touch or inspire the listener in some way and I love to do that with a story. The power of story. Jesus knew that. In the Bible, I’ve read the stories He told about farmers, fisherman, prostitutes, rich young rulers, and lost sheep. In each one of them, I could find some part of me reflected there. With each reading, the stories seem to reveal “new truths” that I didn’t see in them before; kind of like watching a movie for the second and third time and noticing details you never saw the first time. That is the power of story; they’re universal.
So, as you listen to the songs I’ve written about things like middle-aged love, shop-lifting, people who can’t commit, lost love, homecoming queens, and caged birds that sing, I hope you find something of yourself there and that whatever it is, I hope it will move you, touch you, inspire you, make you laugh or just “make you think.” And if that’s not what you came here to do, well, there’s probably a band playing somewhere on the weekend that you might want to hear.
When it comes to life and songwriting, Barbara Faith Jordan is not a casual observer. Not satisfied to just view the tip of the iceberg, she prefers to take her listeners on a deep dive to explore what is below the surface. Her signature style uses the power of story where the plot line and characters reveal universal experiences where everyone is sure to find something of themselves. As a songwriter, her lyrics are often described as “soulful, “ provocative,” “thoughtful” and “sensitive.”
Barbara started writing music in high school which was…well, a while ago. She gave her first performance at her high school folk concert where she performed songs by her favorite artists at the time; Judy Collins, Carole King and Melanie. One of her earliest original songs also saw its first public debut. She received a standing ovation.
Barbara often receives recognition for her songwriting skills. Two of her songs from Passages, “See What You Made Me Do”, a song about the cycle of abuse, and “I Remembered to Forget You”, a piano ballad about healing from the loss of a love, both earned “Runner-up” status in the international Song of the Year songwriting contest.
Barbara’s soothing vocals, her ability to connect with the audience and her soulful lyrics combine to draw the audience gently, but powerfully into her performances. Audience members frequently approach Barbara with a story about how one of her songs related specifically to them or someone they know. Audiences have also enjoyed her more light-hearted touch in songs like “I Had to Take It” about a reformed shoplifter and “You’re Too Much”, a tongue and cheek male perspective on the unrealistic demands women sometimes make on them. Another dimension of Barbara’s music is the diversity of the styles she enjoys using. “I try to match the genre and feel of the song to the lyrics; it’s one of the benefits of being an independent artist. I don’t have to fit everything I write into one niche.” One of the many reasons listeners have enjoyed her recent CD Passages, is that it provides an interesting and sometimes surprising mix of musical styles. This is reflected in one of her CD reviews:
“Barbara Faith Jordan’s new record, Passages, is one of those rare independent CD’s that came to our public radio station with great songs to play on much of our diverse programming. We feature a wide range of music including jazz, folk, blues, roots, rock, and more. Her beautiful voice, and excellent musicianship she and her backing players possess, comes through on every track. As a DJ, it’s always a treat to be able to air music you enjoy playing and listening to!” – Sandy Blumenfeld, WNMC 90.7 FM, Traverse City
Passages has been touted for its high production quality as well as great songs. The album was co-produced by Joe Ayoub, a sought after bass player from Los Angeles who was touring with Enrique Iglesias at the time Barbara was looking for a co-producer. Joe was visiting family in Grand Rapids when Andy Mitchell from Audio Bay Studios connected the two of them, and it was “studio magic.” Joe not only worked on production, but also provided the guitar and bass tracks. Ayoub has also played with Liz Phair, Colbie Calliat, Tyler Hilton, Nikka Costa, Aly and AJ and many others. Jordan credits much of the album’s quality tracks to the skills of Ayoub as well as the other top tier musicians who played on the album – some of them friends of Ayoub.
Barbara also released a Christmas album in winter of 2009; The Gift of Christmas Peace and one of her songs “Born and Raised in Michigan” was included on a compilation of songs by Michigan Songwriters called It’s a Michigan Thing. She has also contributed background vocals to several other artists’ musical works. In addition to performing as a singer-songwriter, Jordan is also a seasoned management consultant and presenter. She frequently uses music in the keynotes, presentations, and seminars she delivers for business and non-profit groups.