Published on February 12th, 2014 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Jordan Igoe Shares a Big Love Story on Superb Solo Debut
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Charleston-based singer/songwriter Jordan Igoe’s new solo album How to Love is that it’s a genuine thing of beauty that somehow hatched and bloomed from the Space, a tiny studio set up in an unglamourous downtown storage unit. Sometimes the prettiest stuff comes from unexpected places.
Thanks to the good ears and know-how of recording wiz Ryan “Wolfgang” Zimmerman and the sharp and mutually respectful collaboration between him and Igoe, How to Love naturally took shape as an impressive, rock-solid, collection of melancholic and semi-bittersweet original pieces.
“I’d recorded demos and songs before, but never anything this involved,” says Igoe, who’s been rehearsing with her seven-piece band all month in another cozy storage unit/practice space, just across from Zimmerman’s tiny facility. “I ended up producing a lot of it, and I initially went in letting Ryan take the reigns. Often, he’d sit back and let me make decisions. We agreed on most things along the way. I surprised myself. I didn’t know I could listen to certain things in new ways. The experience helped me so much.”
The 12-song How to Love includes some of Igoe’s strongest compositions, culled from old and newer material. The East Cooper native has been writing and performing Southern-styled music with mild-mannered Americana, indie pop, and vintage country leanings since her guitar club days at Wando High School. Over the last six years, she’s performed at a variety of local and regional venues as both a solo act and with friends and colleagues.
In 2012, she formed a duo called Double Trash (initially known as Happy Story Hour) with singer/guitarist Mackie Boles (also of the Royal Tinfoil and Dumb Doctors). The Igoe/Boles musical chemistry is prevalent on How to Love.
“Mackie helps form all the songs, adding little things I never would have thought of,” Igoe says. “He’s a great lead guitarist, and he comes up with lead parts that really define where a song is going. It’s crucial.”
Igoe first started laying down basic tracks for the new album in March 2013 at the Space with Zimmerman at the helm. They’d just met each other, but they clicked well.
“Friends like Mackie, Lily Slay, and several others suggested recording with Ryan,” Igoe says. “Mackie and I recorded a Happy Story Hour demo with Ryan before we thought of making a Jordan Igoe record. I started listening to Brave Baby after that, and I enjoyed getting to know Ryan. The basics started with Mackie on guitar Brad on bass, and Marshall on drums. That’s the small combo I deal with the best. It’s taken me a long time to find people who really hear my songs for what they’re supposed to be. Everyone added cool, creative aspects to them.”
“Ryan stays very busy, so we recorded a little bit here and a little bit there,” she adds. “We each had to spend so much time out of the studio that when we came back to things, we both had fresh ears. It wasn’t like the typical big studio session where you go in and quickly knock everything out within a certain amount of time. It felt so much more free for me to me to do it it this way because we were constantly fine-tuning it. It didn’t feel rushed at all.”
There’s an appropriate flow to the songs on How to Love, from slow, gentle, piano- or acoustic guitar-based ballads and slow swingers to more amplified, noisy twang-rockers.
“One thing that makes Ryan so good is that he’s got a great ear for mixing and arranging,” Igoe says. “Brave Baby’s keyboardist Steven Walker assisted with the engineering, too. They both have a great ear to balance different amps, tones, and drum sounds in the mix so that it sounds right, even though they came from different sessions.”
In general, two personalities shine through. There’s the folk/trad-country side, as with the slow, echo-laden “It’s Not Me,” the mid-tempo country-tinged title track, and the snappy-rhythm lead song “Paper May.” The heavier, electric guitar-driven rock vibe comes through on tunes like the upbeat “Go to Hell,” the honky-tonkin’ “Better in the Dark” (peppered with joyful pedal steel from Thompson), and the dramatic, dynamic “Bloodhound,” which features a grand, stand-out solo from Boles.
Igoe says that she and Zimmerman considered the mood of each song while arranging the order on the album. It took weeks of mixing and matching to come up with the right list.
“We wanted to make sure that things were evenly spread,” she remembers. “I was on the road earlier this winter with Rachel Kate when Ryan worked on the final mixes and song order before we sent it out for mastering. We were constantly on the phone, bothering each other and driving Rachel Kate mad, but we worked it out.”
It certainly did. From front to back, How to Love is persuasive and intense. The first two songs set the mood for what is a superb album. Lyrically, Igoe sounds at ease and confident with heartbreak, loss, love, and the triumph of emotional comeback. There are hints of mournfulness, bit very little bitterness. Optimism ultimately overrides the mood.
“The whole album is a journey,” Igoe says. “It’s my story, and Ryan wanted the album to tell the story. It’s a very personal album. There are some songs that are more fictional, but it all flows well as a story.”
How to Love will be available this week at shows, at Monster Music & Movies, Early Bird Diner, and various indie shops around the Carolinas. Look for it online at iTunes.com, Bandcamp.com, and CDBaby.com.
Jordan Igoe and her band will share the stage with local singer/songwriter Rachel Kate and Columbia’s StagBriar at the Royal American on Fri. Feb. 14 at 9 p.m. Admission is $8. CD copies of How to Love will be on sale for $5. Visit reverbnation.com/jordanigoe and facebook.com/jordan.igoe for more.
Top photo by Ballard Lesemann.
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