For most casual fans of music, the forty-five minutes that a band spends on the stage is all they can see. However, when the guitar cases are closed and the venue’s floor is littered with empty beer cans and trash, most bands load their gear into the van and return back to their normal lives.
Mother Church Pew’s Off The Stage is a series that celebrates artists’ paths to where they are and the things they do behind the scenes to stay there.
On May 1st, Grammy-nominated country artist Ashley Jordan released an emotional new single “Still Hear Him Talking” about her struggle after losing two beloved grandparents. The lyrics convey that even in the darkest of times, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and no one is truly alone. And it’s a message, delivered in Jordan’s angelic voice against an anthemic sonic landscape, that bears particular poignancy at the moment. She told us about making and releasing music during lockdown, and how she knows her grandpa is smiling on her from above:
“In the end of 2019, I was in the recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee recording some new songs – which eventually turned into a 10-song album. Our plans were to finish the songs and start shopping them with labels in early 2020. Then a series of unfortunate events occurred: My producer became quite ill and was hospitalized so our plans were postponed a few weeks. Then Nashville was hit by a serious tornado – and then the pandemic hit. It was a triple punch and felt like a message from above that we needed to move in a different path. Like for most musicians, it was a time of initial fear for our loved ones and the world, followed by regrouping and figuring out how to keep moving forward despite the fact that all our shows, festivals, and touring were being canceled – one by one.
I know that everyone is facing a similar dilemma – but I think for musicians who are accustomed to being out in crowds and being very public, the quarantine was especially difficult and career-altering. We book our shows sometimes a year in advance – so a simple postponement and/or cancellation is devastating to the long term picture. As a band, we typically rehearse at least once a week and have consistent shows – and suddenly we all went into quarantine and watched helplessly as everything shut down. The sudden separation really pulls you inward.
For me as a musician, changing gears meant that instead of shopping labels, we began looking at my collection of songs that had just been completed in the recording studio and deciding on a new direction. I was quite aware that my grandpa, who had recently passed away, had been sending me messages and hope because an unexpected monetary gift he left for me allowed me to complete more songs than I had originally budgeted – and one of the new songs I had written was with him in mind. At the last minute in the studio, I played the song for my producer called ‘Still Hear Him Talking’ and was told, ‘You have to record that song as your last song.’ I was so emotional singing it – and the song seemed to have an impact on everyone who listened in on the recording session.
When the pandemic hit hard – my team and I felt that we needed to release one song from the collection while we waited for the world to open up again. It seemed that ‘Still Hear Him Talking’ needed to be ‘out there’ because the words were so poignant given the difficult times everyone was facing and I hope that this song will bring some peace to people who listen and perhaps have felt the same way. I have felt this strong sense that everything had come together (with my grandpa watching from above) for this song to be released as a single right now – even though it wasn’t originally planned that way at all!
Everyone in our industry is likely trying to rethink how they get their music out there – these are definitely trying times. We’ve been live streaming on Facebook and talking with people on Zoom and Facetime – whatever it takes to stay connected. I think that maybe everything will shift a bit even once we get back to a new normal – so being flexible and willing to embrace new technology and new pathways to our audiences is going to be a part of the shift. The one thing that remains: music offers hope and distraction when the world has gone crazy – so we need to keep putting it out there!
On a personal note, being surrounded by loved ones and my awesome dogs is the greatest blessing during the pandemic. It really makes you realize what’s truly important – and I guess a shift in perspective is never a bad thing!”