By Jack Firneno
Wire Staff Writer
You know you’re destined to be a musician when you get kicked out of class for writing lyrics instead of paying attention.
In grad school.
“They told us we were professional students now, but I fell into old habits,” recalled Jordan White.
He eventually graduated with an MS in psychological science, but he didn’t use that degree to teach or go into practice. Instead, White kept writing lyrics.
“Music was the thing I always did,” he offered.
Based in Upper Bucks County, White is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter with hundreds of shows, a handful of television appearances and a well-received EP already under his belt.
Sonically he’s a cross between the alt-rock bite of the late 90s bands that he heard as a teenager and 70s troubadours like Jackson Browne, or even Van Morrison — the artists who first inspired him.
“I was first drawn to their confessional nature,” said White of those classic singer-songwriters. “They told people what they really thought, but maybe not the people they knew, or in speech. That’s how I felt. I could relate to people better through song.”
It’s a phenomenon White’s experienced his whole life. As child he was diagnosed with selective mutism as a child, an anxiety disorder where people who can speak won’t do so in certain situations.
“By three or four, I naturally gravitated to music. I was withdrawn and didn’t speak much, but I would sing my heart out in music class,” he recalled.
While he’s overcome the disorder, that pattern still remains. He could have used his psychology degree to become a professor, for instance. “But I’m not good at speaking to crowds. I’m much better singing. Until a college endorses teaching as singing, it’s not gonna work,” White laughed.
Not that the degree completely went to waste — thinking about how people think is a big help in a medium that relies on self-expression.
“Once you learn how your brain processes things it helps you write better,” he said. “A lot of [psychology] is being socially observant.”
He said it also cued him in that he was on to something: “It really showed me that I was right in a lot of the ways I viewed people. We’d see something in a clinical context, but I had written about that going on already.”
Now, his work week spans mostly the weekends, with shows just about every Thursday through Saturday throughout the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys, New Jersey, and occasionally Maryland. On days off he’s working on his own racing car, making television appearance like a recent spot with Ukee Washington and Pat Ciarrocchi on NBC-3’s Talk Philly, or tinkering with a guitar or piano.
“I just believe if you work hard at it, like anything else you’ll get out of it what you put in,” offered White.
He’s been working hard at it for the better part of a decade — and that effort has been paying off.
“It really started picking up [four years ago],” he said. That’s when he met his manager, who also worked with bands like Live and Fuel, acts that came from the same area of Pennsylvania where he grew up, while playing a benefit after the BP oil spill.
“What I’ve seen is that bands [like that], in general, it took them eight to 12 years,” he said. “So, I figured I’ve got ten years to do it.”
The milestone is coming up: he began playing semi-professionally in 2006, released his debut EP, Four Songs, in 2012, and has his next release tentatively slated for November of this year.
The pressure could be on for the guy who, when asked after high school what he was doing with his life, lightheartedly told people to “see [him] in ten years and [they’d] find out.”
But, White is confident he’ll hit the mark. “If everything I’ve accomplished now was given to me in one day I’d be bouncing off the walls,” he said. “But it’s a slow process. I expect if I keep working hard, in a few years I’ll be where I want to be.”