Words by Tommy Johnson
Jordan Reynolds had a very legit reason as to why she didn’t answer my initial call one April afternoon. I assumed that she was caught up with something: another interview that was wrapping up; taking her dog outside; signing off on a package. When I explain this was my thinking, Reynolds politely disregarded them and offered the real reason, “I never answer calls from numbers I don’t know,” she says. “I get a thousand robocalls a day.” A minute later, Reynolds stopped what she was saying. “See! I’m getting one right now!”
It’s been a few days since Reynolds dropped the news of her upcoming debut album under the moniker Rose Hotel, I Will Only Come When It’s A Yes. Vocally tied to the likes of Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris, the songwriting offers an autobiographical look into Reynolds and the life she’s lived.
With the news of the album, Rose Hotel shared the first video for “10 K”, a shoegaze-influenced song set to the view of the emotional connections of her previous home at Bowling Green, Kentucky to her present resting spot in Atlanta, Georgia. Shot on Super 8 film, director/friend Jayme Powell takes viewers to spots that Reynolds lived over the years and what she called “old haunts.”
Off Shelf: Have you gotten any sense of buzz for I Will Only Come When It’s A Yes?
Jordan Reynolds: I think buzz is such a subjective thing. I feel the buzz within myself [laughs]. My friends have texted me and say congrats, which is cool. The internet is so arbitrary at this point. I can’t tell what people like, and I try to not even to focus on that. That’s not why I make music. I know it sounds cliché. I feel excited about the album. I’m a little nervous about the second single [“Running Behind”]. That’s more nerve-racking.
OS: Why is that?
JR: I think just because one single is out, so everybody has an idea on what the sound is. The follow-up sounds a lot different to me. Not to sound vain, but my sound’s unique in a way. So I think any Rose Hotel song is going to sound like a Rose Hotel song because I’m the one singing it. That being said, the musical inspiration and the source from what I drew from is much different than the first single. So it’s nerve-wracking in the sense that what if people like “10K” but not “Running Behind”? [laughs] I mean, there’s nothing I can do about that.
OS: What got into playing music?
JR: I took guitar lessons when I was a kid. I loved playing because I sing songs with music. I kind of just never stopped playing; I always knew that was something I wanted to do some way. I wasn’t exactly sure if it would mean being in a band or just writing songs. I tried the theater thing for a while, but I was always most interested in music.
OS: Does any of your family play music as well?
JR: My brother plays music. We played music together when we were young. My mom and dad are more music appreciators; my mom sings a little, but nothing like they are songwriters in bands. They are more into encouraging my brother and me.
OS: When you and brother were playing together, was there any sibling fighting/disagreements on who was lead [laughs]?
JR: No, no. We just played little cover gigs when we were kids. It was never a creative project. It was just for fun.
OS: Did you grow up in Kentucky?
JR: Yes and no. I grew up in a lot of places.
OS: I have seen that you moved eleven different times. That’s insane.
JR: Well, eleven times in the same town. I have lived in four different states.
OS: Do you have military in your family?
JR: No, my dad works for GM. He started at the bottom at an entry level job when I was a kid. He still works with the company. He lives in St. Louis now.
OS: What made you move to Atlanta?
JR: The short version of the story is that I wanted to leave Bowling Green [laughs].
I made a lot of friends in my younger twenties, touring around with this band that I was in Kentucky. I particularly made really good friends with this group of folks down here, and I was wanting to leave Kentucky. I was trying to decide between four places: Brooklyn, Chicago, Detroit, and Atlanta. I made a pros and cons list in my head with reasons of where to go. Atlanta made the most sense to me. I had people here that would want to play my music with me, which was huge.
OS: When writing, do you have any spot in your mind that you want to tap into, or is it just all about being in the moment? Where do you get your inspiration from when writing?
JR: I think it’s different for every song. I am most inspired in the moment when I’m playing my guitar or singing. I’m not one of those people that have a song idea in their head, and then they go make it. I’m more organic. I would love to do all the different ways of writing. Right now, it’s mostly I have an idea of a melody, and I start playing on the guitar. It grows from there.
OS: With moving so much, you found inspiration within that with writing as well.
JR: Definitely. Moving I think definitely had a lot to do with fitting in with my personality, which in part helps writing. I never felt that moving was difficult because I was used to it, and also I’m a Sagittarius. I like adventure.
OS: With I Will Only Come When It’s A Yes, I saw that you had eleven musicians come and help flesh out the instrumentals. Was that by design or did organically happen during the recording process?
JR: I think kinda both. For this record, for the most part, I wrote the songs right before I moved or right after. I wasn’t working in the band dynamic…it was rotating players in Bowling Green and some down here in Atlanta. It was organic in the sense that “who can be in my band to record the album?”
I was here honestly for about a year before I got into the studio. I started working with a core group of dudes who helped arranged a lot of music on the record, which was great. But then I had one of my friends in Bowling Green just come up for the best keyboard part for “Was It Right.” He recorded it at his house and sent it to us. I had this craving for this flute sound, and my best friend who lives in Chicago recorded a part. I had this core group here that was my rhythm section; my friend played the trumpet sections of the album. I wanted a trio of singers for one of the songs, so I called up some friends. So it was organic in the way that I could call friends when I had ideas, but also slightly by design in the sense that I did have a lot of different people featured on the record.
OS: I can imagine working with all these musicians that it helped you find different sounds that you could tap into yourself. Especially in Atlanta, where the diversity is awe-inspiring.
JR: It is super diverse here in Atlanta. Musically, there’s so much going on that I don’t see that I wish I did. Especially in hip-hop and rap. I don’t hear about their shows all the time because I’m in the East Atlanta rock scene.
The cool thing about Atlanta and that I’m very thankful about since moving here is that there’s not a big music industry presence here. It’s not like Nashville, New York, Chicago, or LA. Definitely living close to Nashville for so long, the industry’s presence is so heavy there because its so much of a music city, which is wonderful but I think that it sometimes leads to people creating for a certain purpose. Whereas in Atlanta, everybody is doing the art that they are wanting to make. You can say that there isn’t an “Atlanta sound” because there’s no bands that sound the same.
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