The Jordan - Interview & Signed Test Pressing Giveaway
Today, Dutch singer and songwriter The Jordan releases Nowhere Near The Sky on Cooking Vinyl Records, described as an "extraordinary, game-changing debut album, a new chapter which introduces a new name, a new sound, and a new quest for total candour and unvarnished truth." (Total Ntertainment)
To celebrate, we caught up with vocalist Caroline van der Leeuw, previously the singer of Dutch Latin and jazz exponents Caro Emerland, to learn about her beguiling transformation and are proud to offer a signed test pressing of the album for one lucky winner.
Dutch singer and songwriter Caroline van der Leeuw is back - with a new name, a new sound and a new mission. Emphasising the depth and breadth of her artistic transformation, Nowhere Near The Sky (produced By David Kosten - Bat For Lashes, Marina And The Diamonds) is The Jordan’s extraordinary, game-changing debut album, a new chapter that comprehensively rewrites Caroline’s story as the former singer of Dutch pop group Caro Emerald.
In an impassioned ★★★★★ review, Retropop described Caroline's stylistic overhaul as "staging the ultimate reinvention" and declare that the record is "a turning point for the artist and, in stepping away from the outfit (Caro Emerald), she finally uncovers her authentic voice."
"The Dutch superstar triumphs in crafting a captivating collection that speaks of the past while looking ahead to a bold new future." - Retropop
TM: The press release for Nowhere Near The Sky reads that the record is “a new chapter that comprehensively rewrites Caroline’s story as the former singer of Dutch pop group Caro Emerald”. What most people are going to be most struck by is the stylistic change: “gone is the jazz, the swing, the Latin rhythms. In their place: total candour, trip-hop and folktronic textures”
Do you feel the style of The Jordan is the true expression of Caroline van der Leeuw, which laid somewhat dormant across the Caro Emerald years, or was it the dissolution of the band that lead to you trying something radically different? Caroline: Oh, this is a really tough question! It's difficult to answer because it's a bit of everything I guess; I wouldn't say that Caro Emerald was "fake", it was me. It was authentic to some extent because it was a very conceptual act. But I think that the dissolution part of it is why The Jordan is what it is right now. Where I come from also defines where I want to go and some resistance was building up inside me.
"I wanted to radically go against everything because at some point it felt like something I had built that I couldn't get out of anymore. So I lost it!"
It's a bit of a rebellious act in a way, but on the other side, it's also me opening up and trying to find what's closer to me than I had before. What is that? I did not know. If you do the same trick over and over again, that's what you become and there's a whole world out there that you don't know yet. The Jordan is much more personal, not because of the style, but mostly because of the lyrics. The lyrics are me telling my heartfelt stories. And the genre is just something that I'm experimenting with right now. It doesn't mean I like this music particularly better. It just means that I needed something different.
TM: In that regard, the lead single is called ‘You Don’t Even Know Me’. That could be read as a lyric about the painful breakup of a relationship - perhaps because one of the lovers needed something different - but also a statement about your musical identity and your fans’ relationship with the real Caroline van der Leeuw. Were you conscious of this double meaning as the video dropped and your fans received the music? Caroline: Yes! I'm always conscious of double meanings. I play around with them a lot because this has two sides: it is a breakup of a relationship and it's a breakup of me. Me breaking up with everything that was surrounding me and what was suffocating me a little bit in the end to find the space to find me. To find myself in there. That also meant breaking away from everybody that I worked with and the whole Caro Emerald band and brand. I could even be singing 'You Don't Even Know Me' to myself. Did I know me? I don't know! There's a little bit of mystery and maybe a tad bit of bitterness in there as well.
TM: You felt in some ways that a musical identity had come to define - and enclose -you and so you presented a new identity in 2022. Why did you choose to go under the name of The Jordan rather than simply Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw?
Caroline: If I ever wanted to get out and do different things with other people, there was really only one choice: it meant building an entirely new brand. Caro Emerald is a collective but it was also difficult because I had given my personal name to it. Caroline and Esmeralda are my first two names. Now 'Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw'... that's really not sexy at all! And it doesn't really ring an international bell, so I figured that wouldn't work. Coming up with a whole new persona would feel fake to me so I thought that the way to go would be to be more abstract. The best example I could come up with was The Weeknd.
"The Weeknd is one person with a good name. Everybody knows he's The Weeknd, so I figured I can do that too and I became The Jordan."
Even if I would have been able to release this under the name Caro Emerald, people would have gone, "I don't know if it's for me" and the entire fanbase would feel rejected by me and say, "we're not on board." But I would also not give any room to any new audience because they maybe have already decided they're not Caro Emerald fans - that would have been a marketing disaster. Either way, this is the smartest thing to do.
TM: It's a very international feel to it, The Jordan. It's your music, but it's a place, it's a river. Was the water element something that you had in mind?
Caroline: What's so funny is everybody thinks about the river. The river and the Bible, and I do actually like that that flavour. But it actually comes from the neighbourhood where I come from in Amsterdam, which is called the Jordaan. Keep it simple, you know? Where I come from says something about me... but not too much.
TM: Nowhere Near The Sky is produced by David Kostin, was there a particular album of his that drew you to him?
Finding him was a very long process. It took a long time for me to trust anyone and to trust my own decisions. I had told my publisher, Sony Publishing, that I wanted to go abroad to work with mainly UK writers. So she would set me up with all kinds of people. She suggested David Kostin and I looked him up. What drew me most to him was his work with Marina (And The Diamonds), because I could definitely see that I see myself in that corner of music. I was also inspired by Lana Del Rey, and I always figured that Marina was a bit in that corner too but maybe more indie. That made me curious. I was very open at the time to try stuff and see where it lead me. David was really something special because, from the very beginning, he asked me all kinds of questions like, "what are your plans?" And I told him I was searching but I'm going to do something different under a new name. I have to build it up and it has to be completely different from what I did before.
"He asked if I could send him my demos. I sent him everything, like all the crap too! I just figured, let's see what he does with that!"
When he and I just went for coffee he told me he had listened to all of these demos, which really impressed me. At the time, I didn't think much of myself yet as a writer or as a songwriter. I was still struggling and feeling like I couldn't live up to the quality and the level of the songs that I used to release. But he made a list of the strong tracks and said, "I'd love to work with you, what do you want to do?"
TM: So how was David to work with on the album?
He was incredible. When we did a writing session, it was very special, I never had a session like that. And I hope to have one again. It was absolutely magic. I think we were both trying to see where it would lead, I just worked the way I always work: I have a beat and some chords and I start humming something and then the producer or co-writer responds and says, "oh, this is nice" or, "let's pull it this way". We were trying to do something on a beat, but it wouldn't really go anywhere. He proposed to go into the booth and both improvise; he played the piano with the beat through the speakers and recorded at the same time and he put me in front of the mic. I was improvising. He was improvising. And then we got deep into playing together and something happened. The beat went on for ten minutes, but then it stopped. And I remember us carrying on playing, just going on. We kept rolling and then at some point we stopped and we looked at each other. We said, "that was interesting". We listened to the part after the beat had stopped and looked at each other again and said, "that's really freakin special". All the lyrics were kind of already in there: we cut the best fragments out of that and turned it into a song and that was 'The Room, which is the first song on the album. It was just written in a split second. That's why I felt such a huge connection with him.
When we started to really work on the album, he was magnificent in every way. He was everything I needed. And I owe him so much because he really saved me in so many ways, personally and as a musician. He gave me confidence, he carried me and he took me seriously. But he would also be critical of my choices. We had a lot of discussions and I felt like he respected me.
TM: Writing with a beat and a piano is such a different experience than writing with a band. More stream-of-consciousness and personal.
Caroline: I've never been much of an improviser, especially for somebody who's jazz-trained. I need to feel really safe with somebody but if I dare, there's something beautiful that comes out. Sometimes it can surprise you.
TM: Nowhere Near The Sky is available on Signed CD album and has a beautiful Signed Turquoise Vinyl version on the official store. How important are physical album formats to The Jordan and does the way people listen to music in 2023 affect the way you put an album together?
Caroline: I'd love to listen more to vinyl! I do love vinyl, but somehow I never have time to kind of sit and just play it. I have a very nice vinyl player, I have a lot of really cool vinyl stuff but most of the time I'm playing, I'm streaming. Either way, I like to investigate how other artists created their records because I'm very fascinated by albums on the whole. It's so much more than just a bunch of songs.
"To me, an album is a product of the art; it has a story; it says something."
In my case, with me coming out and being so vulnerable and being so open about everything that I went through over the past 20 years, it feels like a personal document. I wanted it to sound like that as well, not just in the order of songs, but in the way it's produced. We did a lot of songs close-miked; I wanted people to feel my pain and feel everything that I wanted to say like I'm whispering in their ears. We also made some skits - interludes with a spoken word - and these were bits of lyrics that got lost in the process from the songs that wouldn't fit this album. And I've really thought long and hard about the order of the songs. I remember spending this time walking in the park here in the neighbourhood during the pandemic. I would just listen over and over again to all the songs in different orders. What is the right order for people to hear these songs? How many seconds do they need to have in between all these things? And I'm very happy with the end result...
Nowhere Near The Sky is available now on exclusive Turquoise Vinyl with limited edition signed print, Black Vinyl, Signed CD, Cassette and specially-priced bundles.
Enter our exclusive giveaway to be in with a chance of winning a signed Signed Test Pressing of Nowhere Near The Sky.
The winner will be chosen on Monday 20th February 2023.
N.B: If the competition entry module is inaccessible, enter the giveaway directly via the button below.