Some years from now, the name Jordan Feliz might be the obvious answer to a trivia question that goes something like this:
What artist launched his career as a hard-touring heavy metal singer, then switched gears to become a church worship leader, before finally signing a Nashville record deal and emerging as a preeminent soulful-r&b-groove-pop artist in CCM?
Well, if the question comes up some day, you’ll already know the answer: Jordan Feliz.
Fronting the West Coast buzz band A Current Affair gave Jordan’s powerful vocals some major exposure right out of high school. The band performed on the Warped Tour and other high profile gigs before dissolving. But heavy metal was never Jordan’s passion; it was just a fun experience with his friends and a way to stretch musically. As a child, Jordan had grown up with R&B artists like Sam Cooke and Earth Wind & Fire providing the soundtrack to frequent family road trips. Artists from what his father called “the good music era.” Those were the sounds and stylings that stuck in Jordan’s musical memory and by the time he was old enough to realize that his own singing voice was a gift, it was those early groove-funk-soul singers that had shaped his personal aesthetic. If he was going to make records, those were the kind of influences he wanted to draw from. Which brings us back to that Nashville record deal he signed with Centricity Music.
Jordan Feliz’s first full-length project, The River, reinterprets the rich influence of 70’s sensibilities in a modern pop context. Intentionally constructing uncluttered tracks free of production tricks and excessive instrumentation, Jordan instead focused on arrangements that were designed to give his fine-grit-sandpapery-smooth vocals center stage. The eleven songs on The River are soul-influenced pop numbers, but the instruments present are precise and articulate in their voicings and melodies, saying only as much as they need to and no more.
“I was the kid growing up with the headphones on listening to every lick and reading the lyrics,” Jordan says. “My dad had a collection of cassettes. My mom had some vinyl. I discovered artists like the Commodores, Bill Withers, and Nat King Cole through them. When I was in the studio making The River, I told my producers I didn’t want thirty guitars stacked on one track. I didn’t want five different guitar tones. I want to put one guitar sound on a song and find a way to make that one lick sound massive, the way those 70’s artists were able to do. If you stack too many sounds on one track you can lose the song in all that clutter. Building ‘clean’ tracks on The River was very intentional.”
Tag-team produced by Colby Wedgeworth (Lincoln Brewster, The Main, Lydia) and Josh Silverberg (Newsboys, Jon Foreman, Plumb), The River is packed with radio-friendly pop melodies that manage to hit those marks without compromising Jordan’s unique musical personality. The best example of his singular vision is the record’s powerhouse title track and first single, The River, which has already spent ten weeks on the radio charts at #1. While it sounds like a pulse-quickening mega-hit from the first listen—instantly singable and repeatedly listenable—The River actually rides on a deep current of soul-driven funk influence that serves to set it apart from other contemporary radio fare.
“I’m a big melody guy,” Jordan admits, “and musically The River is my own personal happy place. It’s a great driving groove that just feels good to sing. The song itself is an invitation to anyone who hears it—whether they’re stuck in pride and legalism or wallowing down in the mess they’ve made of their lives—it’s an invitation to take whatever we have and to run to Jesus. It’s an invitation to go down in amazing grace and to rise up being made new.”
The song Beloved on the other hand, while every bit as soulful and catchy as the The River, was penned from a more personal and autobiographical posture. Jordan’s wife was about to give birth to their first child, and Jordan began to consider what he, as a new father, would most want to communicate to the daughter he was about to meet.
“I wrote ‘Beloved’ before she was born,” Jordan says, “and I wrote it with two guys who both had little girls. The thing I really wanted my daughter to grow up knowing was that no matter what the world tells her, she’s beloved. She’s loved beyond compare. Regardless of what any of the people around her think, she doesn’t have to be concerned with measuring up because I’m gonna love her unconditionally as long as she lives.”
Picking up lyrically right where Beloved leaves off, another pristine and powerfully grooving track, Never Too Far Gone, completes the thought of a father’s love for his child serving as a living analogy of God’s love for each of His children.
“There was a time in my life,” Jordan recalls, “when I was running back to God but at the same time feeling ashamed and unworthy of His love. Having my own daughter and experiencing the massive love I have for her really opened my eyes to how Christ looks at us though. No matter how much I feel like I’ve messed up, no matter how far gone I think I am, the gospel tells me there is nothing I can do that will separate me from the love of my heavenly Father. Nothing. It’s so clear to me now that anything I feel for my daughter is just a small echo of the love God feels for me and for all of us.”
Finding that center of truest identity in the love of God is a theme that runs deep through the songs on The River, but finds its most direct expression in the massive pop track Best Of Me. Best Of Me is a towering cut that manages to marry a blistering melodic intensity to an honest lyric. Feliz’s vocals drive right to the heart of the common struggle to lay down one’s own dreams in order to embrace God’s dreams instead.
“For so long I resisted giving my whole life to God because I was afraid of losing control of who I am,” Jordan explains. “Best Of Me was born out of the realization that when I finally did surrender my life to the Lord, in Him I found the best possible version of myself. In the moment I gave everything to Him, my identity shifted from being defined by who I am, to being defined by who He is. And when your identity rests in who He is, you can weather the storms that would have otherwise torn you apart.”
Having just navigated a long and stormy transition after leaving the security of local music connections and a church staff position in California in order to move to Tennessee, Jordan Feliz and his wife experienced firsthand what it means to learn to rest in the simplicity of faith in a Father who daily provides for the needs of His children. In fact, they set out from California without even enough money to make it past Phoenix. But along each leg of the journey some music gig opened up that provided enough funds to drive the next leg. By the time they reached their new home, Jordan had actually made several hundred dollars from the move.
“We believed God had made it clear from the beginning we should move to Nashville,” Jordan says, “but that didn’t mean it was easy. After we got here I couldn’t find a job. My wife and I were sharing one car. I was posting handyman ads on Craigslist and working as a valet downtown. I could hardly get any people to write songs with me.”
At that point Jordan and his wife found out they were pregnant. The uncertainties and pressures and responsibilities were quickly mounting. Their whole lives felt like they were up in the air. Jordan describes it as a frightening time, but one that drove them to prayer and dependence on God. And in amazing fashion, they saw those prayers begin to be answered.
“The last year has just been like a whirlwind of good things falling into place,” Jordan says. “I signed the record deal with Centricity in February of 2015 and I finished my EP July 5th. Then, I actually won a brand new car, completely out of the blue, right before my daughter was born July 20th. My first single went to radio July 31st and shot up to #1, and the love I’ve received from radio and from new fans has been an incredible blessing. I got a slot on the Big Daddy Weave Tour which has been an amazing experience as well. And then we went right back in the studio to finish the full-length project. My life feels like it’s gone from zero to one hundred miles per hour in a blink! After so much difficulty and uncertainty, God answered our prayers. He is there for all of us, and all we have to do is remain faithful.”