I sat down with indie singer/songwriter Jordan Maroko to ask about his music, how he began and what he did to gain momentum as an artist.
How did you get started in Music? What compelled you to start singing?
I've always been musical, when it was considered trendy to be in the 5th grade band I played percussion and I liked it, but we were playing band arrangements and not really anything cool.
Things really got started in middle school when I was attempting to impress this girl that I had my first crush on. My parents rented me this tiny acoustic guitar (as a gift) from a local music store and I remember it had to have been made of plastic or the worst possible wood you could imagine! I remember just starting to play. I only got one lesson and afterwards was left with the book and although I had trouble grasping the technical side of learning/playing, I just loved to play it. I formed a little band with some of my friends and wrote my first song for my 6th grade talent show. After the rental time was up, my parents ended up buying the guitar and I continued playing and singing, but never really considered myself as a lead singer or fronting a band. Throughout high school I just kept writing and can even remember faking an illness to skip school so I could stay home and write music!
At what point did you realize that this could be a career for you?
Over time I kept investing more time into writing and sometime between my senior year in High School and freshman year at Michigan state, I approached a friend of mine who did some recording and we ended up recording the first song I had ever wrote. One day I was playing it back in a room at school and one of my friends came over and asked if it was me. Then they asked who was singing and I told them that it was all me! They were a little surprised! At that point music was more of a personal thing, but It was in my mind at that point that I wanted to do this [singing/writing] for the rest of my life.
What's the writing/Recording process like for you?
Once I finished college I had roughly 45 or 50 fully written songs that I recorded onto an 8 track recorder. I would use my guitar to flesh out the different parts (bass/lead/rhythm) so that I wouldn't forget the ideas I had for each song. Since I always envisioned myself having a band to back me up, I always had a feel for how I wanted the various parts to sound.
How did you get noticed and recognized as an artist?
I began doing research and bought a Musician's Atlas that publishes lists of managers, promoters, publicists and other types of industry people and I created a database for myself. Out of that database, I handpicked six hundred contacts and mailed a four song demo that I had recorded to every single contact and sent follow-up emails to all of them. In a period of two and a half months I had not heard back from a single person on that list!
I sort of thought of it in the same way that a girl feels after a guy doesn't call her back. So, I realized I needed to use this as motivation to just push harder.
Eventually I was able to play my demo for a manager who lives in Michigan (one of two who runs national acts) and his advice was that I had good, likable songs that would appeal to a lot of people, but the bottom line was that they would not get radio play. So I went back to work, rewriting and re-recording these songs without compromising my individuality or musical style, but with a different mindset. Once they were finished I returned to the manager and over the course of three months I kept bringing him new batches of songs until I had completed 25 tracks.
Three months ago my manager put me in touch with a producer who owns a few studios and together we recorded a complete five song EP called On and On. Rick took that to New York and next week will be shopping it around L.A. Meanwhile, I'm working hard to build a grassroots fan base through websites like myspace and just increasing the awareness for my music.
Recently a song called Make It Mine was played on Clear Channel's New Discovered & Undiscovered Artists program. Once a song gets into this program, it is added to their traditional radio stations, but is also played on their iPhone and Blackberry apps which have over 4 million downloads. About a week ago Make it Mine placed 8th on their top played songs chart alongside artists like Owl City. So right now I'm just working really hard to build and earn my own way instead of feeling like success or recognition is owed to me.
You mentioned David Matthews Band and Rush, who else do you consider as musical influences?
Growing up, I listened to Korn, 3 Days Grace, and I do like DMB and The Killers, John Mayer is an awesome guitar player as well as Bob Marley. System of a Down is an influence on me. I probably learned harmonies from Hall & Oates and although 3 Days Grace's songs are simple, they are catchy and that's cool to me. I'm not a big concert person, I don't have fun at a concert unless I'm really into the music. But, I really like when what you hear on an album is what you get on stage. For me, the two most important things in a live show is to come out to a simple stage (no fire/smoke) and to change up the music from night to night and keep things fresh. I have a lot of ideas about my live show that I'm excited about experimenting with in the future.
This might sound crazy, but I really heard a strong Duran Duran influence on one of your songs...Have you ever heard that?
I think you're talking about Make it Mine. I love that song, and I haven't thought of Duran Duran before, but there is an 80's feel and I don't know if it's just because I tried some cool twinkly piano effects or if it's the harmonies.
What inspired you to write On & On?
On & On was actually written about my parents and family even though it probably comes across more as a love song. That is true, but the inspiration for the song was drawn from a realization that everyone comes to at some point in their life about their parents. For me, it was reminiscing about childhood memories and growing up and how my parents were always there for me even though a lot of kids think that their parents aren't very cool. This song reflects the relationship I have with my parents.
A lot of independent artists and creative types find it hard to promote themselves or try to sell themselves and their work. Did your degree in advertising give you skills to make it easier to promote yourself and your music?
In that sense no, and I understand what you mean about promoting yourself. Especially on all the music websites where everyone just seems to be screaming LOOK AT ME! It doesn't seem very authentic. My background in advertising does help generally as far as knowing how to reach people in a practical way. But personally, I believe that I've created music that is competitive to what's currently available and I think eventually people will get tired of listening to my music through a website or on their computer and for that reason, I want to turn all of the myspace compliments and people who email me about my music into album downloads. Getting those positive responses and comments about my music never gets old and I always respond from my heart to those people.
Are you playing anywhere right now?
I haven't played anywhere lately, once the record was finished I've just spent every waking moment working on the website and spreading the word. If all this does not lead to a record or publishing deal then I'm hoping it will at least lead me to some talented people who are interested in working with me.
If you're interested in more information about Jordan Maroko or would like to download a copy of his EP, check him out on myspace at http://www.myspace.com/jordanmaroko
Jeff McCann is a stay-at-home Dad and freelance journalist specializing in music, technology and the arts. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Writer: Jeff McCann