JORDAN Lawrence is the man behind 'Calan Mai'…
and has been talking to me about his brilliant new single, We’ve Got Love. I ask what the story behind the song is and how he manages to balance the fun and dark. Lawrence reveals his musical past and what comes next for him; which musicians are key to his sound and development – he tells me about plans to move to L.A. and lay down roots there.
I ask whether we can see a Calan Mai concert in the U.K. and, if pushed, which three albums mean the most to him; whether there are any new artists worth seeking out; how he spends time away from music – Lawrence ends the interview by picking a classic cut.
Hi, Jordan. How are you? How has your week been?
Hey, there! I’m doing well because it’s Thursday - and Thursday is the next best thing to Friday. My week has been stressful, as I’m currently packing up all my stuff and moving house. Looking forward to putting my feet up and watching some Netflix. Still trying to get through The Series of Unfortunate Events, which is dragging a little, if I’m being honest.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Jordan Lawrence and I perform under the name 'Calan Mai' - which means ‘the first day of summer’ in Welsh. I write, record and perform Indie-Folk music, with a strong focus on lyrics and storytelling.
What can you reveal about your single, We’ve Got Love? What is the story behind it?
We’ve Got Love is about unconditional love and the pain associated with it. The song is the story of my family - a snapshot of our lives. Since I was a child, I’ve always been anxious for the well-being of my father, mother and brother and this song sums up the worry, sadness and joy of loving and being loved by damaged people.
I like the video and its animations/art. Did you have a lot of say regarding the concept?
I did. The director, Callum Scott-Dyson, has created videos for me before and he is great at creating treatments based on the vision of the artist. I wanted the clip to visually depict the lyrics because the song is, essentially, a story. To watch that story play out in animation is a lot of fun and, hopefully, forces the listener to hear what I’m actually saying!
The song has a light and fun sound – its lyrics are heavier and deeper. Was it hard mixing a breezy and sunny composition with the emotion of the words?
That will always be the hardest aspect of production. Finding the right way to present such a heavy song was difficult. On one hand, you have lines about my brother claiming he’ll die alone and my father escaping into the ecstasy of addiction.
On the other hand, you have a positive message about the importance of loving unconditionally. All of that needs to be presented in an honest way that draws the listener into the story. That’s what we tried to do.
Is there more material coming down the track?
Absolutely. Too much material! I need to get decisive and figure out what’s next in the pipeline…
You hail from Australia’s Gold Coast. What is the music scene like there? Was it easy finding likeminded people and chances to perform?
The Gold Coast has a very small music scene but, ultimately, it is a city most people move away from for greener pastures. This is a real shame because plenty of talented people grow up here. I do believe, as the city grows, there will be more chances for people to perform...
In terms of finding likeminded people - I was extremely lucky to find people early on who fostered my growth as an artist and helped me take this whole music thing seriously. They’re in a band called FAIRCHILD. Give them a listen!
PHOTO CREDIT: Eddie Jag
Which musicians struck your heart at a young age? Who do you count as influences?
The very first music to really strike my heart was Blink-182. I was eleven-years-old and they seemed to know what was going on. I think I’ve carried a lot of their influence with me, as strange as it sounds. Major Key melodies, simple refrains; catchy hooks - that’s a huge part of what I’m aiming for when I write a song.
But, it was artists like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon who really shaped me as a lyricist. I always want to tell a story the way they did.
Do you have any gigs lined up? Where are you heading?
No gigs lined up as of yet. My main focus is to save my money and move to Los Angeles so I can really start playing in America!
Might you come to the U.K. and play here? Do you like British music?
I lived in Manchester for two years and played over there a lot! I love British music and I was absolutely blown away at how much talent was hiding in a single city. I still miss the U.K. and am very eager to go back again. Fingers crossed it’s sooner rather than later.
If you had to select three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
1) August and Everything After - Counting Crows
I discovered this album, accidentally, at the age of fifteen and Adam Duritz blew my mind. From the opening of Round Here, where he orders the listener to “Step out the front door like a ghost, into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white”; I knew I was hearing something special. These tracks got me through my last years of high-school - and really informed the sort of lyricist I became.
2) I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning - Bright Eyes
This album is the pinnacle of what I’m trying to do whenever I write a song - that is, let a listener into my world and create a time capsule of a certain time and place in my life. I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning gives you full insight into the mind of Conor Oberst at the time he recorded it: from the minutia of details about yellow birds to the state of the world to post-9/11 - it is an incredible listen and only grows more relevant to me the older I get.
3) For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver
Yeah: I know how typical this choice is. There’s not much left to be said about this album that hasn’t already been said. But, go listen to Justin Vernon’s recordings in the lead up to this masterpiece and try to figure out where the hell these songs even came from. The change in his songwriting and performance style is so immense, you have to wonder if it’s even the same man. That always gives me hope about myself as an artist. You never know how much you’re going to change. Heartbreak, misjudgements, loss - all of these things will continually shape you.
PHOTO CREDIT: Eddie Jag
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I hope to move to the United States.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Opening for Band of Horses at the Manchester Royal Albert Hall. Unreal.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Surround yourself with people who do what they say they are going to do. Beware of those who only talk…
IN THIS PHOTO: Dan Bettridge
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Check out Dan Bettridge. He’s an amazing singer-songwriter from Wales - and he’s currently releasing his debut L.P. in waves on Spotify. He and I have been friends since we met in New York for CMJ in 2015. Since then, we’ve both supported Band of Horses on the same tour, played SXSW 2018 and explored the streets of L.A. in wide-eyed wonder! All of this was by chance. Fortune has forced us into friendship. Life’s weird.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I’m a pretty major film buff and, in a lot of ways, I’m a bigger fan of movies than I am of music. At least as a consumer. I get to just enjoy movies. Music forces me to look at my own output and compare myself to other artists. So; I’d say watching movies, exercising and walking long distances for coffee are my ways to unwind.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Play Lift Me Up by Jeff Lynne! Impossible to listen to that song without a smile on your face. Thanks for having me.
Follow Calan Mai
PHOTO CREDIT: Eddie Jag