If you’re wondering where all the British pop superstars disappeared to, your answer may come in the shape of David Jordan.
At only 21 this singer, songwriter and natural, effervescent live performer is throwing contemporary British pop in exciting new directions with searing rock guitars, throbbing party rhythms, blissful melodies and charismatically executed nods to his own childhood idols.
Right now David’s already something of a one to watch on the live circuit. Born in Barnet to a mother from Montserrat and a father from Calcutta, David has spent his entire life setting his own agenda and his obsession with music is splashed vividly through ‘Set The Mood’, a debut album bursting with life, love, passion and promise. Lead single ‘Place In My Heart’ is a great scene-setter where David’s take on social conditioning, brainwashing and petty bureaucracy is set to a creamy, agile pop-soul backing which builds magnificently to an incendiary, rocking crescendo. There’s plenty of fun on the album, too – ‘Sun Goes Down’ is a dirty, raucous song about how, David explains, “when the sun goes down in London, all the madness starts”. Meanwhile David’s gift for thinking in three dimensions means that he considers the music to be only half the story, with visual accompaniments like artwork, flamboyant photography and captivating video footage completing the picture.
Having spent the first nine years of his life in north London David moved in with his grandmother on an Enfield estate when his parents split up. Showing early signs of the fiercely independent spirit which runs through the lyrics and unusual sound of his debut album, he cleared off completely as soon as he was sixteen. After moving out he nabbed himself a council bedsit, polishing the songs he’d been writing since he was twelve years old and drawing on the best bits of his mum's old records: Marvin Gaye and The Jackson Five. then James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Cab Calloway, Guns N' Roses, Prince and Lenny Kravitz. After doing a runner from the bedsit he found himself hanging out with friends at a notorious London recording studio. He’d be there 24/7, accosting musicians and demanding they wrote with him. “It really felt like a squat mentality with loads of illegal parties, all kinds of badness going on there. All real kind of evil stuff. It was an experience for me, writing songs and partying until 4am, being only 17!”
A performer who relies more on instinct than calculation, a 15-year-old David had found himself playing the lead in a school production of Grease (“if I’m being totally honest I think the teachers fixed it because they liked me”) which led to a drama course at college. Though fascinated by stagecraft – his maxim to this day is that “everything on stage has to be bigger and better” – David quit the course to concentrate on a blossoming songwriting partnership with a friend. But when that friend signed a solo deal David found himself stuck. He threw himself back into his songwriting, working minimum wage at a coffee shop by day and writing songs by night. While his ex-friend was hyped, ignored and then dropped, David kept on keeping on, then while recording session vocals he caught the ear of ZTT co-founder Jill Sinclair. “She heard ‘Sun Goes Down’ and immediately started going, ‘single! single!’,” David laughs.
Before long Sinclair’s husband, Trevor Horn, had taken a personal interest in David’s development, passionately assembling the debut album ‘Set The Mood’ alongside fellow producing heavyweight Steve Lipson over the past 18 months. Horn, whose pioneering, inventive sounds fuelled everyone from Art Of Noise to Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and whose understanding of British soul music has provided idiosyncratic hits for the likes of Seal and Lisa Stansfield, has proved to be the perfect foil for David, a superbly soulful vocal talent with a desire to take British music in new sonic directions instead of simply aping sounds from across the Atlantic. “Trevor is an absolute angel to work with,” grins a star-struck David. “He’s like a guru and so awe inspiring, with so many ideas.”
Perhaps because his life so far has easily been as eventful as that of some people twice his age, David’s vivid imagination lends his songs an unusually experienced perspective, while retaining a uniquely youthful quality. “I’ve always found it easy to see things from another person's perspective and songwriting is a really liberating way of being able to channel that,” he says. “There are so many different things to write about out there - you just have to take a look around to see that.” On the album you’ll find the touching lullaby ‘Sweet Prince’, written as a response to the birth of his sister’s first child, while title track ‘Set The Mood’ is a what-it-says-on-the-tin slice of pure atmosphere based, David says, “on a mental image of me going into a smoky club, walking to the bar, and seeing a girl with a cigarette in her mouth, making eyes at me”. Less likely to have its video scuppered by the smoking ban is ‘Glorious Day’, which David says is the most personal song on the album. “It’s about when, er, you fall in love with a friend of yours,” he smiles sheepishly. “The girl I wrote the song about doesn’t know it’s about her. Anyway, she’s in a relationship now....” Perhaps we can expect part two of this story on David’s second album but for now it’s a bittersweet, unforgettable ode to forbidden love.
“Things just happen when I'm singing,'” adds David, of his electrifying live show. “In fact I don't always have total control over it. Even after I've played a show it can take me days to get back to normality and if I’m not playing a gig it’ll get to eight or nine o'clock in the evening and I start getting agitated!”
In real life there’s a delicious contradiction between the personal nature of David’s lyrics and his own enigmatic personality. “I love being with friends but I also love my own company,” he says. “Always have done. At school I was always much more sensitive than the other guys – they’d be Jack the lad talking about cars, throwing themselves around football pitches and so on. I never used to go around with people in groups and for that reason I think people always thought they could be themselves around me.” Very much a closed book in some respects, David’s is undoubtedly a personality we’ll enjoy getting to know better as he chooses to reveal himself bit by bit over the coming months and years. For now this album - punchy, emotive and exciting – is a unique insight into the life and times of this seductive new performer.
Set The Mood