While previewing his new album, Western Holler, for us last year, Jordan Robert Kirk simply said, “it’s definitely a 2020 record,” and boy, was he right.
For his sophomore album, the west Texan spent many nights (and into early mornings) recording in his living room. Partially by necessity and partially to be hands-on during the recording process. The result turned into a down-home sounding record that refreshing in a time where overproduction can sometimes run rampant in today’s musical climate.
Weaving his way through stories of resiliency, mortality and even his first “cowboy song,” Kirk offers a unique perspective and morals from his west Texas life, and whether they directly relate to listeners or not, that’s something that should be celebrated and appreciated.
We caught up with Kirk to talk all about Western Holler, the response it’s gotten so far, what he hopes listeners take away from the album, returning to the stage and more!
Pro Country: Your new album, Western Holler, has been available for about three months. What has the positive reception meant to you in the time since its release, especially in the midst of trying times for artists?
Jordan Robert Kirk: I’ve been pretty blown away by the support. This has been my first release on vinyl, and I pre-sold a bunch and have sold even more at live shows as the world continues to open up. My goal is to do better with each release, with each show, and that’s held up really well with Western Holler.
PC: “The Candle” is a song about trying to make ends meet during trying times. Given circumstances over the last year and a half, how true has that theme been for you?
JRK: It’s pretty much autobiographical. We’re a pretty religious family, but we work a lot too, so Sunday was my only day off for church and family time. When church shut down, I worked seven days a week for a few months to get ahead on the farm. That’s when I wrote that song. Trying not to fly off the handle during the precious little time I had with my family, and not only that, but be a good example, husband, father and friend. It was a trying time, I know a lot of people can relate.
PC: “Takes You Home” was released as the lead single from Western Holler. Now that the whole album has been released, why did you feel that was the right lead single from the bunch?
JRK: It was an experience some friends of mine had, but for some reason, I felt it in my soul each time I played it, and knew it had to lead. When we added that dobro and organ to a very sparse production, I thought it was heaven.
PC: “Dirty Hands” is our favorite song on Western Holler. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
JRK: We all have our prejudices. My dad has always wryly looked down on people who don’t work, as do I. Regardless of circumstance, but you know that it’s different for everybody. During the oil boom of late 00’s and early 10’s, some of these “less-than-respectable-people” turned their life around, despite being so deep in drug and alcohol abuse. But it doesn’t last for everybody, sometimes prescription drugs can knock you off your feet as well. So life isn’t quite so simple as “work and it’ll get better.” Sometimes you’ve got the whole world stacked against you. That’s what this song is about. Life is tough and complicated.
PC: “Shake ‘Em on Down” is a traditional blues tune. What went into the decision to include it on Western Holler?
JRK: My cousin John-Alex Mason did the arrangement of it and included on his LP, Town and Country. He was a musical hero of mine and influence on my voice, style and songwriting, despite being steeped in the blues and myself in country. The paradox of a western holler seemed well represented in a country-blues arrangement of an old blues song, as well as paying homage to him.
PC: “When It Comes My Time” is a capella and offers a look at life and death. Can you talk about making the decision to record the song in that way?
JRK: It was a separate goal of mine to record a full a capella song prior to Covid, and I’d had the hook for a long time. In that church of Christ/primitive Baptist tradition, with spiritual elements as well as current events like Covid killing Americans off left and right. It felt sharp and poignant, so I finished it with the pandemic in mind.
PC: Since its release, “When It Comes My Time” has performed well on Spotify, and the music video has earned thousands of views as well across platforms. What do you think it is about that song and its message that is allowing it to connect with listeners the way it has?
JRK: “Does a man really live if he’s afraid to die? I ain’t afraid of nothing, gotta get on with my life”
There were two outlooks of the pandemic last year and even now, the contrast between them was stark. And whether or not people agreed with my outlook, I hope they felt my passion, my creed and my conviction, despite our differences, or similarities for that matter, and given its performance, I think it has resonated.
PC: You’ve mentioned that you don’t typically write “cowboy songs,” but that “Western Holler” was as close as you had come. What made this song different for you, and why did you decide to make it the title track?
JRK: My dad always said nobody made less money than a cowboy. Modern cowboys are truly men from a different time. Defiant in the face of change, still doing things the old way in many cases. I’ve been fortunate to grow up working cows, being a cowboy of sorts, and see a small taste of that life that cowboys used to see, and still do sometimes. Playing my brand of country is a lot like being a cowboy. It’s not rockin’ Texas country, it’s not exactly traditional country either or bluegrass to a T. And out here in west Texas and in small towns all over America, there’s a bit of that defiance of holding onto that western holler, despite the changing times. I wrote it, and I’m still unpacking the many meanings of that song to me.
PC: Western Holler was recorded in your home. Is there a level of comfortability in recording in such a familiar setting that comes through in the finished product?
JRK: It was amazing. It was important to me to strike while the iron was hot, and in the midst of the pandemic, most studios were shut down by force or for liability reasons, and I couldn’t blame them for that, but I wanted to do things my way, and this was my solution. My wife made supper for the musicians every Monday for 12 weeks.
She’s a saint, and we usually went from 5-midnight or later, as many of us work multiple jobs and that was what worked. We did some extra days here and there, but mostly finished in that time and started the mixing and mastering process. I can see pros and cons for a studio vs. at home; I couldn’t definitively pick one, but I did enjoy it for sure.
PC: You elected to release each of the songs from Western Holler as singles on Spotify. Can you talk about that release strategy and why you felt it was right for that platform?
JRK: I read an article stating that 60,000 people worldwide make their total income from Spotify, and yet they pay notoriously little per stream. I am not going to neglect the service; I’m an “all of the above” guy, but holding it back has absolutely helped me sell more CDs and vinyl, and also given me 9 more chances for playlist consideration.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from Western Holler after listening all the way through?
JRK: Country music is real story telling. I hope people enjoy it, and maybe take the morals of the stories as well.
PC: What are your plans for the rest of 2021?
JRK: Hope to make a good cotton crop, though we’re in a drought. And I hope to tour as much as possible and grow my fan base outside of west Texas, and to introduce my songs and sound to the USA and the world.