January 1, 2013 Volume 27, Number 01
Vancouver singer-songwriter draws from eclecticand divineinspiration
By Aaron Epp | ChristianWeek Columnist
Courtesy Killbeat Music
Vancouver singer-songwriter Jordan Klassen's sound has been compared to Sufjan Stevens and The Shins, and while those artists may have influenced his work, he names a few other influences as well: Walt Disney and Jesus Christ.
"It's actually quite inspired by a lot of Disney animated movie soundtracks," the 27-year-old says of his music.
"I think the thing I like about [Disney music] is that everyone knows it and yet somehow it's just very obscure. I think a lot of people are influenced by what they watched as children, but it's almost forgotten. I find it really interesting to kind of blatantly pull that back up again and just draw from sounds that I think everyone recognizes but nobody really remembers."
As for the influence of Jesus Christ, Klassen says he can't help it. It comes out in his music because his beliefs are central to who he is.
"I don't think about myself as a Christian" when writing a song, Klassen says. "When I write a song, I just am what I am. I'm someone who's been affected by God, and that is going to come out in my songs because that's just who I am."
"[My faith] is really real to me," he adds, "so it's going to be in my music."
Klassen's latest release is Kindness, a four-song EP released at the beginning of 2012. It's his third release, and he says that with the EP, he was aiming for a warmer sound inspired by spring.
"I think I've always found boundaries really interesting, and the boundaries I've given myself for writing my records so far have been seasonal," he says.
His 2009 full-length, Tempest and Winter was a winter album, and his 2010 EP St. Brigid was inspired by the thaw that follows winter.
"The new record and the new sound is a lot warmer," he says. "I feel it's a lot more positive and hopeful."
Klassen's songs incorporate ukulele, horns and strings in addition to rock 'n' roll's traditional guitar, bass and drums set-up. He tours with six musicians in his band to help flesh out his sound live.
ChippedHip.com called Go to Me, the first single from Kindness, a "cinematic pop rocker" and Holeytonal dubbed it a "gracefully dramatic little masterpiece."
Klassen says the 12 months that have followed the release of Kindness have been the best and busiest of his career.
Last February he was able to start doing music full time, and in mid-November he placed second in the Peak Performance Project, a contest held by Vancouver radio station 102.7 The Peak. Placing second earned him $75,000.
"[It] has been awesome, actually, being able to survive doing what I really love to do," he says. "It's also been busy because there are lots of cool opportunities that have happened."
Klassen hopes to have his next release, a full-length titled Repentance, out early this year.
"Historically, repentance in religion has been about turning away from something ugly and turning toward something beautiful, and that was inspiring to me. And that's what the record is about."
He considers Repentance his best work to date.
"It's kind of an endeavour into pop music," he says. "I wanted to write pop songs and not just super melancholic, ambient songs. So, the songs are all packaged a little more neatly and I'm proud of how it turned out."