Keeping it ‘Real’

Musician Jordan Caiola
Jordan Caiola’s debut solo album, ‘Only Real When Shared,’ dropped in early October. | Image: Kirby Sybert

Songwriter, musician and producer Jordan Caiola released his debut solo album, “Only Real When Shared,” on Oct. 2 via Workaround Records.

The atmospheric indie folk LP consists of 10 original tunes penned by Caiola and recorded during quarantine alongside co-producer/engineer/drummer Shane Woods (Mo Lowda & The Humble). Though he always felt writing folk songs was his true wheelhouse, it wasn’t until the nationwide lockdown in early 2020 that Caiola finally put aside the time to capture a collection of these songs for his first solo effort.

The title of the album was inspired by a quote from Christopher McCandless (the subject of the book and film, “Into The Wild”) who declared, “happiness is only real when shared.”

“I was always inspired by the way ‘Into the Wild’ told his story in particular,” Caiola said. “I think that quote at its core is something to live by.  Not every song relates, but many of the songs are about relationships which I believe can be boiled down to trying to find someone who makes you happy, and then constantly figuring the best way to share that happiness. It’s not easy. I chose the album art based on the quote as well. There are two gulls within reach and sight of each other, but they both have their backs turned to each other. I saw it as a symbol of people who are right there, but don’t quite give enough or put in enough effort to get the most out of their relationships – whether they be romantic, family, or friendships.”

Caiola plans to perform select dates in support of the album and hit the road again as soon as possible. In the meantime, he continues to write, record and generate new material for all of his creative endeavors.

PW recently caught up with him to talk about the new album and his career.

So while other folks were binge-watching Netflix during the pandemic, you recorded your debut LP. How did “Only Real When Shared” come together? Did it turn out how you expected, and how can people hear it?

Well, I DID still find time to binge watch all three seasons of “Fargo” for the second time … but yes, the focus was on the album. When the lockdown first happened and my band Mo Lowda & the Humble (and every other band on the planet) had our tours cancelled, I sort of saw it as this perfect window that had finally been created to record this project. A solo album had always been in the back of my mind, but we toured so often that I never really set aside the time to focus on officially recording it.  Also, I was incredibly bummed out and figured this would provide a much needed catharsis … I love being in the studio.  

I think it turned out better than I could’ve imagined. We began by just recording the rhythm section and electric guitars at Shane Woods’ house in Fishtown (producer, engineer, mixer and drummer) and then would finish up the vocals and acoustics and other overdubs at Headroom Studios in Kensington once the stay-at-home orders started to relax a bit. The whole process just felt incredibly organic and I therefore was able to write a few more songs during the recording process because I was so inspired by the workflow we had and was just fully engulfed in the direction of the project and the album. Folks can hear it anywhere on the whole wide internet. I don’t think there’s anywhere that it won’t be (digitally at least).

Jordan Caiola can’t wait to get back to touring after the pandemic passes. | Image: Kirby Sybert

You’ve been releasing singles off the album for awhile now. What’s the response been from your fans?

The response has been great… I think people like the consistent release thing. We’ve sort of moved that way anyway, as an industry. I myself am guilty of just saving one or two songs from an artist to my library. Unfortunately, I think our attention spans are much shorter these days, and as much as I would love for every single listener to put the album on in order and listen front to back, I understand that’s not particularly realistic within the current climate. I still hope for that… I think all artists do, but it was also quite fun to plan and craft these releases. I approached it as if the five singles themselves should make up a little half-album of their own and sequenced them accordingly. I also chose the five songs as a sampling of what the full album would hold; touching on a little bit of everything.

You tour a lot. Has being off the road due to the pandemic been tough for you?

It’s been very difficult. I’ve kind of stopped lying to people about how I am. I’m fully aware and want to be respectful of folks who have lost a whole lot more due to all of this, but I also feel that it doesn’t have to nullify, nor minimize the effects the pandemic has had on me.  

In many ways, I felt like touring defined me. It gave me purpose. It was my favorite thing to do. I RARELY had the nights on tour where I really longed for my own bed and a good night sleep – I really just tried to be 100 percent in it all the time… I felt that’s where I was meant to be.  

This last Mo Lowda album was our biggest to date, and the ticket pre-sales for the national tour were doing very well. So, it was a  tough pill to swallow that it never got to happen… and still is. The live-stream stuff held us over monetarily in the early quarantine phases, but it really wasn’t so much about how touring paid our bills – we just loved playing for people… Having our ears ringing at the end of a great set… Drenched in sweat and packing up the van discussing who had the scoop on some after-party plans. I miss it. I think we all do.  

How did you get your start in music? What were some of your earliest influences?

My dad was my biggest influence as far as piquing my interest in music at an early age. He had eclectic taste, but was definitely huge on Van Morrison and Springsteen when I was little. I took a liking to those two and then once I got my first electric guitar I started diving into Zeppelin, Stones, Hendrix until I eventually leaned towards more contemporary stuff. I think if I could put my finger on a particular moment though, it would be one of the times I sat by while my dad and my Uncle Gene howled some Bruce song on an acoustic guitar a few Yuenglings deep.  

I remember thinking it looked like so much fun… I wanted to do that. I always had an ear for it though. I can recall being so embarrassed that I was chosen for “Select Chorus” in fifth grade. Thought it was totally uncool. Which, it kind of was… BUT, I guess that’s when I knew I had decent pitch at the very least.  

What’s ahead for you, after the pandemic clears and things at least kind of return to normal?

Touring is the first priority hands down. Who knows what that will look like and when, but I think there are plenty of folks who miss live shows just as much as we miss playing them. I long for an incredible first tour where every show feels like the best crowd we’ve ever played for because everyone is just so ready to do it again.

Learn more about Jordan via:

  • Eugene Zenyatta was raised on old-time Memphis 'rasslin' and strongly prefers the company of dogs to people. His greatest heartbreak came in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic.

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