Jordan Rager is the quintessential millennial artist. Keenly aware of how to reach an audience, Jordan expertly marries today’s technology to traditional country music. The singer/songwriter spent his teens self-recording videos and performing classic cover songs, which he shared on YouTube. These videos caught the attention of Justin Moore, and before the age of 19, Jordan was opening an arena tour with the country-radio star.
Justin was right: Jordan wowed the crowds along with record execs, and a deal with Broken Bow Records soon followed. He began recording songs with some of the biggest names in country music, like Jason Aldean, and releasing singles to radio. It was an epic roller-coaster ride – the once-in-a-lifetime chance that young artists dream about.
After following his instinct, Jordan amicably parted ways with the label. “If I could do it all again, I’m not sure I would have signed that deal,” he explains, “I needed to grow. It’s hard for me to say that, but I didn’t know who I was as an artist yet.” He learned that this decision paved the way for a period of self-discovery, leading to a new partnership with Riser House Entertainment.
Now 23, the Georgia native has a clear picture of who he is as an artist and where he’s headed. Jordan is committed to carving out a lasting career, and he looks to his key influence, Alan Jackson, as a template for success. “I remember being six years old and sitting in front of the TV, and A.J. was on. Even at that young age, I remember watching that and thinking, ‘That’s cool. I want to do that,’” recalls Jordan, who was also raised on the songs of the Eagles, Merle Haggard, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney.
“My favorite artists are the guys who wrote songs. Songwriting is a very sincere form of expression. You are opening up your soul to people and saying, ‘This is what I’m feeling.’ I love that,” he says. “I want to be an honest writer and artist.”
To that end, he’s rededicated himself to writing, penning new songs, like “Little Bit of Gravel” and the stunning “Little Reminders.” “Little Bit of Gravel” draws on Jordan’s own upbringing, as the sometimes troublemaking son of a pastor. The lyric, “I hope there’s a little bit of gravel in the streets of gold,” perfectly highlights the theme. The words popped into Jordan’s head as he was making one of his usual treks between Georgia and Nashville, before he relocated full-time to Music City.
“Little Reminders” is more stark, as a simple love song of reassurance to a girlfriend. Jordan wrote the ballad by himself and never planned to play it for his new label, but when he did, they fell in love with its raw nature. “Her favorite things are little reminders / to let her know I’ll always be standing beside her,” Jordan sings.
“These are the types of songs I want to write and record. I want to be completely transparent to the people who hear my music, who may relate to the things I’m singing about,” he says.
Along with “Little Bit of Gravel” and “Little Reminders,” Jordan also wrote a nostalgic song about fishing with his grandfather, portraying the unfiltered conversation that comes with days on the stream bank. Dubbed “Reel Talk,” the tune recalls his hero Alan Jackson in its down-home charm and folksy lyrics. “My granddad was very quiet, but he opens up when he’s fishing. We tell stories and catch up. It’s very personal to me,” he says. “And that’s what I’m talking about when it comes to honesty. I want listeners to hear that and say, ‘I feel like I know that guy better from that song.'”
But Jordan isn’t opposed to recording outside songs. “Sometimes, another writer’s words become your own,” he says. Especially in the case of “Georgia Boy,” a new track written by Andy Albert, Michael Whitworth, Justin Wilson and Dave Pittinger. The track calls out some of Jordan’s stomping grounds – from Peachtree Street to the Chattahoochee River – growing up in Georgia. Likewise, “Good Ones” name-checks Atlanta Braves icon, Chipper Jones.
Currently in the studio as he wraps up his eagerly awaited project, Jordan is excited for fans, both old and new, to hear all of these songs, which he feels will show the country music world exactly who he is. “What I’m working on now, both lyrically and sonically, is what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m getting to make the music I’ve always dreamed about,” he explains. “It’ll be honest. It’ll be transparent. And, it will all be me,” he says, adding that making that impact is something he is very mindful of. “To see people’s reacting so well to my songs has been the coolest thing in the world. It really validates me and lets me know that I’m doing the right thing in my life. There are people out there who want to hear my story and my songs, which is the coolest thing in the world to me.”
His lyrics. His way. It’s a concept that sounds easy enough, but Jordan knows it’s a journey – one that begins and ends with a lyric. “I love writing songs, and I put a lot of heart into writing songs. My songs tell my story, so my story comes out in my writing. I want my music to be something that listeners personally connect with – for a long time!”
We caught up with Jordan for a Rapid Fire Round Interview, where we learned he loves Keith Whitley as much as we do. NEW FAVORITE.
If you could choose one person, alive or not, to play a concert with, who would it be and why?
Keith Whitley. In my opinion, Keith is still to this day the best singer in country music.
What is your post-show drink of choice?
First a water, then something to relax. Usually some kind of whiskey.
What is your favorite television show/movie?
Favorite TV show: Sons of Anarchy
Favorite movie: The Departed
Honorable TV show mention: Friends
Favorite venue to play?
Either the Georgia Theatre in Athens or the Grand Ole Opry.
What are your must-have albums for the road?
All Killer No Filler Sum 41
Chief Eric Church
Keith Whitley’s Greatest Hits
The Eagles Greatest Hits
Where do you turn for inspiration or comfort when life in the industry gets overwhelming?
My family. They keep me grounded and they’re always just a phone call away.
What’s the one song (from any artist) you wish you had written?
“We Rode In Trucks” by Luke Bryan. It perfectly depicts how I grew up right down to the small details. It hits so close to home I feel like I could’ve written it if LB hadn’t done it first.
Who would you choose to play you in a movie of your life?
Norman Reedus or Leonardo DiCaprio because people always tell me I look like both of them.
Which is your favorite holiday, and what do you do on that day?
Definitely Christmas. Me and my dad deck their house out with lights inside and out. We have alota fun with it. Then on Christmas Day we all open presents, have lunch, and just spend time together, which we never get to do anymore.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
Something to do with sports I’m sure. I played baseball until I was 16 and still love the game to this day. While baseball is definitely my favorite sport, I love them all. Football, hockey, golf.. sports are romantic and I’ve always been drawn to them.