An Interview With Jordan Reyne - Musician, Writer and Artist
Come With Jordan Reyne and Find Out What Makes Her Jordan Reyne
Jordan Reyne is one of the most impressive and orginal artists I have come across. As well as being a musician she writes, produces amazing artwork and videos. The main image is one inspired by the work of Greta Thunburg and Duna Morrigan, who she mentions in her interview.
This is a piece I wrote on her "Maiden, Mother, Crone" trilogy and has links to her Bandcamp site where you can find her music and art.
What Is Your Prefered Artistic Medium and Why?
It is now an impossible choice between visual arts and music. Both take turns in asking to be given a voice.
A friend once said to me “the creative force will come out in different mediums.If music dries up, writing will come, or painting, or dance. If they dry up, some other one will come back. What is important is that it is asking to be expressed"
It encouraged me a lot.
There are months when it has to be music (writing it, as I don’t perform) and now months where it is visual arts – pastel to be specific. There is something to soothing about the feel of them, and the way the colours blend.
You can create layers with them, where one colour gives way to the next. I find it meditative – my mind actually switches off and just merges with what I am doing. It’s a flow state. That flow happens in music too, but there is so much more of an intellectual component to it where you have to think instead of submerging. Some songs did used to just flow out, but of course you then have to record them, mix and master. I find the visual arts have a much more accessible flow state and I love that. Of course, other times I want to be a lot more specific about what I am trying to say, and then lyrics and music are what fits.
What Inspired You To Do What You Do Initially And Who Or What Inspires You Now?
Fraggle Rock and Pink Floyds “The Wall” ;)
In honesty, I can’t remember a time when I wasnt singing, making up songs, drawing or crafting. Though I know it hits for many people later on. If anyone remembers Fraggle Rock, a series byJim Henson, I was inlove with the songs on there and tried to reproduce them. I was limited by the few chords I knew back then, so I would change them to fit with what I could actually play. I’d sing them at school in the lunch hour and just really enjoyed the feeling of being “in” those songs.
The clincher though for wanting to become a musician was hearing Pink Floyds “The Wall” when I was around 12. My parents owned it, which looking back is deeply ironic as they doubtless related to it rom their own childhoods, but the environment they created for their children was as terrifying as Roger Water’s experience.
Hearing it was the first moment I felt spoken to on a deep level; someone knew and understood what it was like to feel like this. A person I did not know and would never meet had gone through psychological terror and abuse and was sharing his inner state.
It resonated so profoundly and made me feel less alone. In fact it helped me metabolise my own experience, in a way that he (Water’s) hadn’t at the time. I knew then that that is the power of music. Whatever it is that you or I experience, others have experienced it too.
We are not alone even when it feels that way. Music invites us into a space where the mutual understanding of our similar stories offers solace, or where joy can be shared if that was the writers exerience. Music invokes what is in us to come forward and be healed, mourned, or celebrated
Are You Influenced By Anyone?
That question always flummoxes me a bit. I think it is because I assume we are meant to come up withsomeone who played a big role despite not being a part of our lives.
The thing is, our environment and social context shapes us so much. Any psychologist will confirm that one’s early childhood has a massive impact on your later life. When that goes well enough, mothers are the unsung heroes that have made what is actually the biggest influence on their kid’s future. Hopefully for giving them a stable sense of self and a feeling they are OK. For that reason, I would like to first thanks all the good-enough mothers out there for giving their children the biggest gift, and often unrecognised influence of all – stable self worth and the feeling of being loved. Sadly, it is not like that for a great deal of people.
It’s only been in the last few years I realised how much and how deeply I was influenced by my own mother.
My father too, but as an openly terrifying and abusive man, it was an enemy that was easier to recognise and get over.
My mother’s abuse was far more insidious and covert. I’m far from the only person to have had a cold, negligent and extremely derisive woman as a parent, but it effects all of us on a deep level until we are brave enough to go against the official narrative that “all mothers love their children”.
It is a fact that some do not, and we do ourselves a diservice when we equate derision, abuse and mistreatment with love. For years I had unknowingly internalised her contempt of me, and her utter derision for any attempt I made to be seen or valued, yet I wanted that from her so much. It led to some very contradictory drives.
I realise now that so much of what drove me to want “success” in music was to prove to her that I was someone worthwhile. I constantly battled with my desire to be appreciated, and her internalised voice telling me to stay out of the way, and preferably not to exist at all.
It told me that doing anything public was bad and selfish, and when I WAS seen, everyone would only notice how useless, unacceptable and embarassing I was, or, if I was good at what I did, people would think I was arrogant for SHOWING I could do something. I often wonder how things might have been had I not had decades of crippling stage fright, or the constant fear that what I was doing was, indeed, laughable, and instead had known that I am just as valuable as the next person, and that everyone has the right to stand up and do what they love.
The change did not happen until my early 40s. I say that so that anyone reading might have some solace that it is never too late to change those huge influences that hold us back.
I dedicated Maiden, from the Maiden Mother, Crone trilogy to the woman who gave birth to me. As always, she went cold and silent and did not want to listen to it. It’s trivial compared to all the previous things she had said and done, but something clicked, finally. I was also fortunate that my then-partner was a very emotionally intelligent woman. On meeting my mother, she said to me in no uncertain terms “that is the kind of mother they are taking about when they recommend no contact”. I am forever grateful to her for helping me make that first step.
Here is a metaphor. You know that thing that happens when you go to tidy up your kitchen – like, really tidy it up. You pull out pots and pans out of cupboards and everything is stacked on the floor taking up space while you decide what to throw away and what to clean or keep or both.
It gets WORSE first, and sometimes it is so much worse that you almost dispair cos you are comitted to this now, and it will be hard work and take ages. It was like that after I went no contact with my mother. Things kind of fell apart in that way they needed to to really move forward. You could call it a midlife crisis given I am in midlife ;)
The album “Bardo” came out of that more-messed-up kitchen state. It is about that place you go when one life ends, and another has not yet begun. All the old deamons and archetypes that you have not yet dealt with return and repeat themselves.
That album is a series of deamonic visitations and is the first time I speak openly and directly about my family, along with the miriad of other monsters I confronted on that path.
Chapter Zero and my artwork follows from there – from pawing over the shattered parts and chosing what to take and what to let go. I think it is a process so many of us go through at midlife, regardless of weather it is family-related, career, or simply a crisis of meaning. In the end, the biggest influences are the internatlised voices we carry with us, but getting rid of them is a serious battle and I admire anyone who does so.
By now I have rebuilt my relationship to art and it gives me so much pleasure. I needed some years to realign my relationship with music and art so that it was doing if for me, and for the people who have loyally loved it for all these years. It brings so much more joy to do it that way.
Lastly, because I now know that many people have mothers who cannot love, and feel the weight of the taboo against talking about it, I wanted to recommend a book here. It’s called “You’re Not Crazy, It’s Your Mother” by Danu Morrigan.
Who Are Your Favourite Artists In Your Sphere?
I have to admit that I do not listen to music much these days. I am very much the person who holds likes to hold a quiet space in my head.
That phrase “holding space” is a bit of a cliché by now, but that is what I do. I hold space so that ideas can come in and ask to be brought to fruition. That said, there are artists I have a great deal of respect for, even in this phase of not listening, and certainly they were on high rotate for years.
Imogen Heap, Lorainne McKennit, Wovenhand and, of course, Laurie Anderson. I always found her amazing and inspiring for her openess to experimentation and her fully ignoring any boundaries others might place between popular music and art.
What Was The First Piece Of Art That You Made? (At School of After)
I have no idea! Really, I don’t remember a time I wasn’t doing that. One early memory is of stealing a bunch of empty boxes from kindergarten because I wanted to make a dragon out of them, but the kindergarten didn’t have all the necessary cutting utensils (it was probably dangerous!) so I needed to complete this idea at home.
What Are You Most Proud Of?
The fact I speak Polish! After one year, I broke down in tears of frustration, thinking I would never be able to do it. I then said to myself “either you have wasted a year of effort and you walk away, OR you keep going because it doesn’t matter how long it takes, and you already have a start.”
How Do You Feel About Performing Or Showing Your Work In Public?
It’s funny, but after having therapy about my mother, I don’t get debilitating stage fright. I get nervous – and someone once told me “if you don’t get nervous, you don’t care anymore and should stop” – but I am not terrified.
I am able to get into flow a lot more often, because I know it is OK to fuck up occasionally. It won’t result in mass laughter. Sadly, I can’t book shows because of an illness now, but I am always stoked when I am able to show my artwork. Nervous, yes, but in a much more excited way. If people don’t like it, thats fine now. I know for myself that I can see art I do not like, and think nothing less of the person who made it. Sometimes I even think “wow, amazing technique!” or “what a fantastic concept” but it just does not resonate with me, so I don’t “like” it. So if I am on the receiving end of that it is fine. Also, after so many years of music, I understand how haters tick. The need to assert to someone that you consider what they do to be shit says so much more about their own inner state than the person who made the song/ painting/ book. I feel bad that they are in that space.
What Is Your Worst Artistic Experience?
A show in Warsaw with Polish superstars called “T Love”. I was SO honored to be able to play with and before them. The problem was, they had a sound technician, who like so so many sound technicians, thought he knew everything there was to know about loop machines, and would not give me a soundcheck.
Usually it is in my contracts that I have to have one or I can’t play, for the exact reason of what happened that show.
I began singing “The Shadow Line” which is a vocal only piece where I sing in layers first, then sing over them, and add more layers. The layers themselves are pumped out via the looper. The sound tech could not even get it to come through the front of house. What the audience experienced was me singing one melody, which should then have repeated underneath the next as I sang it in. All they heard was three different melodies, one after the other, then just a fully acapella song. No harmonies, no nothing. The audience had welcomed me so generously and enthusiastically, then, as I proceeded, their faces became more and more confused. They had no idea what the hell they were hearing, and I don’t blame them. It is not the first time that the arrogance of sound technicians has destroyed someones show. I am always so relieved when I turn up to the venue and the sound tech is a down to earth, non arrogant human being.
What Has Been Your Most Fulfilling Moment?
My most fullfilling moments came in the last few years. I realised I have such wonderful, kind hearted and supportive listeners. They genuinely love what I do and support it even if I cannot play live. I have a gratitude list and each day they are on there. There are many who have followed me for years and have built up a level of trust with me. When I start a new project, they support it, and that makes it POSSIBLE to keep producing music. Without them and that trust I simply couldn’t. I’ve realised too, that that is success for me. When good people value what you do enough to actually act on it, it is a gift and one I feel blessed to have.
Where Are You Going Next?
I will assume you mean artistically as I seem to be fated to move house more often than I ever wanted to!
A spoiler on the music front is that I am excited to be doing a project with “The Mercy Cage” who are a New Zealand industrial/ gothic project by Josh Wood. I have to finish the mastering for Chapter Zero first, but then I am looking forward to it greatly. I have admired Josh’s work for many years.
Mainly though, I will be focusing on my visual art for a time. I am fairly sure I will write another album at some point, but , but I feel it inside that I need to work with colour. I had to laugh at myself when I incubated dreams on “how to find peace, stability and balance” and I had dream after dream of painting. Seriously, I just thought “fuck! Why can’t my subconscious want me to be something NORMAL for once, so that I can have a stable income and no more stress about how I am going to survive”. I know what happens though when people ignore their calling. I tried to so many times with music, and it hurts more than the constant instability and worrying about a roof over your head. It just hurts DIFFERENTLY. We all pay a price for the paths we take, and yet each path has different rewards. Only you can know which rewards are the most important to you.
This isn’t yet up on my sites but I am going to start offering commissions. In only 3 years of doing art, it’s opened my eyes to how many people have such vital forces of nature within them but have often lost the feeling of that primordial, archetypal connection. You see it in their character still, but they need the reminder of who they are deep within so they can reclaim themselves. That is really what my art is about – finding that inner, nature-force within you, piecing it together from what you deeply, truly love, and discarding that which no longer serves you. For me, it is a vital step in rebuilding our bond with the environment – knowing that we ourselves are part of it and intricately linked. Knowing that, it is far harder to do it damage as we FEEL we are, in essence, damaging ourselves and the network of connections we have.
My painting “Repartitions” (lead image for this piece) is my rendition of Greta Thunburgs inner spirit – her beautiful rage, charged by all the parts of nature she loves but sees being destroyed.
My current piece is someone I know personally who has this huge Woodward energy to him. A real guardian of the forest. I never sell my originals because I love them, but I realised that people want and need to see themselves, personally, as part of their own story and bonds with nature, reflected. I am going to be offering commissions where I interview those who would like such a piece and ask them where the places are where they feel most bonded to the earth, or where they feel most stuck by its beauty, or just feel a deep sense of connection. I will take those elements, and the person's character, and use them as a basis for the work. They get to keep the original at the end.
Anyone interested can contact me on [email protected]
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