Jordan Ward went from dancing for stars like Justin Bieber and Becky G to becoming a shining star in his own right. His fresh, fun take on music and high-energy performances have been captivating fans globally. Following the success of FORWARD, the St. Louis native has embarked on his first headline tour and is bringing it to Europe and the UK. Ahead of his UK tour dates in December, GUAP caught up with him while he was briefly in London.
Kat: How has your dance background influenced your music?
Jordan Ward: It definitely influenced my music by just exposing me to different types of music because in the environment that I lived in, in the city, there was a lot of hip hop. There was a lot of mixtape culture, a lot of trap music, a lot of gospel music, but then when I would go to my dance studio in the suburbs, there would be kids listening to like John Mayer or SBTRKT, electronic stuff – just stuff I never heard before – Sigur Rós, you know what I mean? I fell in love with all of it, so it just opened up my mind.
Kat: Take us on the journey of your dance background and when you decided to pursue music.
Jordan Ward: I started dancing when I was about 8 or 9. I was already singing and dancing in school, at the right and wrong times. My mom noticed I was getting in trouble for it, she was like, “Hey, you should audition for musical theatre,” so then she pointed me towards the musical theatre opportunities I auditioned for. The more I got involved with that, it was like, “Yo, I need to go train in dance,” so I joined the studio, then I grew up doing musical theatre, dance competitions, dance conventions.
When I got into high school, I was like, “You know what, I’m really just gonna focus on dance,” and I was very involved. On average, I’d say kids go to school like 5-7 hour days, so 35 hours a week – I was dancing seven hours every day as well, and more than that on the weekend. By the time I graduated high school, I pretty much danced more than I was in school, it was almost like I went to college for dance. I moved to LA right after my high school graduation, with the guidance from some of my mentors on conventions and companies I was in.
When I was young, I always had aspirations – I was always rapping and singing, I had a rhyme book. I was really into hip hop, going back to different generations and listening to old music. But by the time I got into high school, I just was more infatuated with being a professional dancer, being a part of like a legendary artist’s camp and production, but being on the road as a dancer when I was like 20, 21 [and] having a bunch of free time, I started making music with my friends, just in my hotel room. I just started spending more time on my own in my hotel room instead of going out and partying in between shows. I would just be making demos, so that turned into months of me being on the road, just making demos on my own. And then once I got off tour, I was like, “I’m gonna start going to the studio,” so I started going to the studio, and I started releasing music, and I just kept going.
Kat: Do you feel like touring with artists as a backup dancer back in the day prepared you for being a touring artist yourself?
Jordan Ward: I feel like I have a big appreciation for touring because I got to be the opening act, I got to dance for the opening act. I know what it means to have a bunch of people touring with you because I’ve been in the camp. I’ve showed up to a hotel and not had my room ready, or I’ve done a job and got paid weeks later, so I feel like it just gives me an appreciation. I learned a lot on the road as a dancer, talking to different artists, team members. I used to think I wanted to be an A&R or a manager, or even a music critic, so I would talk to them a lot.
Kat: St. Louis made you and raised you. How’s being from there impacted your sound?
Jordan Ward: I was actually born a little bit outside of Chicago and I moved right back when I was a month old. My whole family is from St. Louis. My mom was just living out there for a second, working out there. I think St. Louis has had an impact on what popular music is right now in general. Between all the different pioneers it’s had across hip hop, rock, soul, R&B, Hyperpop, trap music – to this day, so many of the innovators are from St. Louis. And then on top of that all the different influences I got to be around being from the city. Growing up on the south side, to going to church every Sunday, to dancing with kids in the suburbs, to chilling with my granddaddy on the west side, listening to Anita Baker and Luther Vandross – it’s a musical city so I definitely soaked it all up.
Kat: In creating FORWARD, what was it that inspired the album? We don’t really see a lot of artists just having fun with their music and the soundscapes that they’ve built, how did you know you wanted it to sound like that?
Jordan Ward: What inspired me sonically on this project is just doing something that felt cool to me and registered on an organic level instead of just being like, “Oh yeah, that’s cool, I’ve heard that before. Oh yeah, that makes sense for right now,” I think myself and all the producers – Lido especially – we just allow ourselves to indulge in the random things that we like – just not being afraid to experiment. I relate a lot of music to visual things as well, colours and space as well. [I’m] always inspired, always motivated to try to make it feel like a physical influence as well – something that you moving through.
Kat: In the making of FORWARD, what was collaborating with that incredible roster of artists like?
Jordan Ward: Man, working with everybody on FORWARD was great, they’re all my homies. I feel like with all of the collaborators on the album, they were something that was just growing over time and we were just waiting for the right time to collab and they all super inspired me – Joony, Ryan Trey, Lido, Joyce Wrice, Gwen Bunn, 6LACK, Easton Fitz – they all inspire me and I respect them a lot.
Kat: On the deluxe album MOREWARD, I feel like ‘ZOOMIES’ was just a really fun sound, and a really fun visual as well. The track really stuck out to me, what was it like to make and do you have any fun stories from the process?
Jordan Ward: I love dogs, I’m just inspired by their energetic joy and excitement for life and I feel like that was not missing, but it gets hard to keep alive when you on lockdown or you’re stuck in one place, so [I] wanted to make something that made me get up and running. Honestly, we was probably on mushrooms, probably at Lido’s house and just having fun. I uploaded it on SoundCloud for fun on a burner SoundCloud for like a year. And then I was like, “You know what, let me finish this.”
Kat: Sweater vests are a really important part of your look. What is it in particular about sweater vests that drew you in and implemented it into your aesthetic?
Jordan Ward: I like to build on my wardrobe in a uniform type fashion, so I know this fall I’m trying to be on some comfortable but a little more business fall type vibes – T-shirt with a sweater vest, you know what I’m saying? It shows you I’m clean. I’m well put together. I’m composed. I can get a little freaky underneath. I can get a little silly. And it’s just versatile. You can rock it with the shorts. You can rock it with the pants. You can rock it with the forces. You can rock it with the docs. It’s fire!
Kat: How did it feel to get that Tyler, The Creator cosign on ‘WHITE CROCS’?
Jordan Ward: It’s crazy. Shout out Tyler, he’s the GOAT. It meant a lot because he’s somebody I subconsciously often think – would he do this? You know what I’m saying, would Frank do this? Would Kendrick do this? As far as the taste level or quality, cause I feel like he always puts out quality work so it meant a lot.
Kat: From listening to ‘FAMJAM4000’, I can see family values is an important thing to you. What was your family was like growing up? Are there any lessons that you learned from them that you carry to this day?
Jordan Ward: I don’t have a huge family, I have a few biological family members around me, I just got a ton of extended family. I was an only child, with a single mom. I had a few other people in my biological family, and fake cousins. I spent a lot of time with them. Every time I go home, they tell me, “Just remember you always got a home here.” The older I get, the more I rediscover what that real love is and it makes me value my relationships even more.
Kat: I saw you back in April while you were on tour with Smino – literally hands down my favourite opening act of the year – and I just wanted to know what that experience was like and if it taught you anything?
Jordan Ward: Shout out Smino on the Louphoria tour, that was a crazy experience. It was absolutely insane. It was crazy because we went on tour out here a month after I dropped the album, so I got to encounter some people who have been living with it a different way than it was in the States. I was cooking over here when I came over, the meal was ready. We was all ready to eat. They were great crowds.
And what did I learn? I already knew this, but just how important the connection is between music and people, especially for that core fan base. These are real people buying these tickets, buying the merch, telling their friends about it, staying tapped into your movement for years. Those one or two interactions over time in person, when you can shake their hands, it just means everything. It just means I gotta stay out here, I gotta stay on the road.
I saw you just announced ‘TEURWARD’ for European fans how have you been executing FORWARD on stage and what can fans expect?
Shoutout TEURWARD. Shout out to you, the European and UK Gango. I’m excited for that. Lido, the executive producer [of FORWARD], he helped me execute the stage performance a lot by just giving the music some added musical components that’s unique to the show. People aren’t going to hear that on the album. Expect vibes, energy, Christmas time, the holidays – we gonna be up there jolly. Might f**k around and have Santa pull up with the reindeer!
PHOTOGRAPHY: KAT FRIAR
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