Long Read

Image by Matthew Stone

Image by Matthew Stone

Alex Pollard in conversation with Jordan Hunt, October 2017

Before Jordan Hunt – part-time classically-trained composer, part-time creator of ‘sad boy pop’ songs – releases any music, he asks himself two questions: “does this song need to exist?”, and “has someone else already written it better than me?”

This meticulous mantra is why, despite an alarmingly impressive resumé of music qualifications – degrees from the Royal Northern College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music, six years in ten-piece art-pop orchestra The Irrepressibles, performances with Lana Del Rey and Bat For Lashes, and almost a decade as musical director of the Theo Adams Company – it’s taken him until now to release his debut solo EP. Thankfully, Long Lost is worth the wait.

Comprising shimmering, intricate soundscapes, Long Lost is at once rich and minimalist, meandering and direct. He stretches one vowel over a handful of wistful, falsetto notes – “I grew up with Tchaikovsky and Mariah Carey,” he says, “and I imitated both” – but none feels superfluous or out of place. “Even though I’m drawn to rich textures, it always has to be clear what the intention is.” 

You wouldn’t think, hearing his voice soar and plummet with such supple ease, that for most of his early career Jordan considered himself a “secret” singer. “The first time I ever sang a song to anyone I wore a towel over my head because I couldn't face the embarrassment of opening my mouth in front of people.” It took encouragement from a handful of his collaborators, like British musician Olivia Chaney, to persuade him that his voice was something special.

The towel’s off now, and Jordan’s confident that his EP stands up to his two-question mantra. His lyrics are stark and concise, and though each song details a personal situation, you don’t need to know the story to feel the songs’ heartbeat. ‘Mother’, on which industrial whirring and crackling (sounds designed by Jordan’s friend Will) gives way to purring piano chords, was inspired by a throwaway comment his mum made one Christmastime – but at its core it marvels at the contrariness of love. 

‘Peter’ meanwhile, which channels the haunting beauty of This Mortal Coil’s version of ‘Song To The Siren’, was written about a man with whom Jordan had an on-and-off relationship until his death five years ago. “I sang it at his funeral, a cappella, and it was one of the hardest, and most cathartic things I’ve ever done.” He doesn’t know where ‘I Once Cared’ came from – he just sat down at a piano and the song arrived – but he knows its inherent contradictions tally with “this contrary nature that I’ve discovered over the years, and now embrace.” It’s a nature that manifests in subtler ways too, like reversing the two chords of ‘Don’t Fly Too Far’ halfway through the song. 

Influenced by the atmospheric production of James Blake and the cathartic directness of Nina Simone, Jordan writes songs from his heart, onto which you can impose your own. “I really, really hope people get something emotional from it, because that’s pretty much the only reason I write. I hope they get an inkling of what I was trying to say to them, even if they only ever listen once. I feel like I’ve done my job, I’ve written the songs. You take it now. It’s yours.”