Radio Fodder's Olivia Ryan catches up with indie artist Chey Jordan in support of their first Melbourne gig & new single 'narcissist'.
A friend recently told me that life is the constant making of decisions. It’s true - you choose what to wear, which train to catch, when to see your therapist, who to text, who to love. Adjusting to that freedom, and finding confidence within it, is perhaps what makes young adulthood so tumultuous, offering artists plenty of material to weave through their work. Local artist and friend of the blog, Chey Jordan, is no different.
I met Chey in 2021 for my very first artist interview. Since then, we’ve had numerous chats, both personal and professional, charting his journey through life and music along the way. We Zoomed the day after his first gig in Melbourne and talked about performing, songwriting and navigating your inner world.
But not before he made a last-minute decision to grab a sandwich.
Olivia: Chey! Our final interview for Radio Fodder. I had my first question ready, but now it’s what was in your sandwich?
Chey: I knew I should’ve made a more interesting one. I got avocado, ham, and cheese. I thought maybe I'll chop a tomato and cucumber, but no, not today. And then I thought, “this is going to come up. I'm going to regret this.”
Olivia: That’s a fine sandwich!
Chey: It needs a sauce or something.
Chey: Or aioli.
Olivia: Next time. So my original first question was: you had your first Melbourne gig last night - I was there, it was great - how are you feeling?
Chey: Thank you. Until yesterday, I was nervous, so stressed. Then, I woke up with a clear head, excited to get into it. Afterwards, I thought it went better than expected, put it that way. I was like, “oh, I'm so glad I only messed up a few times instead of the whole guitar breaking halfway through.”
Olivia: Your starting song was ‘Somebody’s Someone’. You said you wrote it quite early on and it opened an album you once released. It got me thinking, it’s not uncommon for artists to bury their really early work. Maybe because of a vulnerability to exposing yourself, particularly through expressions as vulnerable as lyrics, and a retrospective naivety or a datedness. It seemed you felt the opposite way, you were proud of honouring your evolution as an artist. How do you feel about your past work and how it's still relevant?
Chey: Damn, that's really insightful. I appreciate that question. When I first started I was pretty young. I had no idea what I was doing, just messing around. At the time I released it, lots of friends were listening to my music and it was fun. Then it got some traction over east, so I had this plan to polish it up. Then COVID happened, which put everything on hold. I released the other two songs, wait for you and alright! with more of an indie-pop sound. Looking back on them, I love certain aspects, but I keep returning to that low-fi, atmospheric sound I played with as a teenager. It makes me think I shouldn't be refining those original songs. Everyone prefers my third song on Spotify, an anthem for the boy next door, over the others. I wrote it first and it was produced, mixed and mastered entirely by me. I can mess around and make jazzy songs, R’n’B or bedroom-pop, but I'll keep coming back to what I actually enjoy. It’s self confidence and realising I’m more capable than I thought.
Olivia: So you’ve retained that original sound, do you think much has actually changed about the way you write and draw inspiration since you began?
Chey: Yeah, I used to be very fictional. Half the stuff I'd write about wasn't true, and that’s fine. But some of my best writing has been post-therapy sessions. Being reflective rather than making up some love story or breakup or mental health situation. Taking from what you know is probably the best option. That's so cliché, but it's only really clicking now.
Olivia: I suppose that comes with life experience as well. Yes, you might be parroting who you aspire to be like forever, but particularly when you're younger. You have more content now than at 16. You mentioned before playing 'narcissist' that writing and completing it felt incredibly rewarding. It's a pretty intense song, it's very vulnerable. Talk me through what that felt like to write, finish, and then perform.
Chey: It feels like everyone has an insecurity or is anxious in some way, even if it's tough to talk about. So it's putting that into writing. It's obviously a bit exaggerated. No one wants to be a narcissist, but there’s the idea that ego-inflation can actually lift you up. Sometimes when you're really wanting for something, you're like, “I'll do anything. I'll be a narcissist,” and that's what it was. It came from a time… Do you want this to be, like, a vulnerable interview?
Olivia: As vulnerable as you like, whatever you’re comfortable with.
Chey: Yeah, no, I'm quite open. I struggled heavily with depression for the past ten years or so, and obsessive compulsive disorder. It was recognised, but it wasn't recognised. You have it, but you can’t actually take it on board until you wrap your head around it. There were times when I didn't want to get out of bed, but it felt like nothing should have been wrong. I struggled with that. I was taking my meds and talking to my therapist and thinking, “I don't know what's wrong. We've done all the things, but I’m still feeling this way.” Nowadays, as soon as a session ends, I'm writing stuff down. Or even during! One time, after a session I was thinking, “I am a bit of an anxiously attached person. With a fear of abandonment”. Then I thought, “friend of pharmacists” sounds funny because I'm addicted to meds. And there were the lyrics. It's dark humour, I guess. Even though it's a sad song, it's a light-hearted take. It’s one of my favourite songs because it's such an important issue and it’s vulnerable. But it's funny, I guess.
Olivia: And acceptance is a huge part of it. If you're anxious, you have to accept it. If you're on meds and you have to become friends with the pharmacist, you need to accept it. Only then can you move on without judgement and prioritise your best interests.
Chey: That's exactly it.
Olivia: On the topic of mental health which I know really matters to you, I wanted to highlight that you very kindly did the intro music for a friend’s podcast with Headspace. You went above and beyond, sending her multiple demos, and it turned out amazing, so thank you.
Chey: Thank you.
Olivia: Now, I know you love the local music scene. Are there any local acts you’d like to shout out?
Chey: I love Armlock right now. Leo, Blue Vedder, Gush. Lily Pilly, they haven't released anything yet but they opened up for Jack Gaby and Stella Donnelly. I immediately went to instagram to find something, there was nothing. So I'm waiting on that.
Olivia: Now, some quick fire questions. Your favourite karaoke song?
Chey: Hm… I wanna say 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. It's a big song, but I feel like it gets everyone going.
Olivia: That's a very generous song to pick.
Chey: Is it though, because it's, like, 7 minutes?
Olivia: [laughs]... maybe not. But I think of me and my best friend, we’ll pick a song that is specific to us that not everyone will know and it’s a situation of “you're all just going to sit down and watch.”
Chey: I could be down for that as well.
Olivia: No! Your option is much better. Window or aisle seat?
Chey: In a plane or a bus?
Olivia: Oh? Are they different answers?
Chey: Yeah - Aisle for a bus. Plane? Window seat.
Olivia: Last song you listened to?
Chey: It's not a lot, just forever by Adrianne Lenker.
Olivia: Your guilty pleasure?
Chey: [scans the room] Um. I love how this was supposed to be rapid fire…
Olivia: Maybe you don't feel guilty about any of your pleasures!
Chey: Is Gilmore Girls a guilty pleasure?
Olivia: It can be?
Chey: I’ve seen it five times over.
Olivia: Let’s go with that. Finally, would you rather your gigs be a big happy singalong, or a collective cry?
Chey: Well, I’m quite happy if you cry. Quite happy if you cheer.
Olivia: As long as they feel something?
Chey: Just as long as they don't throw tomatoes at me.
Chey’s candour in expressing his feelings that come with the decisions and lessons of early adulthood leaves me doubtful that listeners won’t feel something. And doubtful that he will cop a tomato to the face.
Stream Chey’s new song 'narcissist' now on Spotify: