Interview: Jordan Wayne Lee

Jun 26 2020

Jordan Wayne Lee is an artist who creates experimental instrumental rock music inspired by nature, ambient sounds and spiritual worship. Based in Los Angeles, California, he has just unveiled 3 new albums all at once. Louder Than The Music chatted with him to find out how he creates this unique music and what inspires his creativity, both in music and art.

For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?

My name is Jordan Lee and I currently live in Los Angeles, CA. I grew up outside of Seattle in a little town called Marysville. I discovered indie-rock, punk rock and Tooth and Nail Records when I was about 12 years old. Music, skateboarding and baseball fueled me. I remember saving up $40 to buy a no-name guitar at the pawn shop down the street from my grandfathers church. I learned “Move to Bremerton” by MxPx and started my own bands all the way through college. Playing in those bands and going on tour, lead me to creating album art, merchandise and websites for bands & record labels that I knew. That gave way to a whole design career.

Over the years, I have designed for companies like Disney, ESPN, REI Co-Op, Netflix, Universal, Apple, etc but my love and desire to play music has always remained. In fact, back in 2008 I was really saddened by my own failure to make music a career and I became angry at myself and God. I sold all of my music equipment and didn’t touch an instrument for about 10 years. Fast forward to 2018, I got married and had a deeply spiritual encounter with God. Transforming me completely - I quit drinking alcohol, I found myself obsessed with reading the Bible, the old ways were put aside and I found myself resonating from the inside out with a desire to express myself through music again. These albums are the result. Now, I play as much as I can and I run a creative agency in Los Angeles called Neon Wilderness, focused on building up environmental, humanitarian and non-profit organizations through brand strategy and design.

Tell us about your new albums and what the inspiration behind them was?

Each album and song expresses parts of a personal journey with my path of faith. The tonality and expression is experimental in the sense that I am not specifically writing the expected form of modern Christian music, but to capture the essence of spirituality and worship through tonality and intention. I view my expressions here more in the form of art, where the listener can derive their own sense of meaning, connection and feelings through the music knowing the intention is created as a form of worship in a new way.

These albums exist as a personal journey of faith, spirituality and connecting to God. I have never been one to find the modern worship experience as something that fully feeds me spiritually. Not to say that is wrong or right, but there are times in my life where I need something uplifting and spiritually resonating in those quiet times of solitude. These albums are as much an exploration of music as it is an exploration of personal prayer through song beyond words. In Christian music, sometimes I think words get in the way and for me this is more about reflecting a sense of feeling in these quiet moments.

Why release all three albums at once?

I have always liked the idea of Triptychs. 3 sections of a theme to tell a larger story. The format of beginning, middle and end. The Trinity. Ancient artworks in triptych form. For me, each of these albums represent something personal to me and it felt appropriate during the current climate of the world to not hold onto these and release them periodically, but to put them into the world simultaneously. “Within the White Light” is an internal exploration. “Both/And” is an external cultural exploration. “Constructs of a Human Sanctuary” is an exploration of the individual and the communal relationship of faith.

Personally, each album is a sense of prayer and intentional spiritual efforts to explore personal feelings about faith, culture, the church and what the future of these look like. During this time of unrest and uncertainty, my hope is that these might serve as music to give hope, relief for the listener to step into a sacred space with the Creator without any distractions from outside noise, mainstream media, news, or the opinions of my own self. To reconnect with the Creator, just the listener and God. One on one.

What message would you like people to take from your music?

Ancient truth meets future thinking. We live in such a connected global world, yet we feel more isolated and disconnected than ever before. I believe this is where we must seek to fully understand our meaning and purpose in relation to our faith. How must we exist in the current world and the future world? How does culture inform our meaning and purpose? How does spirituality ground us in a connected and technologically driven society? Those quiet moments between notifications, text messages, social media posts and media with of solitude is where we reconnect to our greater purpose and seek the face of God.

How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?

I would describe my music as experimental and exploratory. I have a lot of musical influences from a range of genres (ambient, post rock, Gregorian monks, 90’s shoegaze, 90’s grunge, Delta Mississippi Blues, anything from Sub Pop Records, Drive Thru Records, Solid-State Records). But to describe my music would be ambient, post-rock, soundscape, experimental or alternative. I have a million other ideas and things I’d like to explore beyond what is currently here. I think, if God-willing, I’d like to continue moving in that direction.

As for influences, I think a lot of my inspiration extends beyond music and more into various art forms that translate to this collective sound. I spend a lot of time outdoors, in nature, climbing mountains, hunting my own food - nature is my cathedral. Nature also provides patterns in terms of design. From Fibonacci mathematics to 432hz in natural sounds. These elements and inspirations have definitely found their way into my music. Whereas, I look to the patterns in nature, created by God, to inform new ways of creating music - to the tuning, composition and time within songs. If you listen closely, you’ll discover that my music has these elements interwoven as a way to honor God and his beautiful creation.

If you could work with any musician who would it be and why?

I’d like to work with musicians in the capacity of creating new forms of art and experiences. Beyond music, I’d like to collaborate with artists who want to push new boundaries, explore new experiences and create beautiful forms of art in both the digital and physical spaces that bring humanity closer to connecting with the Creator within a personal experience. Whether that is music, emerging technology, art or a conglomeration of all of those mediums - I think there are some interesting artists and provocative things being done outside of the church, however, I believe there is going to be a resurgence of creation and art within the church as a new renaissance.

I’d like to collaborate with artists who hold different views than mine in relation to faith or spirituality. I don’t think we were meant to limit our capacity to create by being completely aligned with other humans based on their views or beliefs. In that sense I am open to collaborating with artists and musicians across many spectrums in various genres. That being said, collaborating in Los Angeles with Kanye West, Travis Barker, John Mayer, Billy Corgan, Trent Reznor, Post Malone, Anberlin, Underoath, Bon Iver, Sigur Ros, Dave Grohl, and Kendrick Lamar would be incredible.

One quote I very much like in regards to my faith and the journey I am on is by Carl Jung. He says “No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.” My roots have definitely touched hell. I have seen and experienced the shadows of my self. I tried to discover my own ways to conquer and move forward, however, everything led me back to faith. A deep faith. Beyond the 30 min sermon. Beyond the modern formats of Christianity. Where the ability to reach the heavens means understanding the capacity of the roots that have touched hell. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. I felt it. I ran from it. And with that, I believe that my perspective and worldview in relation to faith and art and collaboration is something not to be limited, but to be understood, infused and expressed as a form of truth through art and music.

How would you define success in your career as an artist?

For me, success is creating the most vulnerable and honest work that resonates for others. The moment I started creating art for my Creator and shared that art with others, removing myself from the central part of the intentional effort, the more I understood and embraced the meaning and purpose within my work. I am merely a vessel. Success to me is continuing that path and creating work that is a reflection of a greater purpose and meaning for myself in relation to my own existence… and hopefully it inspires others to pursue or come to an understanding of their own meaning and purpose. Without words, I think my music says something more than if I were to try and convince someone to believe what I believe. The truth will emerge and that is what I am pursuing in my work without saying anything more than the feeling someone gets from the music. God will reveal himself the way He needs to. He works in mysterious ways.

What is your favorite album of all time?

“( )” - Sigur Ros

You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?

“Cheeseburger in Paradise” by Jimmy Buffet because it’s an upbeat tune that would keep me in a good mood being isolated on an island alone. It would also motivate me to build a boat so I could get off the island and get back to civilization so I could eat more cheeseburgers haha!

What does the next year hold for you?

For Music: Continuing to write and explore through new songs. Collaborating with other musicians. Forming a full band where I envision playing live that feels more like an experience. Considering visuals, sound baths, or new ways to present art in forms of not only music, but visuals.

For work: I am partnering with organizations across the world developing brand and design strategy to further the mission of organizations focused on environmental, humanitarian or faith based initiatives with my company Neon Wilderness.

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