Jordan Reynolds is Rose Hotel. She was previously a member of Buffalo Rodeo and lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky — for now. She has an EP slated for a summer release and is often found playing shows in the Midwest. We spoke to her using the internet on 2016’s Winter Solstice.
Mike with Take The L: I know you traveled today so it was not exactly a normal day, but walk me through a day in the life of Jordan Reynolds.
Jordan: Well every day is a little bit different, I don’t have any specific routine. I don’t have a job with a set schedule so literally every single day is a bit different as far as what I’m doing.
M: Okay, so how about not a great day, but what’s a decent day like?
J: Well normally I wake up at 8:30 or 9:00. I work as a bartender at a restaurant in Bowling Green. It’s like my day job. So if I’m bartending I’ll be at work from 10 until like 5, and then after that, basically, when I’m not working I’m trying to make music or just be creative in some way. That’d mean making music or reading, or writing poetry or hanging out with other creative people, band practice, and if it’s a day that I work at night then that’s flip-flopped and I try and wake up and do something creative in the morning and then go into work at 4 or 5. And then when I’m off work or it’s late at night I’ll just read or watch a movie and go to sleep. Sounds pretty boring [chuckles].
M: Do you have a go-to meal?
J: Yeah I love cooking, that’s something I’ve really been into lately. Okay, so a normal meal if I’m cooking is roasted veggies. I’ll throw them in some coconut oil and roast them in the oven and I’ll basically do that with rice [laughs].
M: What would your top three veggies be for roasting if you had access to everything?
J: To roast them, cauliflower, asparagus, and peppers.
M: Darn I was hoping you’d say eggplant!
J: You know I’m not a big eggplant person, but I think that’s because I don’t know how to do it right. There’s like a special way to roast it the best but I don’t know how. I love mashed potatoes. That’s my favorite food. I try to cook dinner as much as I can. For breakfast I go to this coffee shop in Bowling Green, called Spencer’s Coffee. It’s the only one in town that’s any good and isn’t a Starbucks. If I’m working I usually run in there and grab an egg sandwich or something and coffee.
M: What’s your favorite leafy green?
J: I think I like spinach the best. Kale’s good, I like arugula, but spinach is versatile.
M: Nice, arugula’s easily my favorite. With some friends we chase Jim Beam with arugula. Love arugula.
J: What? You take Jim Beam shots and eat a piece of arugula?
M: Pretty much.
J: What! I’ve never even heard of that before [laughing]!
M: No one has!
J: That’s crazy! Is that a New England thing?
M: I don’t think so, but it’s especially good with some oaky and spicy arugula.
J: That’s hilarious. I really like arugula salad.
M: But not a salad in your drink? Okay we’ve talked about food. What are you reading right now?
J: Oh my gosh! I’m really excited. My friend dropped me off at the airport and he gave me my Christmas gift. I was leaving the car and he handed me a book, M Train by Patti Smith. I just started it on the plane this morning. Patti Smith is always underground and not too mainstream, but such an incredible poet and musician. Honestly, I love her. Anyways, she wrote a book called Just Kids that I read last year and it’s one of my favorite books, so I’m excited for this one.I also read a book called Girls Like Us — it’s about Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Carly Simon. And I’m reading a poetry book called salt. It reminds me of this book I read, Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur. I’ve been trying to mix it up a lot lately, reading novels and fiction and memoirs, and then poetry. But I like memoirs the best. What are you reading?
M: I don’t read as much as I’d like to but I just finished Obama’s first book, Dreams For My Father, and then I got my hands on a collection of interactions with J.D. Salinger, called The Last Interview, and now I’ve picked up The Catcher In The Rye in order to read it as an “adult” in a time when I’ll probably appreciate all the angst more.
J: Cool. I’ve only read The Catcher In The Rye but I love reading interviews and then delving into authors’ books because you have so much more context. I did the same thing with Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar. It’s a really intense and depressing book, but it’s also really really good. It’s probably one of my favorite books. I read it while I was on tour with Buffalo [Rodeo] at the end of the summer. It was really weird to read that book while I was on tour. It was strange because a tour is always a journey, literally and emotionally, and in The Bell Jar you follow this character on a journey as well, basically following her through a mental breakdown. Sometimes tour can feel like a mental breakdown too [chuckles], so it was interesting to read because there were a lot of lines in that book I read and could relate to, even if the circumstances were totally different.
M: Sounds interesting. Well, enough literature. Musically, are you working on anything specific right now?
J: Yeah I’m actually working on a solo record, but I guess it’s technically not solo as I’ve got a band that’s playing with me. Like musicians backing me up. But I’m working on my own original material under the name Rose Hotel. I have a couple music videos up, but that’s it right now. [Here’s a video.] I’m basically going to spend all of January and February writing for the album, or maybe EP, and then March just rehearsing and feeling good, and then we’ll record it in April. But I guess I’d record earlier if it gets done earlier. [Update: Jordan exceeded her goals and has a solo EP in the books with plans to record a full band album next month!]
J: Yeah, I’m really excited about it!
M: What’s your songwriting process like?
J: For me, all of my songs start on acoustic guitar. Most of the time I’ll be driving in my car and a melody will come to my head or something, or some lyrics, and I’ll turn on voice memo and sing into my phone. Sometimes it starts that way and then I’ll take that recording or thought or idea in my room and try and figure it out on guitar. Or I’ll be playing around on guitar and a chord structure will sound good to me and then I’ll start singing along with it and it’ll organically grow from there. I never really go into a song thinking I want to use these chords or I want to use this idea, I don’t really think about it that much going into it. I wish I was better at that, but I’m not.
M: Do melodies usually come before words?
J: Yeah, always. Sometimes I might have lines of lyrics, like I might write down a couplet, but for the most part it’s a melody and then I’ll start singing and then mumbling and things will come and I’ll put it all together.
M: Do you think everyone uses voice memos nowadays?
J: It’s convenient. Like the person who’s recording my EP will have me send the songs all demoed out as stripped down versions, so he can have an idea of how the songs are gonna sound. He’ll say “just turn on your phone and do a voice memo and send me a text with the song on guitar.” I think voice memo has really opened up the ability to quickly record ideas.
M: With Rose Hotel, are you writing all the parts?
J: I’m writing the chords and melodies, and kind of directing the ideas for the drums and the bass and the keys, but I’m not a drummer. I wish I was a drummer, but I’m not. So I have a couple of drummers that I work with and I really trust their judgement. I’m kind of writing the songs in an overall way, but on the little parts I’m collaborating with some friends.
M: Okay, enough about the music you make. How about the music you like? Have you bought any good records recently? And I realize I’m stereotyping by assuming that you buy records.
J: But you’re right [laughs], I do buy records. I spend a lot of money on records. Today, I bought Elliott Smith’s Either/Or, but it’s a Christmas present for someone. I also just found a promotional copy of Joni Mitchell’s album, Mingus. It’s the album that she did with Charles Mingus right before he died. That was a really cool find.
M: Very cool! Was that at a record store or online?
J: A record store in Royal Oak, Michigan. I recently got the Solange record, A Seat At The Table, and Jessica Pratt’s On Your Own Love Again, and I think those are the most recent ones. I bought a few jazz records too, but I don’t really, I mean, I just pick randomly out of those boxes cause they’re always like three bucks or something.
M: Great. So do you have a favorite drink or beer?
J: I think sentimentally I really like this brewery out of Michigan called Shorts. What’s your favorite beer?
J: Oh I’ve had those. Is that in New York?
M: Yeah it’s in Cooperstown. Do you have a favorite from Shorts?
J: Yeah they have a beer called The Soft Parade that was one of the first beers I ever drank. Every time I come home for the holidays I try and bring a six pack back to Bowling Green. I don’t really know — I really like Berliner Weissbiers and I like double IPAs, but I don’t really have specific breweries. I do really like everything that Evil Twin does.
M: Do you know if Shorts does other Doors inspired beers? The Doors were probably the first band I ever really loved.
J: I don’t think so, but me too! Seriously, my first real band obsession was The Doors. I think I was in like fourth or fifth grade and my dad gave me his old cassette of The Doors.
M: No way! I grew up with Doors’ cassettes. The car I learned to drive in had a cassette player so I ended up getting all The Doors’ albums on tape. LA Woman is probably my favorite for driving.
J: Yeah, that’s a great one. I got really into The Doors and read that book No One Here Gets Out Alive, but now as an adult I don’t really listen to them that much or probably love them that much anymore. But they were the first band, like classic rock band, that made me want to learn more about music. I think Jim Morrison was really fascinating and I love Ray Manzarek’s organ. Have you read Jim Morrison’s poetry?
M: I’ve read some and An American Prayer is a bunch of his poetry put over music after he died. It was one of the later albums after the original six.
J: Oh, I’ll have to check that out.
M: All right, back to you. Are you from Michigan? You’re there right now, but live in Bowling Green? What’s your story?
J: I’m from Michigan, that’s where my family’s from and that’s where I was born. But my dad moved around a lot when I was a kid. We lived in Bowling Green for a little while when I was growing up and I became close with some people there. We moved away and moved back and moved away and moved back. When I was a freshman in college, I wanted to go down and be in Buffalo Rodeo, and that’s how I ended up back in Bowling Green. I just kind of went back there for a while and I think I’ll probably be moving soon, and that’ll be good. Continuing with this day in the life theme, I wish my days were more interesting. Working and making music.
M: I think in a way that’s the point. Granted, people are at different points in their careers as musicians. You work in a restaurant to support yourself, when I assume there are people who are making a living off their music and a day for them might mainly consist of a two hour walk.
J: I mean, I wish I could have days where I could do nothing [laughs]. If I was making enough music and making money off of it, I could have days where I’d just take a long walk.
M: Right. And that’s the goal, yeah? One of the ultimate privileges in life would be to make art and have that…
J: …Be your living. Yeah.
M: And that totally makes sense. Hopefully I’ll be able to do some interviews with people who are at that stage, because when someone gets that successful, more people, I think, begin to think of them as just a musician…
J: …And not as a person.
M: Exactly. Less as someone who obviously has different interests, has songs they play live that they hate playing, and all sorts of other things. Anyway, have any stories about meeting a favorite musician or artist?
J: This is going to make me sound really lame, but, I don’t care cause I loved this band when I was in high school. Do you know Kings of Leon?
M: Yeah [laughs] and I mean that’s not that lame or anything, at least in my mind.
J: Well, anyway, Bowling Green’s really close to Nashville and they’re from Nashville and they’re really famous. They had that huge album and huge song back when I was like 14 or 15 years old. My brother and I developed a real emotional connection with their music. We listened to all the first four albums front to back all the time. We moved back to Michigan and the first concert we went to was Kings of Leon at The Palace, and that was a really sentimental and emotional experience because we really loved their music back then. I used to cover their songs too.
Now fast forward like five years and Buffalo Rodeo was playing with this really awesome band out of Nashville called The Weeks. They’re really great people too. Anyway, we were touring with them and I guess they were on a couple guys from Kings of Leon’s label [Serpents and Snakes] and we were playing at Mercy Lounge in Nashville and I walked backstage and saw Lily Aldridge, who’s the Victoria’s Secret model, and thought “Woah, that’s Lily Aldridge” but I didn’t go up and talk to her. But then I saw Caleb Followill [of Kings of Leon and married to Lily Aldridge] and I couldn’t keep it together. It was so silly, but for some reason because of the emotional aspect of that band for me, I mean I saw him and the rest of the guys in my band were talking and shaking his hand, like chattin’ him up, but I thought “I can’t, I can’t talk to you.”
Anyway, I also met Laura Marling, but just after her show and we didn’t have a conversation or anything, but I kind of fanned out about her cause I’m a huge Laura Marling fan. So the first time I ever felt sincerely starstruck was seeing Caleb Followill backstage. That was like “Aghh!”
M: That’s definitely a good story.
J: Yeah, it was cool because my band was playing at the show that he was at. It was a weird full circle sort of thing. But I couldn’t even talk to him, so it’s not like I made an impact or anything. I mean, I could’ve, but I was too afraid.
M: I feel that. It is fun when recognizable people are at a show they aren’t playing. For example, Mac Demarco was at a showcase this past spring with probably 400 or 500 people, and you could just tell everyone was buzzing because he was there. I assume he was there because Homeshake was playing. [Homeshake is led by Mac Demarco’s sometimes guitarist.]
J: Oh my gosh! I just saw Homeshake play in Nashville and they were awesome! The Homeshake guy was just like sitting at the merch table, he was really funny.
M: I’m sure. Have you seen how Homeshake does Facebook? It’s the best.
J: I don’t think I even have their Facebook, but I need to.
M: You should look because it’s hilarious.
J: Well his Instagram is really funny.
M: I’ll check that out. But on Facebook he’ll post tour dates and someone will be like “Why aren’t you coming to Arizona?” And then Homeshake will respond “Guess we’re not.” [Both laugh.] It gets better, but that’s just the best way to do Facebook in my mind. It’s also funny because so many people at the Homeshake show were dressed with the crew sweatshirt and the flat hat.
J: [Chuckles.] Actually it’s really funny that you bring this up. The Homeshake show was in Nashville and a couple local bands played beforehand. The way that the crowd looked for the local Nashville bands, and after all those people left and like the real Homeshake fans came in, the clothing difference was so apparent. A friend calls it “Norm Core” cause like everyone dresses very normal, like crew sweatshirt, ball cap, sneakers. Just really plain. I love the style. [According to the internet “normcore” is a thing.] Also, Homeshake’s stage presence is hilarious.
[From here our discussion took quite a tangent from Homeshake to music in the 2000s and blogs in the 2000s, all before finding our way to the rekindled intersection between music and politics.]
J: I feel like, and I’m an extremely liberal person, but going back to this whole musicians as people idea, I feel like music and the arts world tries to remain too politically correct sometimes. What I mean by that is I think there are things that are important for people to talk about. I feel like people don’t like talking about politics because there are so many different perspectives and opinions. But also, if no one’s ever sharing how they feel about things, like important issues aren’t talked about, then are we doing our jobs as artists?
M: I agree. I recently went to a show by this band, Evolfo, and they made it clear that all proceeds from merch would go to the Standing Rock Sioux. To me, this is a good thing and they might’ve sold more merch because of it. I think even little stands like that are still important.
J: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s really true.
M: And there’s a point where you can have debates, but there’s also, in my opinion, a point where there is right and wrong.
J: Exactly! Yeah.
M: Okay, a few more questions. Have you ever used Last.fm? Do you know what it is?
M: Do you still use it?
J: [Laughs] No. I wonder if I could find my Last.fm. I mean, I don’t even know if it’s connected to my Facebook or not. I forgot about it, but I did use it a lot in middle school.
M: Great. What I’ve found is that people a few years younger than us literally have no idea about what it ever was.
J: Yeah, I mean like MySpace too. I got Facebook years ago. How can I get back on Last.fm? Man I do love it, I wish I’d stayed on there! But I do really love Spotify as it keeps track of everything.
M: Well don’t go making another Last.fm cause I’m sure you’d get a good kick out of finding the old one.
J: It’s probably a lot of what I got really into in seventh or eighth grade. Oh God, that band, The Academy Is…, I don’t even know, maybe Taking Back Sunday too. I went through a phase. Like, I had to go through a few years of shit music to get to good stuff, then I finally got around to some good stuff.
M: [Laughs.] I know what you mean. Once upon a time I was really into Adema and I’d say that’s quite embarrassing. Okay, you know those “you’re on an island forever” scenarios where you only get a few items? Would you prefer unlimited apples, oranges, or bananas?
J: Hmm, [four second pause] I think bananas.
M: Okay, and would you rather only have everything ever written by JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling, or JD Salinger? And that includes if more things are found or published for the rest of eternity.
J: I think JK Rowling. I think if I’m stuck on a desert island, I wouldn’t want to think too much about Middle Earth cause that could get kind of freaky, but then on the other hand if I’m stuck on a desert island, and like it’s solitary, I’d want to escape into the world of Harry Potter. That world would probably turn into weird best friends of mine, cause they’d be like the only people I’d read or think about. Kind of weird, but if I had to disappear into a book, I’d want to disappear into the Harry Potter books.
M: That’s a good call. And Salinger’s kind of too dark and angsty.
J: Yeah, I’m not sure I’ll ever read JD Salinger again. I think it’d make me really cynical, and if I were already stranded, I’d be upset already.
M: Yeah no need to be an angsty teenager forever on a desert island alone [both laugh]. And Tolkien is so dark, but so awesome, and so dark.
J: I love Tolkien, like The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, but I haven’t read anything else that he did. But I pick Harry Potter and JK Rowling.
M: Great, now a final music question: which do you prefer, A minor or D minor?
J: Oh! I’m trying to think of the songs I’ve been writing. Dang! I use both of those a lot! I guess A minor. I use F major 7 a lot and I use a lot of 7 chords, so I like A minor better. I use both of those a lot, and both in the same songs.