Jordan reaches new heights, drawing strength from pain
Updated: July 31, 2018 at 2:54 pm
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Dexter Jordan is having a moment, and it is hard earned in more ways than one.
The Charlotte-based singer grew up steeped in song, the product of a music minister father and a mother who sang in the choir, and he took up singing at the age of five.
At that young age, he already showed he had pipes while singing at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C., becoming a member of the choir just like his mom.
The 24-year-old, who was raised in Millry, Ala. — a town so small it was without a hospital, so he was actually born in Mississippi — moved to Greensboro with his mother in 2002. His parents divorced.
He was just 13 when he stepped into the spotlight of the historic and notoriously intimidating Apollo Theater in New York City, where the audience isn’t afraid to boo a teenager chasing their dreams off the stage.
He drew strength from his mother, LaFondra Jordan, waiting in the wings, who was always supportive of his talents. She continued to believe in him when he decided, at age 20, that he wanted to pursue music professionally.
She was also supportive when he came out, Jordan told qnotes.
“My sister and my mom were the first people I told,” he said.
While he admits there is room for growth, he is grateful that they, as he put it, “just want me to be happy and successful in life.
“My family still loves me regardless. I am thankful that I have a family that, even though they’re not understanding, they still accept me.”
That level of support, while fundamental in shaping him into the person and artist he is today, only made losing his mother, in 2016 to cancer, that much harder to handle.
For the first time in his life, he didn’t have his number one supporter by his side.
“I was just very lost,” he recalled. “I just had to take time away from everything.”
He decided he needed to focus simply on living instead of on creating art or pursing a project.
“During that time, I kind of didn’t even know how to be an artist,” he admitted. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, honestly. That was just a difficult thing to go through.
“And it’s still hard to go through right now. So, I’m surprised that I’m even making music at this moment.”
But he has returned to his love of singing with a renewed spirit, and a perspective that has been strengthened through loss.
Jordan was inspired to return to his creative outlet when his friend, rapper and producer Yung Citizen, reminded him why he got into music in the first place. He encouraged Jordan to contribute to a collaborative EP, “Alive Sessions,” that was to feature a number of eclectic local artists, and pour out his emotions through music, as he had always done before.
When it came time to contribute his verse to the track, “Heaven’s Door,” Jordan, for the first time, put his feelings about his mother’s passing into song, and proved to himself what his friend already knew: That he still had plenty left to express. Perhaps more now than ever.
Late last year, Jordan again proved that fact when he released the single “Hello, New Me,” for which he made his first music video. In both, the themes of self-acceptance and recovery are abundant.
“Looked in the mirror and I like what I see/Took a long time to get it right, but I finally love me,” he sings, removing his shirt, decked out in makeup and glitter.
“Goodbye, goodbye, old me/Hello, hello, new me,” he croons.
“Took a long time to get it right/Took a long time just to get it right/Yeah, it took a long time to get it right/But I finally love me,” he declares in the chorus, with obvious conviction.
The song quickly gained Jordan some newfound attention, including from singer Yebba, who encouraged her fans to check the track out on her Instagram story.
“That inspired me to be like, ‘Wow, I guess I need to put out a project,’” Jordan said of unexpectedly receiving the recognition from an artist he respects.
Inspired by the moment, he started a new project: Recording his first full-length album, which he reported includes elements of R&B, hip-hop and jazz.
Jordan is working with producer and singer-songwriter Jason Jet, and is dedicating the project to the memory of his mother, as well as his friend K.J., who died as a result of suicide after dealing with mental health issues.
He said his friend’s passing further inspired him to keep pushing ahead with his music.
“I felt a heavy weight on me when he passed,” Jordan said. “It just meant a lot. I loved K.J. and I loved my mom, and I felt like a lot of things were happening at one time that I didn’t understand.”
His friend’s passing also played a part in his decision to study sociology, which he does at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
“It’s bittersweet when I think about my friend. But I also know that he would always want me to keep staying with music.”
He knows his mother would feel the same. He intends to make both of them proud, and shows no signs of stopping now.
Dexter Jordan will perform at this year’s Charlotte Pride festival, held Aug. 18 and 19 in Uptown, alongside such acts as Superfruit, Jessica Sutta, Cupcakke, Ultra Naté, and others. More information is available online at charlottepride.org.
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About the author: Jeff Taylor is a journalist and artist. In addition to QNotes, his work has appeared in publications such The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inside Lacrosse, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport and has lived in Charlotte since 2006.