By Joseph Hawkins
Music is the fastest way to simultaneously mend hearts and shatter them – to suture closed old wounds while also ripping them wide open again. The old saying “different strokes for different folks” might be true, but no genre does this with as much surgical precision as indie folk. To hurt is to heal, and modern indie folk is the world’s most significant, recent advancement in that paradox.
Enter Jordan Moyes, a singer/songwriter who does simple, gut-wrenching indie folk music right. To quote the songwriter himself, Jordan “puts storytelling at the very front of his songwriting.” Born and raised in Phoenix and based out of Salt Lake City, Jordan brings to the stage some of the very best lyricism, vocal performance, and overall musicality our region has to offer. His EP, titled I Was Young I Was Old, was released in 2019 and has since been followed up by a handful of singles.
There’s a h*ck of a lot to love about this short, three song glimpse into his soul. There’s an emotional atmosphere that becomes immediately all-encompassing from the opening swell of an organ and rhythmic, electric guitar strums. Sublimely simple instrumentation choices are the name of the game here, with intimacy the goal and honesty the focus. The tracks “I Was Young I Was Old” and “Free” both create a sense of space, as if I am sat in the pew of an abandoned old church in the mountains at dusk, listening to the confessional of a friend a few feet away. There’s no eeriness to it though – just room to explore the loss this friend has experienced, and reverence for all it represents.
Not a single cliché lyric, rhyme, sentiment, or piece of instrumentation to be found throughout this collection. It’s a suffocating and desperately moving experience to sit through in the brief span of 14 minutes, with just a handful of guitars, organs, and vocals. Here’s a sample of the lyrical genius to be found here:
“I’ve been holding on to all my dreams
And I’m tired of waking up
You were my favorite broken heart“
“Found your skin on the shelf next to all your books
As if you wrote them with every word you could“
“Out to dry, you hung me high
I’ve seen the way you drag these things along
And I’m not here to wait“
There isn’t much I would change about the record, and none of it has to do with the stories being told. At times on each track, there can be a lack of productional progression felt. Part of this is a consequence of the simplicity, and it may be a choice. But adding even one more element or texture of some kind could have created further interest as the songs progress. Doing so, though, requires a delicate touch. You have to balance painting a broader picture without adding too many strokes to a purposefully contained image. Ultimately, the most important thing in these songs is the story. If it distracts, it destroys, so I can completely understand why simplicity was chosen in order to maintain the artistic integrity.
To summarize, I quote Provo Music Magazine’s editor, Zach Collier: “Dude, Jordan Moyes should be famous.” Every follow-up single since I Was Young I Was Old has been an improvement on the quality craftsmanship that began here. This was an instant save to my own personal music library, with each subsequent revisit reminding me how profound it truly is. “Free” remains my favorite song, taking elements that sound familiar to the folk enthusiast while remaining unique in voice and style as the story is told. Moyes is someone I need to hear more from, and soon.
Make sure to follow Jordan Moyes on Instagram. You can listen to “Free” below!