JRDN Canadian Soul Wilderness

JRDN Canadian Soul Wilderness
When JRDN learned he was nominated for a 2014 Juno — "Best R&B/Soul Recording" for his radio-friendly single "Can't Choose" featuring Kardinal Offishall — he took it in stride. Not that the Toronto-via-Halifax R&B singer (real name Jordan Croucher) didn't appreciate the honour, but he notes it's just another step toward being the artist that he wants to be. Current EP project JRDN represents his continued evolution towards being a more complete soul singer — whether the Canadian music industry is ready or not. So whether JRDN wins this year, the former professional basketball player (having played for a year in France) is currently more focused on staying on his chosen musical career path. And with the Junos less than a month away, Exclaim! spoke with JRDN to get his thoughts on the new project, becoming more soul-oriented, and the state of Canadian R&B in general.

Congrats on the Juno nomination.
Yeah thanks.

Do you care about stuff like that? Does that recognition validate you?
Nah. I mean, when I'm nominated I know what it means but I just to stay away from the ink and reading what people are saying in papers, blogs or radio scans. I stay away from stuff like that. Like I said, I'm still trying to focus on being the artist that I know I can be. If I spend time thinking about what other people are saying, that could distract me. But the Junos? That's the biggest thing in Canada. It's definitely exciting. Not a lot of people get that opportunity.

What happened to dropping a full-length album? Why launch an EP instead?
We decided to shorten it up, put out an EP. That's kind of where the game is going right now anyway in terms of teasers or tasters so we decided let's do a short EP and keep working.

Did that decision ultimately change the vision of the project?
Not at all. It made it better. There were probably 13 or 14 songs that I wanted on it and we still have those in the hole, in the vault.

With each album or project, your sound seems to be progressively more R&B sounding. Is this a conscious decision?
I've always wanted to be an R&B guy and I always wanted that sound. But it took some time growing as a writer and growing with Kuya Productions, my producers. I started out with [artist/rapper/producer] Classified and he's a pop and rock guy, you know? So we kind of started off on that foot. And even in the last records, there were some dance tracks that, really, weren't me, you know what I'm saying.

Just as I'm getting older and the music is maturing, I know what I want and I know that I'm not going to just settle for just doing records, you know?

That said, is it a challenge being an R&B singer in this country?
I mean, given the geography of this country, it is a bit of a challenge. R&B really isn't a hit up in Canada. A lot of people don't look for it, it's not on a lot of people's radar. It's a bit of challenge. But when you believe in it and keep pushing — you know one of my biggest songs "You Can't Have It All" was a mid-tempo R&B joint — I guess I'm just fortunate to have a little bit of support here in Canadian radio.

Working with the Kuya, what's the collaborative process like, particularly when compared to working with folks like Classified?
[Kuya's Sammy Blues and Bobby Brass], their first love is R&B so that's definitely the biggest difference between working with them versus working with Classified. The difference with Classified was when we did our first project, it was rushed. We did like 13 or 14 records in less than a year and we did three tours in that same year. Compared to working with Kuya, the first project took like two-and-a-half years and did about 40 records and just picked the best ones. So it was the timing thing. We just took our time a lot more. Plus their background is R&B too.

Coming from the East coast and now living in Toronto, do you keep in touch in terms of what's happening back east from a musical perspective?
I mean I definitely have my circle of friends and artists back home and when I go back I get caught up. But I'm been really so caught up with this project. I just came back from home, and there's just so much talent. I'm not a big city guy. I'm a laid back kind of guy. So guess the perspective is a little different because I'm not always in the scene like a lot of artists in Toronto are. I just do my thing.

So how do you define your sound? Knowing that it's hard as a R&B artist in this country, what category would you place yourself in?
It's the music man. It's growth. When I started man, I was singing all out of tune, all off key and shit. So just knowing that you have to put in a lot of work to grow. Even now, I'm not where I want to be as an artist or songwriter or producer. But I know that there is a light at the end where I'm going to be that one day. And that's what keeps me going: knowing that I have room to grow and be that artist that I can be.

As far as R&B goes, I love it. So I'm not going to try be a rock guy, or a rapper. I love R&B. [R&B singer-songwriter] Babyface is who made me fall in love with music. I got to stick to that and do the R&B, even though it's not a huge market. It's what I love to do. That's what keep me going.

What's your touring experience been like?
I went out with Classified about five times and I always like going to the little towns. On this Hedley tour we're going to be hitting the little towns as well. They don't have a lot of people come in for entertainment so when they get someone to come through they really appreciate that show.

What would you be doing if you weren't busy being a recording artist?
I would probably still be playing, or I would be teaching. I got a passion for that do and did a little bit of that when I was done my pro stint in Europe. Playing, teaching, or coaching.

So what does success look like to you?
I'm definitely not trying to emulate anyone. As far as success goes, you got to look at Justin Bieber, Drake, Melanie Fiona, k-os, K'naan, you know I look up to those guys who have done it internationally. When you've done it internationally, I guess that's the metre that's measuring success.