SOWING THE SEEDS OF SONGS
Family Jordan continue to refine their humid and cosmic country and folk sound on their fourth album Big Grass. Ahead of their appearance at the Dashville Skyline festival next weekend (Feb 25-28th, 2022) we’re adding our interview with Jordan Rochfort of the band from last year.
by Chris Familton
Following in the footsteps of Americana trailblazers The Band, Family Jordan named their new album after the house in which its songs were written, in the beautiful surrounds of Bangalow in the Northern Rivers region of NSW. Jordan Rochfort, the band’s songwriter, settled down in the area after spending time living across a number of Australian states. “I’m about twenty minutes outside of Byron Bay. I’ve been here full-time for five or six years now. I was at Tamborine Mountain in the Gold Coast hinterland when I was at high school and then moved to Brisbane when I was 17. I moved around quite a bit, down to Melbourne for a while, before I came back here.”
Big Grass is a record drenched in laidback country and folk rock. Tellingly they even cover the master of languid roots music, J.J. Cale. One might think that the natural environment around the band plays a key role in their sound but Rochfort discounts that theory. “We record everything in a home studio so there’s really no time pressure or pressure of any kind really. I think it’s more of that environment and not so much the rural or hinterland factor,” he explains. “I think I would have still made the record whether I was living here or in the middle of Melbourne. The subject matter would remain the same. Just because we live in a rural area doesn’t mean we feel compelled to use acoustic instruments or play country style music, we would have done that anyway.”
There’s a wonderful stylistic blend that permeates the music on Big Grass. Bob Dylan, Kevin Morby, Devendra Banhart and John Prine (who the album is dedicated to) come to mind and on songs such as ‘Let Me In’ and ‘Sally’ they take an even more direct dive into straight country music. “Country music has always been my #1 listening go-to but because of that I never really wanted to fully go down that path. I felt I had to step away from my major influences but still keep them close enough to be true to them” says Rochfort. “On Big Grass I felt like maybe I needed to step a little bit closer on some of the songs. That wan’t as painful as maybe I thought it would be,” he laughs.
Rochfort was something of a latecomer to music in general, it didn’t play much of a role in his world until his late teens. “I didn’t start playing music or really liking music until I left home when I was 17. That was when I started playing guitar. I mostly just wrote when I was younger and did visual arts stuff,” he recalls. “I found music quite distracting. I liked peace and quiet when I was a teenager.”
“I think I was writing a lot and must have picked up a guitar at some point and it was around the time I first heard a Dylan record and thought I could probably do something like that,” explains Rochfort. Once he got the music bug it set him on the journey that has become Family Jordan and any initial shyness and reticence was replaced with creativity and a bounty of sublime songs.
“Writing intuitively is definitely the best way. I’m most satisfied when it comes quickly,” says Rochfort, adding “I feel much more relaxed writing and releasing songs now. There’s really no thematic intentions other than making it better than the last one.”