Jordan Feliz has rapidly become one of Christian music’s major artists since the release of his first EP, Beloved, for Centricity Music in 2015. The success of his first single, "The River,” led to his first Dove Award, with Feliz winning New Artist of the Year in 2016, along with receiving nominations for Song of the Year and Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year for “The River.” Feliz’s full-length album, The River, debuted at No. 4 on Billboard’s Christian Albums chart in 2016. The album’s two singles, “Beloved” and “Never Too Far Gone,” both achieved Top-10 Status on Billboard’s Christian Airplay Chart. His current single “Witness” is a Top-15 hit and climbing. Listed by Nashville Lifestyles Magazine as “One To Watch”, Feliz has toured with such major artists as Michael W. Smith, for KING & COUNTRY, Steven Curtis Chapman, TobyMac, and Matthew West, and he’s currently performing on the Winter Jam circuit. His highly-anticipated sophomore album, Future is set for release on March 23rd. We caught up with Jordan at the Pittsburgh Winter Jam stop where he opened up about his battle with anxiety and the inspirations behind his new record.
Before we start talking about new music or Winter Jam, we have to say congratulations to you and your wife Jamie expecting your second child! What has the preparation been like so far?
We are so excited! I think the funniest thing is that we didn’t even know. Her first pregnancy was totally different than this one. So we’re trying to have guesses, but we just knew it was a boy from the beginning. We’ve been telling our little girl, Jolie, and she’s super excited to have a brother. We’ve also been preparing our minds to have another baby again – to just have a little nugget. So it’s going to be awesome.
In addition to a new baby on the way this spring, you also have a new album, Future coming March 23rd. Can you walk us through how long this album has been in the making and what it feels like to have the finished product ready for download?
I’m so pumped! What’s crazy is that my first record was released the year my little girl was born. And then the second record is coming out the year my little boy is born. So that’s a little crazy, but I’m so excited to share the songs with everyone. It’s taken a lot of time writing it, but man, I could literally not be more excited for others to hear the songs.
“Witness,” the first single from the new record, continues to impact listeners and climb the charts. What has it been like seeing such a strong positive reaction to this song?
Thank you so much! It’s a fun one! I had gone through a lot of anxiety the first half of 2017, just a ton of panic attacks and stress at 10 all the time. And I was trying to figure out where it was all coming from. And I realized that almost every facet of my life was not under control at the time. I realized that I was the one trying to control everything. So, halfway through the year last year, I ended up sitting down with my producer and one of my co-writers who co-wrote the majority of the record with me, Paul Duncan, and we just talked for three hours. I just word vomit – spewing information – telling them how much I was struggling. And Paul looked at me and said I had all the right in the world to be stressed – with all the pressure to perform on this second record. The sophomore record is always the biggest and most difficult to write. But, I had to realize that as a believer in Jesus, I believe that Jesus is sovereign over every season and every situation, and we can choose to give that to Him. It’s something we can sing about and praise the Lord for. And then after that conversation, I knew that’s what I wanted to write about that day. So that’s when we wrote “Witness”. And that’s really what it’s about – coming together with whatever emotion we are feeling today, no matter what season or situation we are in, we have a God who is sovereign over everything. So “Witness” is about coming together and acknowledging His sovereignty over our lives.
A lot of people can relate to struggles with anxiety, panic attacks and even depression. Since you’ve been open with your own battles, what message would you share with others who may be experiencing something similar?
I think the biggest thing I would speak into other’s lives is ‘find community’. You can’t deal with that kind of stuff alone. The only way I got out of it was because of my family and my family on the road. The moment that you realize you are not by yourself in the way that you feel, and that you have people to encourage you – that was a huge thing for me. The moment I felt encouraged is the moment I would calm down. It’s just the moments that pile up where you feel that you aren’t good enough and you aren’t going to be what everyone thinks you’re going to be – those are the things that as an artist, everyone can really relate. The artistic side of things is just being up on the stage. But everyone has their own life stage. People have their stage at work and their stage at home. I know a ton of stay-at-home moms with severe anxiety and you’ve all got tons of stuff that you’re dealing with. But the only way to get past it is to have great community in your life that can speak life over you, that can share the Gospel with you, and that can pour into your life so you’re lifted up. So that’s really what got me through my season of darkness and anxiety.
Can you give us some insight into the story behind the title track and why you chose it to represent the collection as a whole?
Yes – so the story continues! So the title of the record and the first single were written in a span of four hours. We hadn’t even written the song “Future” yet and we started talking about how much, as a human race, we struggle with letting things go and giving things up. And not planning and not having our hands in everything – we literally want to control everything in our lives. And it’s so hard to not want to be a part of that. And at some moments, there is a certain point that you have your free will and you have to engage. But you can’t plan your life out. We don’t have control over these things. So this was an intense amount of lessons that I was learning in a short amount of time. Paul referenced Ephesians 1:18, and at the very end of Paul’s prayer, in verse 18, he says that "your future is wound up in the inheritance of God." And that just crushed my plans. Because the thing is, none of our plans matter - nothing in our lives – we are always chasing the wind. Our future is heaven. Our future is the kingdom of God. Our future is the promise of Jesus. And that is what we need to be fixated on. We can’t be fixated on these small little wins – your industry, your job, your boss, or whoever it is that is driving you. None of it truly matters when we have our eyes fixed on the kingdom. So that was just a huge challenge for me, and what drove a lot of the record. I remember saying, ‘I hope you can handle this, Jesus. I’m giving this record to you.’ Like the creator of the universe – and I’m acting like he can’t handle my tiny little thing and life that I have. So that’s really how the record came about. The huge conversation that we had and the writing fueled the entire record.
We are always interested in album artwork, so can you walk us through the design of the Future cover?
Man, so we knew that I was going to be doing this new logo. And I had this idea of taking a photo with it. So if we infuse this logo that looks a little futuristic, just cool. But then that became a little hard, so we had to make shift another one to be able to photograph. So, my photographer Max, he ended up building these props that looked like the sign that I had, but was also the right size. The sign that I had is 11 feet tall, so me taking a picture in front of it, was not going to make much sense. I was going to look so tiny. So they created a second one, that I took a picture in front of. And I’ve never been the guy that’s said I want to be on the cover. If it was up to me, I would take a picture of like an old shoe. [Laughs.] But the label thought it would be good for the branding to be full circle, so that from the live show to the merch table to the record is cohesive.
Thinking back to the writing and recording process, was there a track on the album that you remember identifying with first that made you say, “This has to go on the record”?
Almost every song on the record almost did that, which is kind of weird. But I’ll take a detour before I fully answer the question. With the first record, which is going to sound weird, God gave us the tools to find the songs. But with this record, it felt like God just gave us the songs. So, it felt like every time God gave us something, it was ‘that’s it’. I wrote 48 songs for the record, but there were just certain ones that were instantaneous and real. And that’s been a huge thing for me in my career – there is not a huge amount of authenticity in music anymore. It’s become creating just to create because you’re an artist. And for me, I want to create because I want to be genuine with people about my story and what I think the Lord can do through music. So this record feels very genuine and real, which is just a huge blessing. So to say all of that, the song that really popped at the moment was “Faith”. It was like 1:30 in the morning and everyone woke up because the bus was shaking because me and my producer and Paul were in the back jumping up and down we were so excited about this song. I had another moment of saying ‘how cool would it be if you could share the fact that there have been moments in my life where I don’t trust’. That’s super real – like God, I don’t think you’re going to get me this job, so I’m going to have to work for it. We do it in our lives, and I don’t think we even think about it sometimes because we are so human. And that’s how God created us – He knows we were born into sin. That’s naturally where we are going to gravitate to. But I wanted to address it immediately – if we just had a little bit of faith, we would see massive change – not just in our lives, but in our communities and our world. And that song just felt really like something I wanted to shout. The moment we had that song it just felt super special. Every song does though, it’s almost like choosing your favorite kid or something. But that one feels special.
Were there any songs that were particularly challenging to write or record?
Probably the most challenging one is a song called “All Along”. And it’s literally my life wrapped up into a 3 minute and 30 second little song. And that one was hard because it’s hard to put everything you want to say about what God has done in your life and that He’s been there every step of the way. How do you sum all of the grace and all the wins and all the things that God has done in your life? Can you wrap that up into 3 minutes? Because I couldn’t. It was really hard to figure out where to cut because there was so much to give. So that was probably the hardest one for me. I just had so much to say but we couldn’t write a song that was an hour long. [Laughs.] I knew I wanted to be open about the fact that when I first got the dream to play music, and when I met my wife when we were 15, and when we got married, and I wanted to take people on the journey. Tell them that He’s been on your journey too.
Finally, if there is one message you hope people take away after listening to this album, what would it be?
I think the message that I really want them to take away from it is that they can choose to give everything that they are struggling with away. And the moment that we learn to trust Him is when we learn our future is found in the worth that He places in us. It is so much more freeing.
Switching gears a little, here we are in Pittsburgh on the second month of Winter Jam. What is your favorite song to perform live right now?
Gosh, right now my favorite one is “Witness”, because it’s a new one. But they’re all fun. We’re playing three and a half songs, so they all have special moments. “The River” and “Beloved” are always awesome. But now “Witness” is getting more fun because people are starting to know it better. Like last night, tons of people were singing it, so it was really fun! So this is another hard one to answer, but for right now, I would have to say “Witness”.
Do you have a moment of the night that is most special for you that you make a point to see or hear offstage?
I don’t think I can answer that one. The whole night is really special. And I’m not trying to say that to appease everyone! I’m saying this because I think it all is really special. This tour is the most eclectic tour I ever would have dreamed putting together – me, KB who is rap, Newsong who is four guys harmonizing like crazy together, Kari Jobe who is anointed beyond belief with the greatest voice of all time, John Christ who is a hilarious comedian, Building 420 who is rock/pop/AC band, and then Skillet who rips the walls off the building every night. I actually said this the other day, but I feel it’s like what heaven is going to feel like musically. There is going to be something there for everyone. All of our worship is going to be centered on Jesus, which is what this feels like.
Check back all week for sit-downs with Newsong, Skillet's John Cooper, Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes and Dan Bremnes. Also, be sure to read our feature 'God Continues To Work Miracles Through Winter Jam' featuring Pastor Bobby Joyner.