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Fort Wayne Native home again to perform with Grace Potter Band

Jordan West is always at home behind the kit, which lands her here in Fort Wayne this week, drumming for Grace Potter's Mother Road show at the Clyde.
Courtesy/Jordan West
Jordan West is always at home behind the kit, which lands her here in Fort Wayne this week, drumming for Grace Potter's Mother Road show at the Clyde.

Fort Wayne native Jordan West, a professional musician now based in L.A. is touring with the Grace Potter band and will be performing at the Clyde Theatre tomorrow in Potter's Mother Road Show.

West credits her early years in the Fort Wayne Community School System’s Memorial Park Middle School and its arts magnet programs for fueling her musical passion, and her teacher, program director, Donna Sevcovic, for holding her accountable for the music she made.

WBOI’s Julia Meek spoke with West by phone about her passion for making music including Sevcovic's influence, what the upcoming concert holds in store and how her life “behind the drum kit” is taking shape.

Event Information:
Grace Potter's Mother Road Show
The Clyde Theatre, Fort Wayne
Thursday, Nov. 9
8:00 p.m.

For tickets and more information visit theClyde Theatre website.

Below is a transcript of our conversation:
Julia Meek: Jordan West, how in the musical world are you?

Jordan West: (chuckles) I'm good, you know, I'm just doing the thing.

Julia Meek: Your thing is really quite something. Your whole journey as a matter of fact is every young musician's dream, what possessed you to pick up those sticks all those years ago?

Jordan West: I think I was always pretty fascinated by music and enjoyed playing around on whatever was available. And I used to play on pots and pans with spoons at my grandma's house.

And I played piano, I had lessons when I was really young, like five or six and sang in all the choirs, but when I was eight or nine, they had to do like a musical aptitude tests, you went into a room and you played every instrument with an instructor that was there. And they kind of told you at the end, like, oh, you you have a natural inclination for this thing.

And at the end, the lady told me that I should go for drums or French horn, and so I chose the French horn. (chuckles) But after a year of like, wrong notes on French horn, I realized that drums was probably more exciting. So once I was in, I think fifth grade, I switched to drum set and that was--was it! (laughs)

Julia Meek: What a wonderful, wonderful story. I'm sure your fans could picture you with a French horn, but my, my the sticks is really...sitting behind that kit is, is you. (chuckles) So you have a passion and a driving beat for multiple genres. But jazz is your first love. Why is that, Jordan? What is it about jazz?

Jordan West: I think it's just how I came into playing the drums and how it made the most sense to me, just because what my teachers had me listening to and like what the first times I played music with other people, it was always jazz, like at Memorial Park and beyond.

My education was heavily focused on that. There's also, I really am the type of player that prefers like improvisation and feeding off of energy rather than like learning a written part, which is cool too. But I've always liked, I just liked the idea of everybody creating something new each time. It was always fun for me. And jazz is a good vehicle for that.

Julia Meek: It is and it would be that fearless approach that you have, now that does make sense. How does it figure into your world today? You are into the pop and rock scene I know. Do you ever get to sit down and play some good old jazz or listen to it or get into it?

Jordan West: Uh Yeah, I played over the past few years, I'll have some opportunities usually like in a smaller place for not a lot of money. (chuckles) And it's always a nice, relaxing, fun time.

So it's not really a part of my career per se. Like I don't go on jazz tours or anything. But it's definitely something that I do whenever I have time with friends or with my brother when I'm in Fort Wayne, whatever.

Julia Meek: That's a wonderful one. It still is your passion, it sounds like?

Jordan West: Yeah it's a nice break from the crazy. (both laugh)

Julia Meek: You are well situated in that spotlight at your kit as a front woman or in a power band. How has that shaped your career beyond the stage, especially with product development, and the like.

Jordan West: I mean, I, I think I got lucky in the situation right after I moved from Fort Wayne to California. Like I needed to make money. (chuckles) And I didn't really know anybody in LA. So I feel like playing in bands is what led me to the opportunity I had of like developing products for this company.

And part of the reason I was asked to help design them was just because I had a lot of experience using them and playing with them. So being a player actually really matters in some elements of the product development side.

So there's kind of a cool, very different way of utilizing your musical ear and kind of being really practical and actually thinking about what you need, like which knobs need to be where and stuff that you don't really think about when you're playing it. But that can make a huge difference in your performance and the ease of use and stuff.

Julia Meek: Indeed and for everybody else's performance going forward when you actually help develop something how exciting that must be. Also, how rare is it would you say, I know you're not a statistician, you are a drummer, but how rare would you think it is as a woman drummer and frontwoman, often?

Jordan West: That's sort of two different things. But I think women that play drums, the numbers are definitely, I've noticed a big increase since when I was young. And like in LA, there's so many female drummers and producers, and I think it's just's more visible to young girls that they can do that and they can learn that.

So I think the numbers will only go up. I think as a front person that's a drummer, like a singing drummer, things that is more rare, just generally. There are other ones out there but I think that anytime you combine deals, I think it gets more rare, I guess.

Julia Meek: And in retrospect, how does it feel that you are an inspiration, a role model for young girls out there that do say, well, I can do that?

Jordan West: It's definitely one of the more fun, I guess rewarding things is when you meet a young kid that is inspired to learn or inspired to really go for it and not be, I think a lot of times kids are sort of scared to hit the drums hard. (chuckles)

Especially the young girls, so I'm actually at the Palladium in Carmel right now, because that's where we're going to play tonight and I used to work at a songwriting camp here every summer.

And it was all young girls from ages eight to 18, I think. And so many of the young girls were afraid to really hit the drums and be loud. And I think there is like, not to make it all too deep or whatever, but I think there's a stereotype of girls and young women that being quiet and being polite is a good thing.

So it was really interesting, always watching these young girls come in, and at first being so timid and afraid to like really hit the drums. And then after watching me, I would just play as loud as I could for like 30 seconds. (laughs) It was always an immediate, like permission to switch, to be like, Oh, okay, well, we can, we can definitely do that.

Julia Meek: That has to make your heart sing, literally. (laughs)
Jordan West: Yeah it does, but you know, some kids just come in and want to hit stuff. So that's always fun, but a lot of kids are afraid. So I think it's always really fun to give other people permission to express themselves,

Julia Meek: Mmmhhmmm, and maybe show them how it's done.

Jordan West: Yeah!

Julia Meek: Now, you seemingly never run out of new musical adventure, so where or should I ask how does touring fit into all the rest of your musical activity?

Jordan West: It's definitely, it's always like a juggling act. And it's, you know, you have to kind of, I guess, this is my business. So scheduling is a big part of it, and trying to like, we had three weeks off in October and there were three other artists I really love playing with in LA.

And I chose to like, take those gigs, even though it made me a little bit crazy, because of learning all the songs and stuff. But I think to me, it's like, if I can do it, and I feel inspired by a project or an artist, then I always try to make time to do it. And I've definitely, like last summer, I split my time between two different tours. So I was I would fly from one bus to another bus.

And it was because I really cared about both of the artists that I was playing with so I think there's usually a way to make it work. And I try to be as involved in as many things that make me remember why I like to do it as possible.

 Julia Meek: That's fantastic. And that brings us to your appearance here at the Clyde with the Grace Potter Band. So congratulations for that gig.

Jordan West: Thanks.

Julia Meek: What's in store? What can we look forward to?

Jordan West: Uh (chuckles) well, it'll definitely be exciting. A show is always exciting. And she's just kind of a force of nature, so even the band doesn't usually know what we're going to get into, and the set list. (chuckles)

Or, you know, everything is very in the moment and vary based on the energy of the crowd and how things are landing. So it's always a different go, but it's always a very fun show. And I get a really good workout (chuckles) so I think it's gonna be really fun.

Julia Meek: Well we're all looking forward to it, you've got an awful lot of fans here--Jordan West does, Grace Potter does, and a word on that venue, the Clyde Theatre. You've been there, you've enjoyed it, the stage and the crew, aren't they something?

Jordan West: Yeah, I love that place. And it really, like when I moved back to Indiana for a year during COVID, Isak, my brother, we got to play there at the club room a lot and at the Clyde once.

And it was really, the whole team there is just so kind and so great to work with and such professionals. I am excited to bring my touring family there. And so also Fort Wayne to everyone.

Because a lot of people haven't been there. And I think the Clyde is the best place to like really get the vibe of the city and the best of what it has to offer.

Julia Meek: That's a compliment, we'll take it and certainly you're so welcome there, this is going to be so much fun.

Jordan West: Yeah! (laughs)

Julia Meek: And since you are such a huge influence on so many, Jordan, who would you say have been the biggest influence on your musicality who stands out in your world?

Jordan West: Well, I guess if we're looking from like a musical perspective, there's so many drummers that I've watched and been inspired by, but really what has made the biggest difference in my, I guess musical career is those mentors and people that were around me and encouraging and challenging me like my parents, my family,

And especially my educators like Donna Sefcovic my middle school band director was really the first person to hold me accountable musically and kind of say like, I think you could really do this if you work at it. She just came to a show last month and that was a really cool moment.

But her and my college band director who gave me some of my first paying gigs and I played in his band after I graduated and even the producer that quote unquote, discovered my old band, and then brought us out to LA and then gave us opportunities beyond that, and new opportunities beyond when the band broke up.

I think people like that have had the biggest impact on helping me continue and like wanting to continue and knowing what to do. So I'm really grateful to those people.

 Julia Meek: How fortunate for all of you. That's really quite something. Now, you know, we first met in 2013, it was your band Trackless in the studio and the interview.

Jordan West: Yeah!

Julia Meek: So how would you say that Jordan West has changed since then? And how is she still very much the same.

Jordan West: (laughs) So much has changed in 10 years. But I think this older version is a little more confident, and a little less, I think, when you're really young like that you're really, really hungry, and tenacious, which is important. (chuckles) But as I have settled into more of like, knowing what I want, and what I have to offer as a player and being a little bit more confident in that.

And hopefully, I'm still excited, and tenacious, but I think I am just a little more self assured. And I think when you're that hungry, and you're on your way trying to make something happen, it's harder to enjoy the moments as they're happening and I think I am able to do that a little bit more now, and really, you know, know that I'm in a time that will be remembered while I'm in it instead of, you know, freaking out about every other thing in the future.

Yeah, hopefully, I'm a little more calm and a little less anxious. Angst--the angst activity--angst was surfacing 10 years ago.

Julia Meek: That's curious. And we don't think about that after a lot of the journey's completed, but good for you. That's quite quite insightful. And I do wonder, back then, could you ever have imagined we'd be sitting here right now having this conversation?

Jordan West: I think I, I really wanted that to be the case. (chuckles) And I think I sort of just went along with the assumption that eventually things would work out in some way or another, how they worked out is very different than what I thought. (laughs)

But I'm just grateful that it's still in music, and that it's still doing something I love doing all the time. That's something I just am always really grateful for.

Julia Meek: And now that you are one, what does it feel like being Jordan West, Rock Star?

Jordan West: (laughs) Yeah, it feels pretty much the same as before, but I think it's nice now because I can get paid to do this. So I don't have to have like five other jobs, which is really cool. (chuckles) That feels the most--the best of everything!

Julia Meek: So up in lights and stars in your eyes, stars all around? And yes, it sounds like you have the confidence and the, well, we hope that you're happy and content to be sure. And so Jordan, what words of encouragement would you offer every young musician out there now just dreaming about what has become your reality?

Jordan West: I would say just keep going. As long as it makes sense to you and that you want to do it and that you love it. I think persistence is so important and you never know what's gonna lead to what, so always be the best version of you that you can be and focus on what you can control and be really great at your instrument and playing like yourself.

And don't be afraid to like lean on other people for help and support because nobody gets anywhere alone. That's what I would say.

Julia Meek: That is beautiful. And we know you've got a show to get ready for, Jordan, several of them including ours. Thank you so much for making time for us. Safe travels, happy musical trails and we will see you soon!

Jordan West: Yeah, I'm excited!

A Fort Wayne native, Julia is a radio host, graphic artist, and community volunteer, who has contributed to NIPR both on- and off-air for forty years. Besides being WBOI's arts & culture reporter, she currently co-produces and hosts Folktales and Meet the Music.