Written By Kelly Holm
Jordan Mackampa is no “foreigner” to the music business. Nearly a decade ago, the soul-pop singer-songwriter got his start performing at open mic nights in Camden— the footage of which, he promises, “will never see the light of day.”
“[I’ve known I wanted to be a musician since] I saw a video of James Brown dancing on TV,” he says. “His music made everyone so happy. I wanted to do that, be him.”
He has released two extended plays, Physics EP in 2016 and Tales from the Broken in 2017, but 2020 marks the release of his debut full-length album, titled Foreigner.
“[The title track] tells my life story from a young boy to a young man in less than five and a half minutes,” he says. It explores themes relating to social alienation, the divide between parents and children, and the desire to stay connected to one’s roots while still wanting to explore beyond them.
“Misunderstood at an early age/At an early age/I couldn’t read the signs/I couldn’t read the pages,” he croons in the opening verse. “When they spoke to me/I just said, oooh…/Pardon, je n’ais pas compris.”
Another one of Mackampa’s favorites is “Tight,” which is third in the track lineup. If quarantine has you unexpectedly in a long-distance relationship, this song will keep the romance close to your heart.
“You know I love you/I love you best/I’ll say these words again and again/Like flowers pouring from my chest.”
Foreigner was written between 2016 and 2018 and was recorded during the summer of 2018. Mackampa initially penned 14 songs for the album, three of which did not make
the final cut. In spite of all the weight that creating a debut album puts on one’s shoulders, however, Mackampa says the process was relatively pressure-free.
“I think a lot of the recording [and] production process depends on who you have in the rooms at the time,” he shares. “Good energies account for a lot. Especially when [you’re] spending hours in sweaty studios doing countless takes, you need people around you that don’t drain you of your reserved energy.”
Many of the album’s tracks deal with emotionally vulnerable topics, a fact which Mackampa has touched on in recent interviews. He says that while songwriting is inherently a difficult process, one’s ability to balance honesty and privacy is the most crucial factor in its success.
“I’m just honest enough with myself to write from a personal place, without feeling as though I’m sharing too much of myself and exerting more energy than [I need to] get a message across,” he states. “I want [fans] to feel like they’re being seen and listened to.”
Mackampa initially had a smattering of European tour dates during the month of May, but sadly these all needed to be cancelled. However, he’s got more lined up for September in France, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands, if conditions improve.
“‘Magic’ is a lot of fun to play live,” he says. “So is ‘Yours to Keep’… all the phones go up, everyone sings along, it’s [a] beaut.”
As for other future plans? Well, he aspires to collaborate with Thundercat and have his likeness projected from a billboard in Times Square. Until that day arrives, he’ll keep himself focused by remembering that his biggest competition is himself.
“My songwriting process is a mess, but I’m also a mess, so I guess it kind of works,” he admits, offering advice and insight to his peers on the come-up. “[I’m] not comparing my success to someone else’s. That shit will drive you wild. Sleepless nights of counting streaming numbers and Twitter followers isn’t the way forward… protect your heart, protect your writing credits and look after your mental health. Anyone that shames you, or invalidates how you feel about something, isn’t good for you.”
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