Jordan Rager Revels in the Heartbreak of “Habits and Hearts”

“The hardest part of my worst breakup was the complete change of daily routine. It’s like relearning how to live,” says country singer/songwriter Jordan Rager about the inspiration for his new single “Habits and Hearts”.

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Echoing the distress and pain from the disintegration of his relationship, Rager follows the lead of so many songwriters before him by sowing gold out of grief. Instead of zooming in on the endless well of sadness however, his focus is on recovery and post-breakup coping. “Shouldn’t be so easy to turn to pieces / This thing inside my chest / And so hard to put the whiskey down / When that’s what numbs the pain,” he sings in the chorus.

“I’m a sucker for a song with a gut punch lyrics,” he adds. “It’s not a fun feeling, so I wanted the song to carry that energy. I think most people have felt that way. I know I have.”

Possessing that ability to compose lyrics like that is something he always aspired to do and something he eventually achieved in “Habits and Hearts.” And while it’s rather stereotypical to say that country music is rife with songs of heartache, Rager would agree… at least with the artists he admires.

“Songs like ‘What I’d Say’ by Earl Thomas Conley and ‘Pine Box’ by Doug Stone’ made me fall in love with country music,” he confesses, admiring those artists’ ability to emote coolly, especially “the honesty in the lyrics. They felt like more than just songs. They felt like conversations… like I was a part of the story and was feeling what the singer was going through. That’s my favorite part about music. It makes you feel, and no genre does that better than country music.”

Sporting a timbre like Jason Aldean or Travis Denning, Rager has a voice made for heartbreak. His Southern enunciation drags emotion effortlessly, earnest in its delivery and direct in its poignancy. “Before I wrote a word of ‘Habits and Hearts,’ I had a feeling it could be one of those songs,” he says. “I wrote it with two great friends of mine [Michael Whitworth and Matt Roy] and it’s definitely one of my top five favorite songs I’ve ever written. This is the kind of song I’ve always wanted to release.”

Like the song from whence it came, the four-song EP Hearts and Habits is a collection of songs that is especially important to Rager. Instead of releasing them as soon as they were completed, he sat on them for two years.  “I wrote all four songs in the same year, 2018,” he explains. “All four songs are special to me for different reasons and help tell another part of my story. I didn’t write any of them with an EP in mind, but once we had them all recorded, they felt like they fit together. It was just a matter of finding the right time to put them out.”

Having released just one EP (2016’s Southern Boy) and a handful of singles, Rager already feels himself growing as an artist and a songwriter with Hearts and Habits. “I always wanted to be the type of artist that evolves with every song, EP, and album,” he admits. “I feel like this EP is the most mature project I’ve released so far. Every song comes from personal experience, and I love each of them for different reasons. ‘Somebody’s Summer’ is about living in the moment and making the memory. ‘Want Me To Want You’ and ‘Habits and Hearts’ express feelings I think everyone has felt in relationships.  ‘Call You Home’ is a love letter to my hometown. I couldn’t be more proud of this project.”

Some may doubt the choice to release an EP in the middle of a pandemic. Rager, on the other hand, is looking on the bright side. “I’m DYING to play shows again, and I’ll be back on stage as soon as I can be,” he replies. “In the meantime, I’m always working on music and, these days, there are no rules, so there’s no telling when I might get a wild hare and decide I want to put something out.”

Wishing more heartbreak on the poor guy may be rather cruel, but if that pain spawned “Hearts and Habits,” bring it on!

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