Matt Jordan wrote “Smoke” seven years ago. While it won our July/August 2014 lyric contest, it wasn’t quite time for an official digital release. The gravel-soaked tune would quickly become a crowd favorite in his live shows, and for good reason. Six years later, it is finally seeing the light of day. “That [win] was really cool and really encouraging for someone who, at the time, was just getting started,” he reflects.
Jordan was also awarded a Gibson J-45, which has become his primary acoustic guitar in much of his work. “So, I’m really grateful for this full circle moment with this song,” he writes American Songwriter over email.
The musician first laid down the guitar part at his kitchen counter in Nashville. The next morning, he took a drive to Indianapolis from Nashville, putting that guitar part on loop to cement it in his brain and perhaps find inspiration for its lyrics. “While I drove, I dictated the lyrics into the notes of my phone and sang some scratch vocals into my voice memos. By the time I got to Indy, it was all finished,” he says. “I sat in my car, got out my guitar, and played the first version of the song to make sure the melody worked. I played it that night at the show, and it’s been the staple of live shows ever since.”
“She scans the room with hazel eyes / Her lonely stare gets locked in mine / My hands shake, my knees start feeling weak,” he carves his words with vivid chisels. “She’s a long legged lucky strike / When that moon is hanging high / We go running off and fire it up in my backseat.”
Jordan makes a well-trodden comparison. One relationship’s toxicity is not unlike addiction, the kind that claws at your lungs. “As far as the story goes, I think we all have someone like this in our lives at some point ─ someone we know isn’t good for us, but we kind of keep coming back to anyway,” he explains. “In a lot of ways, it’s like an addiction, and the parallel of smoke just worked for this. The guitar part is so fun and so in your face; this is my band’s favorite song to play live.”
“Smoke,” produced by Grammy nominated Sal Oliveri (Chris Stapleton, Sheryl Crow), kicks up more than a little dust, with electric guitars crashing together against a thumping percussive backdrop. “I’m a sinner, she’s my sin / Giving up’s a game I’ll never win / That woman’s gonna kill me young,” Jordan continues burrowing into the emotional stakes. Such a romance could literally be life or death.
Having grown up on Bruce Springsteen and The Eagles, Jordan carries with him a very similar rock-informed country style ─ almost feeling like Eric Church with an outlaw bravado. “Smoke” is unapologetically radio-ready, from its infectious hook and polished exteriror. And more than anything, his voice remains tried and true, unique enough to stand firmly on its own.
“Smoke” follows on the heels of “For a Minute (2020)” released earlier this summer.
Listen to “Smoke” below.