Lindsey Jordan, the frontwoman for the compelling rock band, Snail Mail, is trying to figure everything out. Which is an admittedly odd thing to say for someone who has achieved so much success before they’re legally allowed to drink in a bar. Jordan, who is only now 22 years old, earned thousands of fans, prestigious media writeups, and big attention by the time she was a teenager. And all of that can be great. It can be the breeze upon which you fly even higher. But it can also create doubt. When good things happen to a person at an early age, it’s easy to wonder: well, how did that happen? And can I do it again?
These are some of the natural and important questions Jordan finds herself wrestling with these days. And despite their severity, she seems to be winning, pinning doubt on its shoulders, even if painstakingly so. For Jordan, it’s part of the road of self-discovery and success. And that road continues with Snail Mail’s forthcoming new “breakup” record, Valentine, which is out Friday (November 5).
“It’s super weird,” Jordan tells American Songwriter. “I was a teenager rocker. Now I’m an adult, which is weird in itself.”
Jordan says that as she grows, so must her music, her writing. She’s been on the road for much of her adult life. So, what life experiences should she draw from? Add to that the pressure of thousands of fans, record industry expectations, and it can be a load to bear. And to do so as a teenager? Seemingly impossible.
“Getting it young is really weird,” she says. “You have to always readjust to what is appropriate, how to act, and how you want to portray yourself.”
It’s a balancing act. Jordan says she wants to reflect who she is in her music, but there are parts of herself she also knows she has to protect. As a younger person, her inclination was to give personal details away because there was nothing to lose. Now, though, she’s established. Which can make things feel, in an odd way, even more tenuous.
“Before,” she says, “I was just a high school student. Now it’s so nuanced. There is so much to think about. And I feel very lucky in that now I have experience in the music industry and I get to reshape things.”
In the Orson Wells film, F For Fake, the famed director tells a quick little story: Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden and Eve is drawing a picture in the dirt with a stick. When she’s finished, she steps back and admires it. But down from the tree, the snake slithers and whispers in her ear: It’s pretty. But is it art? This is the conundrum of the publicly creative person. And while Jordan feels it now, many before and after her know it well too. One of the ways Jordan helped herself during this process was to check herself into a rehabilitation center. Rightfully, she doesn’t go into too much detail. But, she notes, it was an essential time.
“Rehab is an interesting topic for me,” Jordan says. “I’ve been purposely vague about it. I just think it’s my business. Rehab just begs to be kept a secret, in its essence. I struggle with the concept of making myself vulnerable in that way, to give people a reason to critique me. It’s so personal.”
Jordan says she was largely done with Valentine when she entered the facility but by going through the 45-day program, she came out with a clearer sense of things. She needed a break. She needed a chance to rediscover what her true motivations are, what her intuition is saying. She came out of the 45 days and felt invigorated for music again. She was able to put the final touches on the LP, which is compact, strong, and keen.
“Frankly,” she says, “I didn’t think I was going to finish it.”
All of this should help when Jordan goes out on her next string of tour dates, which are many and include shows from November to May. Earlier, she describes feeling a lack of motivation, feelings of exhaustion, not knowing what’s up or down. But finally, she says, she found a place of clarity. That then helped to crystalize the new album. For Valentine, Jordan says she wanted to produce a coherent record (“That was major for me,” she says). As such, she ended up cutting a number of solid tracks because they didn’t fit the compact, power punch that the final album offers, as in the song, “Ben Franklin.”
“I think even ‘Ben Franklin’ makes so much sense in the context of the record,” Jordan says. “Where more ballad-y songs maybe didn’t.”
During the pandemic, Jordan largely stayed at her parents’ house. She’d just come off of tour and needed space to decompress and, later, space to write. But simultaneously, she aimed to separate any sense of obligation with the writing process; not easy. For Jordan, the music arrived in her life around five or six years old. By six, she was playing the guitar, listening to her sister’s pop-punk albums like Fall Out Boy. She took lessons at a young age and found herself lighting up in early-stage performances (“I’m totally comfortable being a ham,” she says). She started writing songs, putting them online and soon there was a real buzz. Now, even as Jordan settles into her newest phase as a public creative person, she keeps tinkering, down to her unique, deeper singing voice.
“It’s become so much more of a science to me,” she says. “I have a vocal coach now. Now my voice is even different from the record. It’s kind of ever-changing.”
Photo by Tina Tyrell