As a member of the progressive stringband Hawktail alongside Brittany Haas and Paul Kowert of the Punch Brothers, collaboration is at the very heart of the artistry of Nashville area singer-songwriter Jordan Tice.
However, on his new solo album, Motivational Speakeasy–due out on September 25–1its simply just Tice and his beloved Collings guitar utilized to convey this musician’s considerable evolution as one of the prime movers of the modern newgrass movement.
Produced by close friend Kenneth Pattengale of The Milk Carton Kids, the aim of Motivational Speakeasy is to serve as a platform for Tice’s distinctive fingerpicking style. The focus of the recording was on fnding the heart of Tice’s original songs and instrumentals, and showcasing his deep explorations into American fngerstyle guitar, nodding to purveyors such as Leo Kottke, John Fahey, Mississippi John Hurt, Norman Blake, and–in the case of the album’s lead single “Tell Me Mama”–David Bromberg.
“The playing and vibe was inspired by David Bromberg, who I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with through opening shows for him over the last 2 years,” Tice explains to American Songwriter. “David does a lot of cool moving bass line counterpoint to his melodies when fingerpicking and I utilized that in the arrangement of this song. I had this guitar melody lying around and I decided to tack on some lyrical musings about how being attracted to someone turns me into a functionally compromised human. Definitely a self-deprecating streak on this one that I think fits with the melody. I thought it was an inviting and light-hearted way to start off the record.”
For Tice, the primary goal was to return his craft to the roots of such string icons as John Hartford and Norman Blake in the purity of the sonic outcome of his interpretation of American music.
“Artists like Hartford or Norman Blake chose to look beyond the idiomatic elements of the music,” Tice explains, “and tap into where those things came from. They aligned themselves with the lineage and personalities behind the music. They learned from literal examples, but they were working more of abstractions that they absorbed into their own work, creating something entirely new.” Both Hartford and Blake were always creatively their own people, beholden to no expectations and infused with a kind of existential irreverence. These are examples that Tice works to uphold, or as he says, it’s about “experimenting to find ways that you can express yourself in a way that adds up to yourself.”
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