Tony Cummings reports on the Californian songsmith JORDAN FELIZ and the startling results of a faith-building relocation to Nashville
Not many singers can say they've sung into the same microphone as Frank Sinatra. But that's what happened to singer, songwriter and worship leader Jordan Feliz recently when he was asked to participate in the One Mic One Take EP series recorded in Hollywood's historic Studio A of Capitol Records. Other recent One Mic One Take performers include Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley, Halsey and One Direction's Niall Horan. When Jordan recorded his acoustic versions of his popular songs "The River", "Beloved", "Never Too Far Gone" and "Satisfied" it was a very special day for the Californian-born songsmith. He gushed on Instagram, "Today will go down as one of the coolest days I have ever had in my life. [I'm] on cloud nine and am feeling so honoured with what the Lord is doing. Just so much WOW."
Centricity Music released Jordan's 'One Mic One Take' on 8th September. It is one more achievement in an obscurity-to-fame story which as engulfed the songsmith since he and his wife relocated from Clovis, California to Nashville in 2014. Wikipedia describe Jordan's music as "a folk rock and soul style of Christian pop" which seems to cover all bases though ironically it was one they left out - hardcore - which gave Jordan his first foothold in music. It was in 2006 that a Californian hardcore band A Current Affair, in search of a lead singer, found Jordan via his myspace page. He explained to journalist Kevin Ott what happened next. "I took a job as a worship leader for a year after the band I was in broke up, and in that year I had a really, really close friend of mine (who actually is now my manager), but he reached out to me. He used to be in a band that played with my band. He was talking to me about how he would love for me to come to Nashville. Around that time I was really feeling like God kept giving me revelations and ideas for songs. So I was just like, wow, that's weird that Adam calls me, and then God is giving me these song ideas. That's weird. So I felt like I wanted to explore it.
"So I flew out to Nashville. I just felt like God's hand was over the entire trip like, 'this is something you need to pursue.' I came back home, talked to my wife Jamie about it. We prayed about it for about a year. We had made a couple trips to Nashville and both felt that every time we left it felt like home. It felt like we were going back somewhere that wasn't our home. We just really felt like God was just 'go'.
"In that year of planning and praying I started putting together some kind of tour so that we would basically not have to feel the financial weight of the move and the costs and the gas to get to Nashville because my wife - I mean, I'm a musician and a worship leader; it's not like we're really rolling in it. [laughs] It was kinda one of these things where I put all these things together. I've always been that way, just a planner and I want to take control of things and just kinda do it."
Jordan continued, "Two weeks before we decided to move everything fell apart. All the shows got cancelled. I was just like, 'Oh my gosh, how are we going to make it?' My wife and I were both kinda looking at each other like, 'Is this God saying don't go? Is this him saying you've been misinterpreting this the whole time?' There was much confusion. Jamie and I prayed together every night for the next two weeks. We really felt like God was still telling us to go. So we hopped in my van and trailer that had everything we owned, and I just starting phoning people. I mean the day we left, the first day, I didn't have a show, so I called and ended up getting a show in San Bernadino, California. That show paid to get us to Phoenix, which is where my wife's family is from. So we stayed there as a home base for a couple days while we tried to get a couple more things kinda figured out.
"Basically that became the trend: calling, just cold calling people I've never met before like, 'Hey, do you need a worship leader today? or for anything?' It was crazy because all of a sudden we're making just enough money to get us to the next place, and it was just like 'Oh my gosh, God you're providing.' I'm seeing all these things, and then we're driving through Texas, and I'll never forget it because I felt like all of a sudden we're running out. We're just not going to make it. There's just no way. I'm calling everyone, like can I get a show in Oklahoma City? I don't know anyone there. We have nothing else. I've called hundreds of people in a matter of like seven days.
"I end up calling a friend from Dallas, and I say, 'Dude, by any chance do you have any connection in Oklahoma City?" And he says, 'Actually, yeah, I do. Let me text you his number and see if you can work something out.' So I call him, and the guy goes, 'Oh man that church doesn't even exist anymore.' I'm like great, great, that's awesome. Thanks. He goes, 'But honestly though, I have a buddy of mine who just started a church in his backyard in a barn.' I'm thinking, yeah that sounds about right. 'Yeah, send me his phone number.'
"So I called this guy, his name is Tony, he's amazing. A super awesome guy. We end up going there. He's like, 'I can pay you a hundred bucks if you want to come in.' I'm all, 'Hey, it's better than nothing.' So I go in and this is just total proof that God is way bigger than anything we could ever imagine. So I go in on the day of the Oklahoma City Bombing Marathon, and so their entire church is participating in it, so I played to 26 people in two services. So I don't know how, but I ended up making like $1,500 from a church with 26 people. There was a guy who literally wrote me a check for $300 and just told me, 'I don't know why, but when you were up there God told me to give this to you.' I have goosebumps right now. Every time I talk about it, it's just crazy. The only answer to it is just the fact that God's provision is such that he wants much more for us than we even want for ourselves. Because I was striving just to get to Nashville, and I ended up making money moving to Nashville. It's just proof that his ideas for us are much bigger than we even have for ourselves."
In Nashville Jordan was signed to Centricity Music who released 'Beloved'. The title track became a major Christian radio hit. The song remains one of Jordan's favourites. He told Hannah Goodwyn of cbn.com about its origins, "A couple months before my daughter Jolie was born, I was sitting in a room with two other dads, both with little girls, and we were talking about what dad life was going to be like. Then, we really started talking about what the world was going to tell our girls.
"My baby girl, she's not even born yet, and we're talking about how she's not going to be pretty enough, and that she's not going to be skinny enough, and that ultimately to this world's standards that she's just not going to be good enough, you know? We're talking about all of these magazine headlines and all of these things about how to be skinny and how to be fit, and how to do makeup and all of these things, and it's like, 'Man, no, I don't want her to be concerned about any of that'. I just remember sitting in the room and being almost irritated and frustrated that we're already talking about this and my baby has not even seen the light of day yet.
"More than anything, I wanted her to know that she was loved, and not only by me and her mom, but she is loved by the Creator of the universe, the King of all. So in that, and then holding her for the first time and seeing her, and looking into her eyes, it's like all of a sudden you've become a dad and you realize that I have a dad. I have a Heavenly Father and he's looking at me the same way that I'm looking at my baby girl. He's looking at all of everybody, everybody who's listening, everybody on this entire earth he looks at that way. So for me, even though the song was written for her, it almost translated into this thing. It took this whole new form after she was born, because the respect I gained for the love of God just took a whole new form. I already have respect for it, but it just took a brand new shape in my mind after I had her."
In April 2016 Centricity released Jordan's album 'The River', produced by Joshua Silverburg (Michael W Smith, Newsboys) and Colby Wedgeworth (Lincoln Brewster). By that time the album title track was already a huge hit on US Christian radio (and indeed on Cross Rhythms). Feliz told Hannah Goodwyn about the inspiration for that song. "I read John 7:38 for the verse of the day one day and it just says, 'Whoever believes in me will have rivers of living water flow from within them.' That just stuck with me. It branded onto me for a couple weeks. I just couldn't shake it. I brought it in to both of my producers and I just said, 'There's something here. There's something about this whole thing that through Christ Jesus we have this opportunity and this invitation from him, we have these rivers of living water that is the Holy Spirit that flow from within us. We have them constantly. They're there no matter whether we like it or not'.
"I think that's really what the river is about for me. It's an invitation, maybe to the person who feels like they've lived their life by the book or to somebody who maybe feels more like me, you know, it's not even 11 in the morning, and I already feel like I've acquired stuff. I think people have lifetimes full of stuff that they just have not released yet. But the song is really about the opportunity to let that go, and to go down in amazing grace and rise up being made new in that.
Jordan continued, "It hits me differently because I see people worshipping to it, which is really crazy. I never would have thought that I would have seen that. For some reason, I always loved the song. It's like my personal happy place, that song. I just love everything about it. But, sometimes you love something and everybody else hates it. You're like, 'Oh, no!' But the overwhelming amount of support and embrace that I've received from people who listen to Christian music and Christian radio and everything, it's been so overwhelming. So I think seeing people be able to worship to it, hearing the stories that have come from it, I'm pretty much praising God every night for it, thanking Him for using me for some reason."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.