If there was such a thing as Performer of the Summer, Nick Jordan would be a Twin Cities shoo-in. Everyone from Billboard to Newsweek to New York Times podcast Still Processing is debating the candidates for this year’s Song of the Summer (which could be Calvin Harris’s “Slide,” DJ Khaled’s “I’m The One,” or any of the new Lorde singles), and each feature notes that the winner must be ubiquitous and, overall, fun. Few exemplify those qualities like Nick Jordan, the soul/R&B artist with serious performance chops and big plans for this summer.
Jordan (whose moniker comes from his first and middle names), 22, has been in the spotlight before. After releasing his silky debut EP NJ in 2015, he featured on Ness Nite‘s breakout single, “Yes.” City Pages awarded him Best R&B Artist in 2016. This year, he won the Star Tribune‘s Are You Local? contest, and he played First Avenue’s Mainroom pursuant to that win.
But summer 2017 promises to buoy him like never before. On August 4, he’ll release his second EP, Dividends, which has the potential to make him an essential headphones artist on top of the live draw. First single “Petty,” produced by Jordan and moonsidr_dlux, intertwines Jordan’s taffy vocals with Tinashe-wispy coos by Maxee. The repeated MIDI note, also heard in Foster the People’s “Call It What You Want,” loses its harshness once it’s folded into a lovely dance break.
If you’ve seen one of Jordan’s shows, the sharp choreography might make you think he’s been dancing since kindergarten, but he actually just picked it up in college at St. Thomas. “Maybe in my head, I always had interest in it,” he says, “watching music videos and especially [soaking up] hip-hop movement.” But it wasn’t until he started dancing for fun that he knew he could incorporate it into his music.
Years earlier, Jordan learned the craft of performance as a theater kid, learning how to rehearse, connect, and value an audience’s time. “My teacher, Mrs. Roy, kicked my ass,” he says, remembering the discipline he learned. He’s particular about spaces to this day, paying special attention to venue lighting and interior design.
Eventually, doing theater, he wanted a bit more creative license. He says, “I kind of got fatigued of being handed scripts all the time, and I wanted to start writing my own.” In music, that’s exactly what he does now, writing setlists and transitions for shows and music and lyrics in the studio.
That said, he certainly relies on friends for support. Nyasia Arredondo is a friend and back-up vocalist who’s starting to perform more on her own. Maxee Whiteford has featured on more than one Nick Jordan song, including “Petty.” PaviElle, Proper-T, and the Pytch Records crew are artists he’s looked to for inspiration.
One of Jordan’s most compelling personality traits is gratitude toward other people. He can be coy, shaping filler phrase “you know” into a cute, almost teasing lilt. But when he talks about his thankfulness for other people, he can’t be mistaken for anything but super-genuine.
In fact, that’s part of the story of his EP. Dividends is about “paying people back, metaphorically and spiritually,” he says, “for investing in me. It’s me thanking them for seeing something in me when I didn’t have much. Also, it’s me claiming good things for myself and being unapologetic about that.”
To see why so many have believed, stream his album this summer and catch a show. On June 24, he’ll perform at an Icehouse Pride dance party hosted by DJ Keezy and Shannon Blowtorch. His main event will be August 4’s Dividends release show, featuring Devata Daun, Radio Ahlee, Moise, and DJ Rowsheen at the 7th St. Entry.