By Chris Azzopardi
Photos: Dante Velasquez
Emerging pop artist Jordy challenged himself on his recent tour and failed. The challenge? “I tried getting through the whole tour with one manicure,” he says over Zoom. “I got almost to the end of it, but I was like, ‘I need new nails,’ so we have new nails now.” In addition to his manicure, Jordy also has a new album out. His bop-heavy second full-length, “Boy,” was released in April. The album’s first single, “Story of a Boy,” is a queer take on the nostalgic classic “Absolutely (Story of a Girl),” which was a hit for the rock band Nine Days in the early 2000s. Twenty-three years later, Jordy’s version has inspired a TikTok viral moment, as the trans community has used bits from his reimagining to represent themselves and their own journeys in videos posted to the social platform. Though Jordy now calls L.A. home, he’s originally from the suburbs of Chicago. During our recent interview, Jordy chatted about his recent life-changing appearance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” and the overwhelming response to “Story of a Boy” from the trans community.
How does it feel to have this album out in the world?
I just got off of a tour, so I can be at home and that feels so good. But I mean, post album, it feels incredible. I’m just so happy these songs are out in the world, and I’m excited to keep promoting them and just spreading the good word. It feels like all of that hard work has come to fruition, and it’s really awesome.
What was the tour like? Is there a moment that really stands out to you as something that meant a lot to you?
I mean, the whole tour was amazing. It was great to start in my home city of Chicago. That’s always fun. I think the highlight on this tour was that I sampled “(Absolutely) Story of a Girl” for my album, which my version is called “Story of a Boy,” but in New York and L.A., I was able to bring out John Hampson, the original singer [from Nine Days]. He performed it with me, and it was so amazing, so I’m very grateful for those opportunities I had with John, just because it’s so cool to honor the original writer and the singer of the original song. He’s been so supportive and lovely over the past couple of months. It was really special to share that together.
What was your initial exchange with John before you put your own twist on “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)”?
We found the contact for his team a year ago and pitched the idea, and they were intrigued, for sure. They sent the demo to John and, supposedly, he really liked what I was doing with the song, and then he listened to my other music and he really enjoyed it, and so he was like, “Let’s do it.” So we ended up meeting for the first time when he flew to L.A. to be in the music video, because he has a little cameo in the music video as well. That was the first time we were able to sit down and really chat about each other and our journeys, and I was able to really express to him what this means to me and for my inner child and all of that good stuff.
Who musically influenced you as a kid?
Younger childhood years was Avril Lavigne, Spice Girls and Michelle Branch. When I was in high school, Sam Smith. They were always very inspirational to me because I’ve always been a singer, and that was always really inspiring to me. Then as I got older, more so in this space of my life, [queer pop artist] Fletcher’s a big inspo to me. I adore her. I love her boldness and her lyricism and her performances and her voice. I’ve been listening to [openly queer pop musician] Jake Wesley Rogers, who I adore. I love Betty Who. There’s too many to count, but so many inspirations along the way.
When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
When I’ve been a professional, the goal has always been to do music. So when I moved to L.A., I was DoorDashing and Postmate-ing and barista-ing and side hustling and assisting and doing odd jobs that I found on Craigslist, just anything that was flexible and that would pay me money. But yeah, when I was younger, I was performing all the time. It was always something I wanted to do. There was never a point where I didn’t want to be a performer or a musician. I was a theater kid, choir kid, a cappella kid. Did anything I could to be on stage. So by the time I graduated college, I was like, “This is what I want to do, and I will do whatever side hustles I need to do to achieve this.” By then I was probably living in L.A. for three years, and then I was able to quit my side job and do this full-time.
What job did you quit to pursue music full-time?
My last job, I was a client services person at this post-production studio in L.A., which sounds fancy, but it was really me making coffee and bringing people food and doing whatever they told me to do.
Tell me about your theater roots.
I feel like I am where I am because of my school, which was a public high school that put a lot of money into the arts program, which is really important. I know that that’s not the norm for most high school programs around the country, but we did “Rent,” “Chicago” and “West Side Story.”
Big, big productions.
Big, big productions. We did “Phantom of the Opera,” kind of crazy. Such talented people came out of my class, which was so cool. This musical called “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” that was a moment for me because I got to sing some fun, big songs. Then when I was in college, I did “Urinetown” and “Shrek.” I did it for the first couple years in college and then I got to a point where I wouldn’t necessarily say I would never do theater again — I think that would be fun to do in the future — but where I was like, “I’m kind of just sick of auditioning.” I wanted to make my own stuff and do my own thing and not have somebody tell me I can’t be something. I just got tired of it, so I shifted to music and here we are.
And then you recorded “Mind Games.” How did you go from where you were to recording that album?
Before “Mind Games” came out, I put out my first song in 2018, and “Mind Games” came out in 2021. So there were many years of me putting out music. It was when the pandemic hit and TikTok really started happening for me that “Mind Games” started forming. My song, “Long Distance,” went viral and that was a huge steppingstone for me. After I signed my record deal, after that song did its thing, that was when I had my team looking at me being like, “I think we’re ready for you to do an album. Let’s do an album.”
In your eyes, how does “Boy” compare to “Mind Games”?
“Boy” felt more intentional. I think when I started writing the songs on “Mind Games,” I didn’t know I was making an album, and it became an album. I think “Boy” was more about me getting older and being a little bit more reflective and still talking about my specific experiences that I’ve lived over the past couple years. Every song is very specifically me and things that I have felt and gone through. I think it’ll always be that way.
Did you write songs when you were younger?
I was way more of a singer when I was younger. I studied English in college, but it really was moving to L.A. and learning how to write songs. That was college too, for me. Being here and learning from the people I’d worked with really helped me figure out how to tell these stories in a melodic and fun, pop-y way. I obviously did dabble in writing as a kid. I went to summer camp and would write songs at camp and sing them around the campfire and that kind of thing, so it’s always been a part of me.
What song on the album are you especially close to?
From a songwriting perspective, I love “Unburnable.” That’s one of my favorites off the album. I wrote it with Madi Diaz, who’s an incredible writer and artist, and this producer-writer, Mikey Reaves, in Nashville. This was the only song I wrote in Nashville off of the record. It just feels like some really real, honest storytelling. I love the way we phrased it and explained this weird feeling of not letting go of certain items from a past relationship. I love the way that we were able to craft and create that story. It just feels very special and very close to my heart.
What has it been like to experience the TikTok reaction to “Story of a Boy” from the trans community?
Very surreal, very inspiring. I did not expect that this would become a song for the trans community. That’s not what I anticipated. When I first uploaded the sound, it was really just to compare the original version to my version and to show people what I was doing with the song. The second I saw the first video of a trans person using the sound to showcase their journey from, this is the story of a girl to this is the story of a boy, I was like, “Oh, this is cool and this makes sense, and how did I not even think of this before?”
Then it just caught on and more people started doing it. Then I started duetting it and showing my reactions to these transitions because I wanted people to one, feel loved and seen, and I wanted to showcase my love and also use my platform to lift these voices because the trans community is under attack right now. It’s really a scary time to be queer, and especially trans, in this country. So, for me, I just started using my platform to show these videos and duetting them and getting my mom involved, because she’s amazing. I feel like people need to see supportive mothers and my friends to get involved. I wanted people to feel seen and loved. Now just scrolling through, there’s thousands of videos using the song, and it’s really special.
I love that. And then there’s your recent appearance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show.” What was that like?
I have been a fan of Kelly ever since I watched her win “American Idol.” I was very little, and me and my whole family saw the moment as it happened. So she’s been an inspiration for me. The image of her holding my album, I’ll just never get over. It is a constant “what the hell is happening?” kind of moment. It was very surreal. I get speechless when I talk about it because it doesn’t feel like it happened, but it totally did.
How many times did you watch your episode afterwards?
Oh, I’ll check in on that clip every day. I’ll just be like, “I’m feeling low. Let’s look at Kelly Clarkson saying my name,” and I suddenly feel a lot better.
Chris Azzopardi is the Editorial Director of Pride Source Media Group and Q Syndicate, the national LGBTQ+ wire service. He has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, GQ and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.