Interview: Jordan Fisher Is On A Mission To Share His Music With The World
This triple threat--singer, actor, dancer--shares his inspirations, goals and more.
Jordan Fisher knows how to put on a show, on stage and in the kitchen. He approaches a stove with the same fearlessness he does a crowd -- by finding comfort in the combination of unique elements to deliver a satisfying experience with a hint of his own flare.
A southern charmer from Birmingham, Alabama, Fisher recognized his passion for entertaining others at an early age. When he joined Red Mountain Theatre Company in elementary school, his natural gift for singing, dancing and acting began to flourish. After seven years with the company, Fisher was spotted by a talent scout from Disney, and that's when his career started to heat up.
Fisher has had appearances on shows such as Nickelodeon's iCarly, ABC Family's The Secret Life Of The American Teenager, and Disney's Liv and Maddie. He has also had roles in feature films such as Disney's Teen Beach Movie and Teen Beach Movie 2. Most recently Fisher starred in Grease: Live! as Doody, a guitar clad T-Bird who had the hearts of fans ripe for picking with his rendition of Johnny Contardo's "Those Magic Changes."
Since the success of Grease: Live!, Fisher has decided to strike the skillet while it's hot -- and pursue his music career head on. Back in May, VIBE debuted the music video for his single "All About Us." His self titled EP was released today (Aug. 19), and when we caught up with the Hollywood Records recording artist to discuss his transition from TV sets to recording studios, he cited cooking and time with his loved ones as his "therapy;" the things that keep him grounded.
— Jordan Fisher (@Jordan_Fisher) August 19, 2016
VIBE: What can you tell us about your EP?
Jordan Fisher: It’s kind of a sneak peak [for] the album. It’s kind of the four corners of the album. I’m living in this chronic state of introduction. It’s just meeting people for the first time, people hearing my music for the first time and seeing my first music video. There's a lot of firsts that are happening right now, which is exciting, but I think the obligation is to just make the best first impression as possible and really introduce myself in a way that’s authentic and organic.
What impression do you want this EP to leave on people?
Timelessness would probably be a good one. Entertainment would probably be another one. I want to do this for the rest of my life. This is all I wanna do; I want to entertain. I want to make music. I want do film. I want to go on tour, work on Broadway, you know? Fall in love, get married, have a bunch of kids, go back on tour, work on Broadway again, put out another album and repeat until the cows come home. And figure out a way to be involved in other things that I love.
Who do you look up to in the industry?
It starts with Stevie [Wonder], Prince, Michael [Jackson] and Luther Vandross. It goes all the way to Tyrese to Joe to Usher to JT as well. I love Mariah [Carey], love Whitney [Houston]. There’s a certain kind of pop sensibility that soul and R&B had in the 80s that I wanted to take and kind of make “Jordan Fisher.” I feel like they did that in such a great way and really revolutionized that in the 80s.
Are there any artists that you really want to work with moving forward?
Justin Timberlake. I would love to collaborate with Usher at some point in time as well. Of course, those are the two guys that really, really do it for me. I’m such a fan of music that that’s kind of an unfair question. My “Collaboration Wish List” is a mile long. It’s crazy. Even people that wouldn’t necessarily sonically make sense for me where genres are concerned. People like Hayley Williams, the lead singer of Paramore -- that girl’s got pipes, mad pipes, and is one of the best live performers I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
You’ve been acting for years, so what sparked this need to move forward with your music more?
It all started in fifth grade. There was a girl I had a crush on that joined the drama club and that’s what made me love art. That’s what made me fall in love with music and acting and dancing -- the whole thing. So, moving out to L.A. years ago, that was the intention. To pursue a world where I could do all of those things. T.V. and film kind of took the bulk of my time and my life for a long time, thank God. But music was always something that was so prominent and something that I was so passionate about that I had to make music or I was gonna go crazy. For a certain period of time, you can only do TV and film and cultivate a real medium making music simultaneously.
Eventually you have to decide what is going to take up a lot of your energy and a lot of your time. Now that I have the album, I have the songs, I have a label that believes in me, management that works really hard, marketing teams that are pouring in blood, sweat and tears to make this thing the best that it possibly could be. After I did Grease: Live! earlier this year, that’s really all it boiled down to was “Alright, we’re ready to go now.” It’s time to gently shut the door in one area for now and allow what is so hot and prominent in my life artistically take shape.
A photo posted by Jordan Fisher (@jordan_fisher) on
You play a bunch of different instruments (piano, guitar, bass, harmonica and French horn). What was the first instrument you learned to play, and how old were you?
I classically learned French horn, funny enough, so I guess that has to be the first one. I started playing on my grandmother’s organ at a really young age. I learned “Chopsticks” and that kind of thing, but I didn’t really start picking it up and start taking it super seriously until I was probably about 13, 14. That’s my main instrument.
What would you say is really unique about your music and your sound?
Wow. That’s a loaded question. Who was it? Was it Maxwell? I think Maxwell at one point in time said he doesn’t like to explain lyrics to his songs because he wants—when you hear a song, you see a story. Subconsciously, you paint a picture in some way and it’s however you paint that picture is what makes that moment so unique. I think, personally, when I listen to Brandy, when I listen to Full Moon, I have a very specific picture in my head that I’m painting in my head as I listen to every song, from the intro to “[Come A Little] Closer.”
It’s the memory of creating those images in my head over years, and hours of listening to that song that makes that record so special to me. So, I guess, in short, to answer your question, that’s hard to say. Just because subjectivity is so real. I’m trying to do something that feels real to me. I’m not going out of my way to try to make some crazy impact that hasn’t been made yet. If that happens naturally and organically and overtime? Amazing. But, what I’m doing is making music that I have fun making and that is very meaningful to me and sharing stories that I’ve experienced, that friends around me have experienced that other songwriters—songs that I haven’t written but other songwriters have experienced that I can interpret because it’s relatable and something that could have come from my own heart that I’m excited to share that content with people. I think it just coming from me is what makes it unique.
A photo posted by Jordan Fisher (@jordan_fisher) on
Where do you draw inspiration from on a daily basis?
My dog. [Laughs] I’ve gotten used to hauling him around all the time. Kind of a little bit ofeverything. I love people, which might be a little rare for artists. I don’t know if a lot of artists like people, but I do. I love love. I love food. I love experiences. I love just waking up, starting my day knowing I’ll get to do what I love at some point in time, somehow during that day. If it’s not scheduled, then I make time to do that. I think people really inspire me. I love just watching somebody live and breathe and work and walk and talk and if they have a significant other, hug and kiss and hold hands and if they have kids then interact with them. There’s a different kind of love and protection that people have over their offspring. I like people. I think dynamics are really, really interesting. Sometimes annoying, sometimes infuriating, sometimes immaculate and almost perfect. It’s very unique to wherever I am and whoever I’m around.
Are you more passionate about singing than acting? Or vice versa?
I can’t say that I am. Because I love both equally, simultaneously. I want to find a revolution in my life where I can do each thing, just like JT. Artistically, we have to fuel those things or we start to go crazy. Music is my life right now. It’s gonna be awesome when I can get back onto a set and work on a film, and then I’m gonna miss music so much and, I’m gonna wanna go back on tour, and then I’m gonna be stoked to do the next movie. I’m fortunate that I can do those things and live in both of those worlds. These are the most transitional years in my little over a decade of being a part of this industry. I’m excited because it feels like the right time, but I’ve never done just one thing at a time. So now it’s a whole kind of new phase, new chapter in my life where I’m learning how to cope and learning how to be cool with just doing one thing. And I’m loving it because thankfully—thanks to everybody that’s on my team and my family, we’re all keeping me very busy so I don’t really have time to sit and miss the other thing. This is it. This is what’s happening right now, and I’m excited about it.
You started out in Birmingham’s Red Mountain Theatre Company at a very young age. Do you think you would ever start your own theater company?
Until just now, I’d never thought about starting my own theater company. I have a lot of goals in my life, trust me. I’m probably one of the most obnoxiously goal-oriented people you’ve ever met. From short term to long term, I think the list just continuously rolls. That’s definitely something I could add to that list that I would like to do. I want to get to a place where money is just stupid so that I can dig back into my communities. I want to make sure that music stays in schools because if I didn’t have it in mine I would have no clue. It’s sad the way people don’t recognize the importance of that. I think if you slowly start stripping a garden from the roots, eventually there’s going to be no beauty left. I implore you to imagine a world where you are watching a football game and it goes into commercial with no music in the background. Or you walk into a wedding and it’s just silence while people are walking to the pews. Eventually, over time, it’s no longer going to be meaningful to people and that’s sad for me that that goes away first in school systems that can’t afford certain things. So I’m kind of making it a mission to make sure there’s a great music program in every school in L.A. county. It’s beyond important; it’s a necessity.
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How do you feel about police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement?
It’s sad that it’s a conversation that has to be had. That’s really just they way that I look at it. It’s sad to me that it’s a thing. Obviously the movement needs to be present. It needs to be prominent. Everyone needs to know what’s happening. I was having a conversation with somebody recently about this kind of thing. The argument was do we think that there was as much of this happening when social media wasn’t a thing and I can’t say that I think that there wasn’t. I just think that we see it more now. A lot of people say news is propaganda, and I believe that to an extent, but this is a real life thing that is happening. My life motto is “Would you be proud to die this way?” A buddy of mine has it tattooed on his arm, the director of my music video. To me, that’s just a simple reminder in a few short words. To love people and to take care of people. To go out of your way to be kind to people. I think people that are filled with hate, filled with resentment find false justice in taking anger out on pedestrians or innocent police officers as well. Gotta turn that right back around. It’s a real life thing that just happened in Baton Rouge. There’s violence happening and brutality happening in a world where we desperately need love. And an affinity towards our race and our genders and just who we are as human beings. Our species. We need love so badly right now. It’s hard to talk about for a lot of reasons. I mean obviously it’s easy to get emotional about these kinds of things. My question is just where, when and how does this stop? I don’t know that a lot of people are thinking about that. They’re just thinking about how angry they are at the people who made the mistakes that they did. I hate that it’s a conversation that needs to be had, but it’s definitely a conversation that has to be had.
Coming from the South, have you ever felt racism or discrimination touch your life personally, or the lives of the people around you?
Not violence, thank God. A couple of social instances. I’m very, very, very mixed. My family is from England, I’m Polynesian, I’m Cambodian, I’m Nigerian, I’m Italian, I’m Greek, I’m Scandinavian. I’m a melting pot of everything. My family looks like a GAP ad. They do. There’s a little bit of everything. It’s beautiful. I think it’s exactly what an American family should be. That said, being from a small football town in Birmingham, Alabama, I really was one of the only people that looked like me. People didn’t really know what to think about that. I worked at Game Stop when I was 16, part-time, and had somebody refuse my service. My Irish white manager came around the corner and said “You can leave my store and never come back.” This super, super southern short little white dude that was managing this Game Stop kicked this massive dude out of the store that wouldn’t let me serve him because of the way that I look. It goes back to that motto, “Would you be proud to die this way?” Whether you’re Christian or whatever, do you think that would be condoned by the big man upstairs? Would your mom be proud of that? Would your dad be proud of that? Maybe. Probably. I find that that is much more of a nurture thing than a nature thing. How is that right? And it’s not unfortunately, but, again, I can’t sit and be mad about that because it started somewhere way, way, way earlier than them. And probably his parents and probably his parents before that. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not my place to sit and try to throw stones. It’s my obligation to love and forgive.