While most Kindergartners are learning the basics of sharing and indulging in nap time, Jordan Bratton was singing a solo for an opera at Carnegie Hall. At nine-years-old, the Long Island-bred singer (now 19) took his talents to Broadway and knew that music would be his lifeline since.
Flip to 2015 and the timid songwriter/ musician is still very humble about his beginnings. “It was cool, it was alright,” he told VIBE about his first taste of performing. “It was definitely something [where] I wanted to rise to the occasion. When you step up and show them like, ‘Alright, I deserve the job.'”
All the props Bratton has received for his talents thus far, following the release of his 2013 mixtape The Grey Area, has been deserving. The 14-track offering is a melodic sound trip from beginning to end, boasting Bratton’s full-bodied vocals, intricate layers of instrumentation and lyrical poetry. “You’re such a renegade all by yourself, how could I let you go?,” he sings on one of the project’s many high notes “The Grey,” which samples Noah Noah Calhoun’s popular “What do you want?” fight with Allie from The Notebook. The ‘tape also features Bratton covering Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” and the original version of “Danger” before Fabolous laced it with bars earlier this year.
While Bratton was reared by a musical family (his dad is a songwriter, his mom and sisters sing, and his brother plays bass and drums), he once thought he would be a judge. Insert prayer hand emojis here that he changed his mind. Introduce yourself to Jordan and his self-made scores on life and love below.
VIBE: When did you feel like you discovered your own sound?
This year, actually. The Grey Area was like a lot of scattered thoughts, things I was feeling so it didn’t really sound like one sound, which was dope.
So how would you describe your sound now?
It’s very unorthodox. It’s not something that you’re used to. You probably heard something like it before but it’s very unusual for someone that’s trying to reach a big mass of people.
Who do you listen to before the creative process begins?
I try to only listen to the great ones like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and the radio too, just to see how people react to certain songs ’cause you still need that. [You find] there’s still something that’s successful about those songs as well. I really am trying to find ways to modernize myself, make everything more cohesive and I definitely feel like we can achieve that.
When you say modernize, do you mean innovate a new sound?
No, I feel like a new sound will come on its own. I stopped trying to do new things ’cause when you try to do it, it feels forced so just trying to talk about subjects that reach and resonate with people.
Why title your project The Grey Area?
It’s crazy, my manager, Daniel, asked me that and I said that [the mixtape] couldn’t be categorized. At the time, there was just something in my head that was saying life is more than black and white. It’s more than trying to put something in a box. You just gotta listen to it and [ask yourself] how does it make you feel? How it makes you feel should be the most important thing. So I called it The Grey Area because it was something that I didn’t want to be marginalized.
You graduated from high school two years ago. How has your perception of the music business changed as you’ve grown older?
I’m just starting to understand it. I’m starting to come to terms with some things that you need to do like you definitely need singles. That’s one thing I had a problem with when I first started creating the project because I wasn’t in that mode yet. In the month before The Grey Area came out, we caught a zone. When we did the last five songs including “Stranger,” “Black Fever,” “Danger,” and “Cold Killer,” we came up with these other great records. They didn’t sound like singles, but they were creative as hell. I’m actually getting used to it now.
Has there been a reaction from your musical peers that has surprised you?
Yeah, I got to speak to Elle Varner. It speaks more when there’s like a mutual respect. That’s one thing that goes a long way with me.
How did you link with Fabolous?
Shout out to Fab. He taught me a lot. I think I was recording one day and I was about to go to sleep ’cause I had been recording till like 10am at the studio. There was two rooms, but there was only one being used at the time because the other one wasn’t operational. I had just got done recording a song and showing it to my executive producer [when Fab] walked in. He came in, sat down, and started playing some of his new stuff that wasn’t on his last project. I played him some of my stuff and he was like, ‘Your stuff is really dope.’ I was like, ‘Wow that’s crazy. This dude is giving me my props’ so we just clicked from there. I didn’t want to come off as someone who’s like a fan and be like ‘Yo can I take a flick for the ‘Gram?’ I knew he knew that I was a fan. I’ve seen so many guys do that to him. I didn’t wanna be that person.
After the EP, what’s next for you?
We got a lot of songs for a new EP in April. We’re trying to find out how we can make it more of a piece versus a body of work with great songs on it.
What’s your message to the folks listening to your music?
I care about the people that listen. I know it may not seem like it, but I really do and I’d like to make them feel better about life.