Jordan Michelle is here to bridge the gap between pop and punk, and she’s doing so on her own terms. Born and raised in New York City but now calling sunny Los Angeles home, the independent recording artist arrives on the scene with unmatched energy, pennings relatable songs inspired by real-life events we all can relate to.
Taking on the moniker after the passing of her late brother, Jordan Michelle explains how it always comes back to this one word: dichotomy. “I say it so much, I have a dichotomy jar at home,” she states. “That’s actually the working title of my album, Dichotomy of a Pageant Queen. I used to do Miss USA and the whole thing. There’s something you see when you meet me: you can make an assumption, you can judge a book by its cover. But I grew up listening to punk rock.”
Michelle’s ability and versatility is displayed in her music, ranging from writing songs about getting drunk to the deep, meaningful stuff. She adds, “I’m multifaceted, you wouldn’t really know the whole story until you dig a little deeper.”
Most recently, Jordan unleashed her single and visual for “have a nice life.,” which was actually written about an ex-friend contrary to what people may think. And if there’s one thing Michelle prides herself on, it’s individuality and to always remain true to yourself.
Flaunt caught up with Jordan Michelle in downtown Los Angeles to discuss her background in pageants, roots in New York, love for punk music, honoring her brother with her name, the making of “have a nice life.,” the independent grind, being a female in the industry, love for aerospace, studio essentials, goals, launching her own cosmetic line, and more!
Talk about doing Miss USA? How was that whole experience?
Oh my god. Like anything, it has its ups and downs. I loved it, honestly. I made some really good friends doing it. It’s not the catty, crazy Toddlers & Tiaras thing people see on TV. It taught me such good life skills, but it also taught me an incredible eating disorder. You face that one way or another, being in front of people.
I can only imagine the pressure.
Even with doing music, being on social media, we’re so hard on ourselves. We’re so critical of ourselves. When you dive into that, it’s more like, “Okay, what’s stopping me from loving myself?” The pageants did teach me so many good life skills, and I loved it. It was a chapter of my life that I wouldn’t trade.
How long were you doing it for?
I did it for 5 years. You have to be so polished and put together, then unraveling that to say “I’m an artist.” I’ve always been an artist, but you have to undo all of the perfecting that you do to show yourself to society.
Were you doing music during the pageants?
Yeah, I’ve been doing music pretty much my whole life. I’m from an upper-middle class family. Jewish family, everyone’s a doctor or a lawyer or in finance. I never thought that I was really even good enough. I’m not the best singer, you know? You think you have to be something specific to pursue this, I never thought it was an option.
What was it like growing up in New York?
I have such a chip on my shoulder from growing up in New York. [laughs] I love being a New Yorker. I take so much pride in it. It was fun. I grew up 20 minutes outside of Manhattan, so I got the best of both worlds. I had the typical suburban upbringing, but I also snuck into the city all the time, took trains, did the whole thing.
When did music come into play?
My mom went to Juilliard for violin, but my dad took us to concerts when we were 3. Me and my brother. We were always going to Roger Waters concerts, Yes concerts, Peter Gabriel. We saw legends our entire life. I saw The Wall when I was 8. My brother and I would start jamming in our basement. It was always something I wanted to do. I’d always write songs, it was just never something that I thought I could do. Which is why I’m so giddy in moments like this where someone’s asking you questions about the thing that I always wanted to do. Now, I’m actually doing it! It’s always been a factor. Even when doing pageants, it was never something where I went all the way.
What was the inspiration behind your name?
My real name is Michelle, [laughs] Jordan is my late brother. My brother passed away 8 years ago. I was in a writing session with someone who had taken their late brother’s name. I always knew I wanted a pseudo-name or whatever, but I never knew what it was gonna be. I’m like, “How did I not think of that?” Especially because his loss was the thing that got me to not go to law school and not do the safe money thing. What better way to honor him than to share a name? So Jordan Michelle was born.
I’m so sorry, how did he pass if you don’t mind me asking?
Heroin. I’m super open to talking about it. It’s so funny because when people ask me, I almost feel worse for them just because they feel so bad for asking. I didn’t forget, it’s not like a hamster I had when I was 3. The conversation around addiction is something that is so swept under the rug still. We’re getting better at talking about mental health. I personally am not an addict but the understanding around what makes someone an addict versus someone who just likes to do drugs, where that line is and the way that it should be treated. 8 years ago when he passed away, the stigma around saying someone’s addicted? It’s insane. How are people supposed to feel comfortable opening a conversation or getting help when it’s so stigmatized? That’s a huge part of my messaging, my conversation: mental health and addiction awareness.
How does music help? I would imagine it’s therapeutic for you.
Oh yeah. It’s so funny, because I just came out with a song, “have a nice life.” It’s such an angry song. I’m literally saying “Have a fucked up life,” and I would never say that to someone. Music is the thing that when people hear it, they’re like, “Fuck yeah!” Because it’s the thing that they want to say, but that they’re not going to. That’s why music moves so many people, it’s so important to everyone. I don’t know anyone who isn’t obsessed with a song or feels a certain way.
That song healed me. All the songs I write heal me from something, that’s how I get it out. Even the music I make is a homage to him because he doesn’t get to make music. It’s really powerful when it comes to the addiction and mental health space, because that’s something that’s so potentiated in the music industry. Like sex, drugs and rock-and-roll, or even the mindfuck that is the music industry.
“have a nice life.” was written about a close friend of yours who screwed you over many times.
It’s so funny because people think this is about a guy. There were parts that I changed where I thought “That sounds more like it’s about a relationship.” And it could be. I realized what it boils down to is this is any relationship with a narcissist, when it comes down to it. We all have that friend or coworker, parent or boyfriend or girlfriend, whatever, that not only screwed us over, but convinced us that we were wrong. Nothing’s more infuriating when you realize that’s happening. They’re going around, making everyone think you’re crazy. Well yeah I called you out on your shit, but you stole from me. This girl stole my identity, and I lived with her.
I’ve had a nightmare roommate before, you knew her before that?
Actually, no. We met because we were roommates, who became really good friends. But it got to the point where I thought, “Okay, this is very one-sided.” She’d take my clothes without asking and ruin them. I’d set boundaries and when she crossed them, I’d say, “Hey, you’re crossing a boundary.” She’d say “Oh wow, you’re so uptight,” or “Oh wow, you’re so weird about your shit.” Like I have a problem constantly. Her cat literally destroyed my couch. She opened a Spectrum account in my name at her apartment after she moved out, all these things. I was infuriated. After I wrote the song: wow, I said exactly what I needed to say. Good riddance. [laughs]
What was your vision behind the music video?
I’m at this interesting spot where I have resources, but I don’t have big budgets. Obviously with anything, you can do more with more money, so we’re making do with what we have. Alright without making an actual movie, how can we conceptualize this with the lyrics, with certain backdrops and sets to tell a story? Honestly, that video was probably the best day of my life. There’s humbling moments in this industry.
I had this one party scene. I had maybe 40 people on set, which is a big set. Half the people I was friends with, and half of them I’d never met. The energy in the room, I was tearing up the whole time on set. “They’re screaming my song that they just heard two takes ago!” In a party scene, you’re like “Okay, now everyone have fun!” But they were actually having fun. Every single person said, “That was so much fun.” I watch the behind-the-scene videos even more than I watch the regular video because this is so fucking dope! You can’t help but smile. It was really nice.
How’s the independent grind?
It’s hard because you have to wear all the hats. I have a small team, so at least I’ve delegated some responsibility. I’m fortunate for that, but I was with a label before. Honestly, I have Stockholm syndrome. Not to say that about all labels: some labels are dope, some labels are killing it, some labels just make it happen. This label I was previously at wanted me to feel like I needed them. It’s a whole lesson that I have to learn over and over again. They stole money from me. They still owe me $30K. They’re still gatekeeping material from me.
As an independent artist, it’s crazy because I thought I needed them. They said “Oh no, this isn’t dope. Don’t sing like that, that.” But then you realize that’s why you’re an artist. You have the vision, the talent, and the creativity. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with working with a team, but at the same time, I didn’t trust myself with them. Now being independent, there’s nobody down my throat telling me that I’m doing it wrong, or trying to take my publishing or make money off of me. Honestly I’ve been having fun, because I have all these creatives around me too. It’s been the most spiritual, creative journey I’ve been on so far.
How does it feel being a female in the industry?
It’s a double-edged sword. Even this label situation I told you about, with them trying to put me in a corner or gatekeep me, would it be happening if I was a man” Maybe not. It’s also a really exciting time to be a female in the music industry, because people are listening. The conversation around being a female in the music industry is more prominent than ever. Honestly, it’s an interesting transitional time. I’m grateful that I didn’t have to ever be in a position that Britney Spears has been in. Not that her situation is so common, but there was a lot more silencing than there is now. I’m excited to see what the next few years look like, I’m excited to be a part of it!
What can we expect from your forthcoming project?
I’ve been working on an album for a while, and it’s piecing itself together. We’re almost there. What’s exciting for me right now, do you know that feeling when you go to Six Flags like “Oh my god, I want to go on that and that, and that! Guys, hurry up. I don’t have time.” [laughs] That’s how I feel. With the little resurgence of pop punk right now, I grew up listening to that. I have been making that music. As much as it’s exciting that this resurgence is happening, I’ve been doing it forever. I wasn’t able to put it out because of this situation. It’s crazy to me that I only put out my first single in November, but I’m sitting on 20 singles right now, which is a great position to be in. Look for the blessing. I’ve been watching everyone ride this wave like “Okay! Put me in coach.” [laughs]
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
This is a funny question. When you say that to everyone, they’re like, “I would be a lawyer, or a model.” I would definitely work for NASA. I would work in aerospace for sure. I went to space camp when I was younger, my dad’s an airline pilot. I still am obsessed. I watch every shuttle takeoff. I’m obsessed with planes and rockets, aerospace in general. I don’t know if I’d be a scientist or an engineer or an astronaut, but 100%.
3 things you need in the studio at all times?
I always have an orange Monster with me. Even if I’m not tired, it’s a safety Monster. That’s #1. #2… does good energy count? I always need good vibes. Nothing good ever happens from a weird, agitated place for me. #3… it’s funny but I always sit on the floor in studios, so I need a nice, little, clean floor. I will say for an artist, I’m pretty lonely. [laughs] I’m really picky about my energy in the studio. Other than that, I’m pretty lowkey.
It’s a new year, do you have any goals for yourself?
Always. I want a big vision board showing “This is what I want right now,” because I couldn’t have predicted the last 5 years and I wouldn’t change them. I always let it unfold for me, but I’m definitely looking at putting out an album. I launched a cosmetic line in June 2021. I’d definitely hope that would grow, and see what comes with that. The last 2 years have been pretty atrocious all around with the pandemic and everything, but some of the greatest things in my life have happened during those times.
Talk about your love for beauty, and starting your cosmetic line.
My mom is a dermatologist, I grew up in that field. She’s had a skincare line my whole life. I’m not high maintenance with it. I don’t do the most, I do the bare minimum. But I definitely have a skincare routine. I definitely take care of myself, so it came from that. I always wanted to start a line of some sort, but never really knew how, why, or what. The first idea that I had, I wanted to start with an under eye patch. I used to fly around all the time: late night shows, studio sessions, and I still look well rested. I need eye patches! I’m gonna start a line with my secret sauce.
Then the pandemic started and skincare was not accessible for me. It was way too expensive, I wasn’t working. A lot of the skincare labs were pumping out sanitizer. Well, there’s this mascara that I use that’s from a distributor. Whenever people ask me what I use, I can’t even tell them. I private labeled it, I helped develop it a little bit, then I put it out. It’s built slowly, but the integrity and the knowledge and the products themselves definitely stem from my upbringing. My mom’s a dermatologist and is always in my ear, telling me to wear SPF and take my makeup off before I go to sleep. [laughs]