Jordan Feliz rocked the contemporary Christian music market with his 2016 album “The River,” which solidified him as one of CCM’s fastest-rising artists and earned him a Dove Award for Best New Artist. The title track, which was his debut single, reached Gold status recently, selling 500,000 units. The song was also a No. 1 radio hit and received a GMA Dove Award nomination for Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year and a K-LOVE (a contemporary Christian music radio programming service) Fan Award nomination for Breakout Single of the Year.
Riding high on those accolades, in March of this year, Feliz released his second album, “Future,” hitting No. 1 on the Christian album charts. It features the new single, “Witness,” which made it into the Top 10 for Christian radio play.
Can he get an amen?!
Feliz will join fellow CCM artist Matthew West (“Hello, My Name Is,” “Broken Things,” “Strong Enough,” “Mercy Is a Song” which features Feliz) on the grandstand stage Saturday. Gates open at 6:30 p.m., the show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, which include gate admission to the fair, are $25 grandstand annex, $35 grandstand and $40 track reserved.
Music with a mission
The California native knew at age 13 that music was his gift. He was a senior in high school and already playing with a band when a member of the heavy metal band A Current Affair asked him to join them.
“I got a MySpace message from a dude who had heard me play an acoustic show at a coffeehouse,” Feliz said in a recent phone interview from his home in Nashville. “He said, ‘My band needs someone to play keyboards.’ I was in a band at the time so I said no.”
But over the following weeks, “I felt like I needed to meet them,” he said. “They were using right lyrics, good lyrics, talking about Jesus in ways not many others were [in music]. I’m not a huge metal person, but I loved their mission.”
He was with them for about five years until they disbanded. A Current Affair played on the Warped Tour and also performed at other prominent national music venues, which opened some doors for Feliz.
The rest is His story
After his time with A Current Affair, Feliz was worship leader at a church and felt compelled to write Christian music but with his own sound. Growing up listening to R&B artists like Sam Cooke and Earth, Wind & Fire, Feliz knew those early groove-funk-soul singers were the kind of influences from which he wanted to draw.
Packing up the car, he and his wife, Jamie, headed to Nashville — without enough money to make the trip. He picked up gigs along the way and actually ended the trip with a little cash in hand. But finding people in the industry excited about his plan was not as easy.
“I did get some resistance,” he said. “It took about two years to find a producer and songwriters that believed in me.”
He found kindred spirits in producers Josh Silverburg and Colby Wedgeworth (who also co-wrote “The River”) and songwriter Paul Duncan (“Witness” co-writer).
While the music flowed for his debut EP, Feliz hit a wall with the second album. Still, despite the challenges, “The River” had captured accolades from fans and the music industry.
“It did really well,” said Feliz, now 28. “I was stoked about that record and seeing people enjoy the songs on it. Then I realized I have to do that again.”
A couple of interviewers had asked him how it felt to look back on what was probably the best work of his career.
“It kind of messed me up — I actually started believing it,” Feliz said.
Anxiety plagued him for about six months as he imagined all his plans for his family would come crashing down.
In a songwriting session with Wedgeworth and Duncan, the friends questioned him about his doubts.
“Paul said, ‘Hey dude, your complete future has already been worked out by God,’” he explained. “’You cannot control your success or failure. We just want to do the things God wants us to do with what He has given us.’ I tricked myself into thinking that if I had control, it would be better. [What Paul said] was like a weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Forty-five minutes later, they had written the song “Witness.”
“That’s how ‘Future’ came to be,” Feliz said. “I felt this new source of energy and excitement.”
That excitement and release of fear is evident in the uplifting lyrics and fresh, upbeat music of “The River” and “Future.”
“Witness” is a reminder that “no matter where you are in life, we have the Creator of the Universe, God, who we know to be the Sovereign,” he said. “It’s about acknowledging God’s sovereignty in our lives.”
The song “All Along” is, perhaps, his favorite track on the album. The autobiographical song is one he wanted to write since moving to Nashville six years ago. But every time he started writing, it came out as a slow ballad.
“I didn’t want it to be that,” Feliz said. “Jesus has been with me my entire life. It’s not like I’m depressed about it. I’m excited about it!”
The lyrics also mention meeting the girl who would later be his wife, whom he met on vacation when he was 15. She lived in Chicago, he in California.
In the video for “Count That High,” which talks about all the blessings of God in life, Feliz, along with his wife and daughter, Jolie, now 3, pose with a sonogram photo.
“Yeah, that was our baby announcement to the world,” he says with a laugh. Baby Judah was then born in August.
On stage, Feliz said he just keeps it real.
“My hope is that [the audience] will just experience Christian music in a new light and a new way, and experience the joy of Jesus,” he said. “I just want to share the love of Jesus.”
Can he get a witness?