He took the stage like a tornado, his billowy white shirt twisting in the wind while two male dancers got swept up in his rapid movement.
It turned out, though, that the night Nick Jordan won the Are You Local? best-new-band contest at the Turf Club, he felt like he’d been run over by a bulldozer.
“I slept in the [club’s] green room for a little bit before the show, and that was about it,” the high-energy, electro-poppy R&B singer recalled of the Feb. 6 contest.
Just a few hours before, he’d returned home from a whirlwind trip to Amsterdam, Paris and London — with a layover in Iceland. “At one point, I realized, ‘Oh, and I haven’t eaten for eight hours, too.’ ”
The jet-lag story was this soft-spoken, sweet-natured and otherwise humble small-town kid’s polite way of saying, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
Jordan is promising his full-bore, no-doze live show Friday when — as part of his contest winnings — he makes his First Avenue debut for the Are You Local? 2017 finale, a Star Tribune-sponsored event also featuring the Suburbs, Gramma’s Boyfriend and DJ Shannon Blowtorch.
The Europe trip with a friend was Jordan’s first self-funded vacation, mostly paid for in waiter tips. It was also a last-minute present to himself to mark his 23rd birthday. “I figured if I can, I should,” he said.
His music offers a similar, seize-the-moment sense of celebrating life no matter the hard circumstances. Last year, he issued his debut EP, “NJ,” loaded with synthesizer-laden, ’90s-flavored R&B and modern, soulful techno beats alongside sometimes fun and oftentimes personal lyrics.
Most of the songs were written when he was still coming of age and dealing with bouts of depression and learning to be comfortable in his own skin. “There were a lot of days feeling overwhelmed by not knowing which path I wanted to walk down,” he said.
Jordan grew up 30 miles west of Minneapolis in Delano, the only child of a single mom, Faith Meyerson. He said, “She allowed me to be a dreamer.
“And Delano isn’t an environment where big dreams can easily exist, at least not artistic dreams.”
He had the artistic impulse from an early age, working through a blur of theater productions from grade school on. He also admits to spending ample time singing into the mirror at home to radio stations like B-96 and KDWB. “We couldn’t get KMOJ out there in Delano,” he clarified.
Those days are celebrated in a couple tracks on “NJ,” including “OldSchool” and “Radio,” the latter of which includes shoutouts to Ashanti, Ja Rule and Jill Scott. You’ll find those names in the large CD collection he relishes, in the same way a kid 15 years ago might find a big vinyl collection cool. “Tons of deep cuts from the 2000s,” he bragged. Wow, that’s going waaaaay back.
A full-ride scholarship to the University of St. Thomas was Jordan’s ticket into the cities. He studied business and recording arts and — more important, he says — met some of the people integral to his music now, including his dancers Albert Conteh and Christlo Gittens and his producer/keyboardist Luke Darger, aka moonsidr_dlux.
One of the most compelling things about Jordan’s live show is how integral the dancers are to the performance. They seem to be an extension of the singer’s own body, twisting and wildly sashaying across the stage. He even likens them to bandmates.
“We’re the type of guys who finish each other’s sentences, and I really feel like they finished my songs, too,” he said. “My songs don’t feel complete if they’re not there.”
Jordan said his dancers also help boost his confidence as a songwriter, a bravery he said has grown even stronger amid the current political climate: “I’m black. I’m queer. I’m not going to hide or be apologetic about who I am. That’s what a lot of my art is about.”
He is working on a new EP or maybe even a full album that he hopes to finish by summer. He said it will come from a happier place than “NJ.”
“Depression never really goes away entirely, but I’ve learned to work around it, I think,” he said.
“As I get older and further in my career, I realize you can’t expect or wait for good things to come to you. You have to just keep following your path no matter what comes at you.”
That jet lag never stood a chance.