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Toeing the line

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When it comes to hard work and keeping the music real, Kassie Jordan refuses to compromise

By Greg Summers

NASHVILLE – When Lancaster native Kassie Jordan hits the stage with her band, she knows immediately who the movers and shakers along Music Row are.

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Hailed by one critic as “one of the hardest working girls in music around Nashville and a force to be reckoned with,” the 2000 Buford High School graduate just released her first CD, “Timing,” on Feb. 19.

“You can always tell. They’re the ones who always stand along the back wall with their arms crossed,” Jordan said of record company executives and producers. “Most of them have already seen and heard it all, so you have to work hard to wow ’em. When they get into it and start moving and clapping, you’re going to be alright.”

If you think Jordan’s life is a rags-to-riches, overnight-success story, think again. She’s not there yet, but she is toeing the line.

Yes, there were winning appearances on “Star Search” in the early 1990s at the age of 12, and singing the National Anthem at high school sports events, college basketball and Charlotte Hornets games. There was also singing at the Myrtle Beach Opry, churches and festivals across the country, as well as multiple singing contests.

But, as the daughter of educators Dr. Jim and Kay Jordan, she knows the importance of a college degree. That came first.

After one year at University of South Carolina Lancaster, Jordan left Buford Crossroads for Nashville’s Belmont University to study music production and studio engineering.

“I did want to have a plan,” she said. “With Daddy being a principal and Mama a teacher, it was just understood. You can take music classes at Belmont and I had already done so much as far as music goes.”

The one advantage of Belmont is its location. 

The university is within walking distance to Nashville’s Music Row, which came in handy. Jordan came to Nashville car-less. 

“I thought it would be cool to know what goes on the other side of the recording studio glass,” she said. “The bad thing is that it’s so intense that it doesn’t leave much time for music. It was tough, but I’m glad I did it. I may not have been ready for the next step.”

Paying her dues

After earning a degree from Belmont, Jordan got a 9-to-5-job and started saving money. Nashville, she said, is all about the Benjamins.

“Trust me, you learn that pretty quick,” Jordan said.

About four years ago, Jordan said it was obvious that a 40-hour work week didn’t agree with the music industry. She formed her own band in 2008 and started playing nightclubs, where she’s carved out a local following for live stage performances that include a mixture of country, rock and the occasional rap song. She also has a regular date at Whiskey River in Macon, Ga., and has appeared at the Sturgis Motorcycle in South Dakota.

“I’ve been to Montana and all over the place,” she said. “To be honest, nobody outside a few friends knew who I was. I started from scratch. It’s nice to be noticed and I’m just glad that people were noticing me.” 

In mid-2009, Jordan started working with record producer Mike Fiorentino of the Southpoint Music Group on her first CD, “Timing,” which was debuted at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar in Nashville. 

Jordan said the songs on “Timing” are a direct reflection of who she is.

“This is me and I’m not of ashamed of it,” she said. “There has literally been blood, sweat and tears shed over this thing. This is for me, and if people don’t like it, then they don’t like me.

“I don’t need to act like someone else,” Jordan said, noting that Gretchen Wilson remained true to who she was before breaking through with “Redneck Woman” in 2003-04.

“If I won’t make it because of who I am, then I guess I just won’t make it,” she said.  

Musicians such as Jon Coleman of Trace Adkins’ band, singer/songwriter/guitarist Stuart Mathis of The Wallflowers and Kyle Cook of Matchbox Twenty lent their talents to “Timing.”

“Some of them did it for nothing,” she said. “That’s a big confidence booster. In the music industry, it’s tough to find people who are real.”

“Timing” and Jordan’s stage shows are creating a buzz. The CD sold out at Sunday’s debut. Copies of it will be available on iTunes and Amazon beginning in March. A duet with Troy Brooks, “How Much I Love You,” is available on numusic247.com, a website that features some of Nashville’s best and brightest unsigned artists. 

Jordan is also one of 15 up-and-coming artists featured at the 2012 Country Music Seminar.

“It will be about a year before anything happens, but it gets the ball rolling,” she said. 

Coming home

Jordan will return to Lancaster on April 20 to perform at Famdamily’s Restaurant & Tavern, 1227 Great Falls Highway. Right now she is unsure if it will be with her five-member band, or an acoustic set.

“When it’s just you and a couple of guitars, you can’t fake it,” she said. “That’s about as real as it gets.

“Oh, yeah, before I forget... go Buford!” she said, laughing.

Kassie Jordan may not  be there yet, but she’s getting close. She’s toeing the line.