By Galen Clark
The interweaving and ever complex lines between reality, politics, and truth seem to become more convoluted and confusing as tensions in America have been tested in the past years. For Columbus, Ohio based singer-songwriter, Jordan Kirk, this turmoil struck a chord with him and in turn to his guitar. According to Kirk, his song, “Donnie (American Heaven)” was the first song he had written in 18 years that could even remotely be considered political.
The song came to fruition in the summer of 2018 when Kirk had been working long hours, laboring outside, and running himself ragged. He stated, “I had been trying to wrap my head around this idea of Trump as a folk-hero in his follower’s eyes, taking all of the week’s news in through that lens on some long drives to and from work.” After working a full day and returning home in the dark, Kirk felt a sense of divine inspiration, reached for the guitar, and without conscious direction, poured out the lyrics and melody of the first verse.
While the initial inspiration flowed seamlessly, Kirk painstakingly fought for a year or so to finish the song in a way that justified and aligned with the initial spark. The day after the song was finally finished, Kirk decided to capture it at Columbus’ Oranjudio Recording Studio, sharing that, “It sounded after that session almost exactly as you hear it now.”
The message in “Donnie American Heaven” is enveloped by a classic palette of Americana/Folk acoustic guitar and a vocal style reminiscent of a 1960s New York classic songwriter. In a seemingly weary progression, Kirk manages to embed an unfamiliar style that draws you into a known nostalgia.
With navigating releasing a new song that deals with controversial topics, Kirk is of the opinion that, “While a work of political/religious satire may be more contentious than expressions of personal anguish, love or heartbreak, any work of substance and honesty has its repercussions.” His intention with the song is to create a conduit for opening up an often difficult dialogue and level of understanding – not alienation or disconnect. From sharing the song with others whose political and religious leanings differ greatly, Kirk hopes his work evokes an understanding and respect rather than conflict and hatred.
He also shared, “the overwhelming contradictions between the modern rhetoric of Christian Conservatives and the teachings of Jesus Christ that I knew and admired from my upbringing in a Baptist church had occupied a lot of my thoughts in years leading up to that moment.” Fascinated with the idea that Trump’s followers were exalting him similarly to a folk hero, the concept served as the perfect vehicle to juxtapose the values of Trump and Christ. Kirk’s imagination portrays Trump as the hero of a folktale, ascending to Heaven through his own greatness and for the betterment of his followers, bringing with him all of his ideas to make America great and applying them to Heaven, unfettered.
Kirk is of the opinion that the song would pair well with a few others inspired by and written in this era in the form of a mostly solo-effort EP. Following the release and depending on the restrictions of the pandemic, Kirk is eager to get back into the studio with friends, recording grander orchestrations, as well as getting back on the road for a tour or two before the year’s end.
“Donnie (American Heaven)” was recorded at Columbus’ Oranjudio Recording Studio with engineer Joey Gurwin, and was mastered by Glenn Davis.
Q: How did the song fully come into fruition?
A: It was the summer of 2018, and I had been working a lot of long hours, laboring outside, running myself ragged. I had been trying to wrap my head around this idea of Trump as a folk-hero in his follower’s eyes, taking all of the week’s news in through that lens on some long drives to and from work. One night, I arrived home just after dark, I reached for the guitar and the melody and lyrics of the first verse just poured out of me without conscious direction. I painstakingly fought to finish the song in a way that did that initial inspiration justice over the next year or so, and recorded it the day after I finished the lyrics at Columbus’ Oranjudio Recording Studio. It sounded after that session almost exactly as you hear it now.
Q: With a new work that deals with politics and religion, whereas past works have dealt with other subjects, do you fear any repercussion or criticism from family/friends/listeners? Or is it a natural artistic progression or gravitation for you?
A: While a work of political/religious satire may be more contentious than expressions of personal anguish, love or heartbreak, any work of substance and honesty has its repercussions. This song came to me, like all others do, through an emotional conviction that I felt couldn’t be expressed otherwise, and through my vulnerability, I hope to create dialogue and connection, not alienation. In the day since its release, I’ve already had some good conversations with friends whose political and religious leanings differ greatly from mine. I’d be more worried if this song wasn’t as well-intentioned.
Q: After the song is released, what can people expect to see from you/what are your plans for 2021?
A: I think this song would pair well with a few others inspired by and written in this era in the form of a mostly solo-effort EP. After that, and as circumstances allow, I just can’t wait to get back into the studio with friends, recording grander orchestrations, and also getting back on the road for a tour or two before the year’s end.
Q: How do you harness/channel inspiration?
A: I envy those who are able to turn it on and off at their will. Inspiration usually just comes to me unexpectedly, making me feel something so acutely that I just need to get it out right then and there, and if I have the time and patience I may walk away with a mostly finished song, but a lot of times I’m just left waiting for that feeling to come back so I can have some closure on the idea.