Marc Jordan: 35 Million Records and Counting
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
By David DeRocco
Marc Jordan has very quietly done something few Canadians have ever done; he’s written songs that have appeared on more than 35 million records. From his own solo hits like the AM radio staple “Marina Del Rey,” to smash hit albums by Cher, Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, Bette Midler and Chicago, the American born Canadian superstar walks in rarified air when it comes to songwriting success.
As a performer, Jordan has continued to release his own solo projects. And although it’s been six years since his last, Jordan is back with BOTH SIDES, a deep dive into the Great American songbook that features a disparate collection of covers backed with lush pop/jazz orchestral arrangements. From Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You” and Curtis Mayfield’s gospel influenced “People Get Ready,” to songs by Lou Reed, Rolling Stones and the Joni Mitchell title track, Jordan serves up a tasty selection of classics as interpreted by one of Canada’s most accomplished artists.
With a show set for the FirstOntario PAC November 9th, Jordan took time to chat with GoBeWeekly about the new album, the problem with Spotify and the best tune he didn’t write.
GOBE: BOTH SIDES is your first new solo album in six years. What was the motivating factor that go you back in the studio?
MARC: I usually write everything when I make a record. But there are a lot of songs that I’ve wanted to sing my whole life. My dad was a singer. He sang with orchestras in the 40s, and I always heard those records of his. I guess it’s partially an homage to my dad. And we wanted to put some different types of songs on there. They all just were songs that I love and I enjoyed singing them. The other thing was, I always wanted to sing with a great orchestra. I sang with the Prague Orchestra and there were amazing.
GOBE: How did you wind up singing with the Prague Orchestra as opposed any of the hundreds of other great orchestras around the world?
MARC: It wasn’t me, it was my arranger Lou Pomanti who knew all about them. Arrangers know where you can get the best bang for your buck I suppose. Now you can use any orchestra anywhere in the world. You just tie-line it into the studio and it’s just like you’re there. We did the bass drums and vocal in Toronto and just sent it to them.
GOBE: As a vocalist you have the luxury of being able to interpret the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell and Hoagy Carmichael all on the same album. How creatively liberating is that as a vocalist?
MARC: it’s a wonderful thing. When I’m in concert I don’t just do Marc Jordan songs, I do other people’s stuff as well. I just love getting in there and interpreting songs, great songs. The real good songs kind of give a singer so many ideas because they’re put together in a great way.
GOBE: When mining the great American songbook there’s so much gold there. What do you look for in a song? There are so many gems in that catalogue.
MARC: Songs that mean something to me. I figure if they mean something to me then they’ll mean something to others. Songs that are true in my perception I guess, songs that ring true. As a songwriter, I’ve written for a ton of people. I haven’t recorded everything, because sometimes they don’t ring true for me. I’ve got to feel what I’m singing. If it’s not meaningful to me then I can’t sing it properly.
GOBE: How does the Lou Reed track “Take A Walk On The Wild Side” fit in with you?
MARC: Well, I was born in Brooklyn. I spent a lot of time in New York. To me, that song captures New York at a time like no other song on the planet. And also, historically, it was also kind of the connective tissue between beat poetry of the 40s and hip-hop. It was somewhere in the middle of those two genres. I just loved the way he did it too.
GOBE: You’ve also got some originals on the new disc. As a father of three daughters, I was particularly interested in the song “He’s Going To Break Your Heart.” What is the tone and lyrical message behind that one?
MARC: Well, I wrote that for my daughter when she got her first boyfriend. I could see it coming down the pipe. As she told me later, he did not break her heart, she broke his. (laughing).
GOBE: In my world that song would have been titled “Dad’s Going to Break His Leg.”
MARC: (laughing) Or “I’m Going To Kill Your Boyfriend.”
GOBE: Definitely more impactful that way. You got some Niagara content on the new album, including Mark Rogers and Mark Lalama. Have you know then long?
MARC: For years and years. Marc Lalama I’ve worked with for 20 years. Mark Rogers I just met him when he was the studio bass player on this new record. I just saw how incredible he was.
GOBE: I saw some numbers related to your career. Your songs have appeared on more than 25 million records. Do you ever stop to think about the enormity of that number, and how many potential people your music has reached? That’s got to be a special feeling.
MARC: It’s more like 35 million. I don’t dwell on it. I’m proud of it. I’ve written for some wonderful artists. I just feel very lucky.
GOBE: It’s also been 45 years since your first singles were released in Canada. You’ve had a wonderfully successful career over that time. In your opinion, what has had the single greatest impact on the music business during that time?
MARC: It’s Spotify and the digital revolution, which has sort of cut the income you can make from music; not in half or by quarter, but by 100 times. It’s crazy now. I’ll give you an example. When you get a play at radio, you get a percentage of their ad revenue. It’s a small percent, it might be 15 cents per play. On Spotify, you make point-zero-zero-zero-zero-four-six cents. Do the math. And there’s no CD sales either. You used to get paid a royalty on a CD. Like, I had a couple songs on a couple huge Cher records which sold 15 and 20 million records. So you would get eight cents time 10 or 15 million, real money. There’s no money in the digital realm. Everybody’s working to change that, but it’s very slow.
GOBE: So when you’re releasing new music, new albums, today, what does success look like to you? What do you hope to achieve with Both Sides? .
MARC: It allows me to be able to go out and play concerts. I’m playing St. Catharines November 9th at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, and the Glenn Gould Theatre in Toronto. I love playing for people. I love the audience interaction. So I can go out now and have something new to play for people. That’s the end game. We’re also on the Grammy list of nominees too. We made the first cut on the Grammy nominations.
GOBE: So what band are you bringing and what can we expect from the set?
MARC: I’m going to play everything from “Marina Del Ray” to “Rhythm Of My Heart” to the new stuff on this record, and everything in between. I’ll do some covers, I’ll do the Hoagy Carmichael song. It will be a mixed bag. I’ll be bringing my regular band with me.
GOBE: Last question. As a songwriter, is there a perfect song or a favourite that you wished you had written?
MARC: Yes, “Both Sides Now.” What can I say about that song. The test of a great song is that it can be sung by anybody and, depending on who they are and how old they are, it will be appropriate. “Both Sides Now” could be sung by an 18 year old. The first time I heard it sung was by Joni Mitchell. You used to be able to see her perform in Toronto for a buck. I also saw her sing it when she was over 70 with the London Symphony. Her voice is so different, she brings her whole life into the tone of her voice. The song means something else when she sings it at 70 than she did at 20. It’s just a brilliant song. I’ve loved that song my whole life.