UP CLOSE & PERSONAL WITH ALAN K. STOUT
Jordan Ramirez is a professional musician whose work combines elements of hip-hop and soul. He has released a solo album, “Ink,” and also is the lead singer of rock/funk band Half Dollar, which recently dropped its self-titled album. In addition, he is a copy editor and video editor with Petroleum Service Co. and recently launched his own record label, Going Up? Records. Several of his music videos can be found on YouTube. Ramirez is a native of Plains Twp. and a graduate of Coughlin High School and Wilkes University, where he received a degree in English literature and creative writing. He and his girlfriend, Kamri, live in Kingston.
Meet Jordan Ramirez …
Let’s talk, first, about your solo material. You write your songs alone, on a guitar, and yet your music is not presented in the typical singer/songwriter style. What inspired your unique sound?
The percussive element of old-school hip-hop is what I always related to. But really, I genuinely love all African-American music. Blues, soul, funk and hip-hop. That’s what I love. I have a tendency, if I write a song, for it to be hip-hop from the get-go, sonically. I’m not a great rapper. I’m a singer. But I like the sound of hip-hop. So, I usually sing over a hip-hop sound. But I’d say, with my songwriting, with just a guitar, it’s more soul.
And what about your work with Half Dollar?
It’s fun. And that is the main thing. It’s supposed to be fun. One thing that comes with a rock band is that it’s loud. (Laughs) I like that, but there’s something to be said about the simplicity of an acoustic guitar, a singer, particularly with the words, for someone who’s an English guy and concentrates on content. But the band is fun. It’s almost cathartic in a way to play music loudly and get people moving. It’s about dancing and grooving, whereas the solo stuff is more about the narrative, the lyrics and the personal feeling behind it. It’s like my solo stuff is for me and the other stuff is for the people that we’re playing for. I want everybody to enjoy it, but the rock band is specifically for fun.
What’s the goal of your record label?
I mix and produce music, and I produce music videos. And it’s about collaboration and the idea that musicians should be working together, particularly independent local musicians. There are people in bands, and we’ll see each other in passing, and we won’t talk about music. The label is about working with musicians.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I really enjoy a good cup of coffee. (Laughs.) And I really like hiking and camping. And I like exercising. But usually, if I’m not at work, at my 9-to-5 job, I’m working on music.
Do you have any hobbies? Are you a collector?
Guitars. I have about 12, but about eight of them are broken, so I don’t know if that counts. (Laughs). The other thing is video games. That’s one thing I never throw away. I have them from when I was a kid until now.
Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
Early Busta Rhymes, Ray Lamontagne, Marvin Gaye and Al Green.
Do you follow sports?
I’m a huge Mets fan. People usually identify me by my Mets hat. I’m always wearing it.
At the moment, Philadelphia. New York’s too crazy. Philadelphia’s got all of the art and the music and the food, but it’s just a little more relaxed.
Favorite vacation spot?
A close one is the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. That’s probably my spot. To get away for a couple of days, that’s where I’d go. I’m not a big beach guy.
Favorite thing about NEPA?
It has a certain charm that many people struggle to recognize. I don’t have any desire to “get out of here.” That’s what so many people’s aspirations are. They want to make a hit record so they can leave Wilkes-Barre. I want to put Wilkes-Barre on the map because there are so many great artists here. There is some serious talent. There are a lot of artistic people here and kindred spirits.
All-time favorite movie?
“The Matrix” and “Eastern Promises.”
Favorite TV show?
“Lord of the Rings.”
A cat, Viggo.
Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I really like gospel music. And sometimes being angsty and rocking out on stage, I don’t think people would get that idea. But I love sweet, soulful, positive, passionate stuff. I’m pretty spiritual and religious. And that’s another thing to be battling with in the 21st century as a singer/songwriter. Those ideas aren’t the most common raw materials for songwriting, this day and age, so I guess sometimes you have to disguise it a little bit.
Biggest pet peeve?
When people think they’re smarter than me and don’t realize that there’s multiple criteria to base that on. They’ll use something like being socially adept, or anything, such as the subject of religion or God, and people will say that because you think a certain way, you’re stupid. That really drives me nuts. Nothing gets me fired up, but that does.
Have you had a moment in your life that has helped shape you into the person you are today?
I don’t know. It all just happens pretty effortlessly. Life just kind of falls into place for you, and you see where your strengths lie. If you’re looking, it’s pretty easy to find that you’re better at doing “this” than “that.” I like to think that my self-awareness is what brought me down this path of being a musician. Trying to relate to people through music … it’s the universal language. And I think I’m most inclined to be able to help somebody through music.
UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at email@example.com.
photos by emma black