The music industry, aspiring artists are often told, is hard to break into.
Jordan Pickett has heard it, too.
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SILER CITY — The music industry, aspiring artists are often told, is hard to break into.
Witness the long lines of young talent ever-eager to compete on a string of television showcases, from “American Idol” to “The Voice,” and the few among them who rise to the top.
Jordan Pickett has heard it, too.
“It’s definitely a hard road,” said the rising Chatham Central High School senior and aspiring singer/songwriter. “That’s what I’ve heard from everyone and I’ve found it true myself. I’ve had my battles and my difficulties with it.”
But far from lamenting those challenges, Pickett is forging forward with a positive attitude and a budding career.
“I’m making my way right now,” the Siler City native said, “and I’m having fun with it. We’ll just ride this train and see where it goes.”
At 17, he’s recently recorded his first CD — it’s called “Who I Am,” and Pickett penned all five tracks — and one of his original songs, “It’s Called Dirt,” recently got a big boost with airplay on 94.7 FM WQDR, the Raleigh country music radio station. And before the coronavirus pandemic, he was playing a lot of live gigs and plans to return to performing for live audiences again once he can.
That he gravitated towards music isn’t surprising.
“On my dad’s side of the family, everyone plays guitar and sings, especially during Christmastime and the holidays,” Pickett said. “We all get together and have family parties and sing Christmas carols. So tha t’s always been a part of my life growing up. And my great-uncle was a songwriter. He wrote over 50 songs. I’ve always looked up to that.”
His music — and his musical tastes — run distinctly towards country.
“Country music and Christian music, too,” he said. “I’m a Christian, so I try to incorporate that a little bit in my music. I kind of look up to the older country, more classic country artists like Tracy Lawrence, Randy Travis and George Straight. George Jones. Merle [Haggard]. That’s what I like.”
He took up learning to play acoustic guitar about four years ago. Songwriting soon followed.
“I’ve been writing music about two years,” he said. “And I’ve been performing about a year.”
Before the pandemic, he was performing a lot of live shows. He entertained audiences last Labor Day at the annual Old Fashion Farmers Day in Silk Hope. He’s played at Elizabeth’s Pizza in Siler City, the Pittsboro Roadhouse and Wings-N-Things in Winston-Salem. His parents, Richard and Denise Pickett, have been highly supportive of his career choice and Richard has helped him book performances, he said.
“My dad has always been behind me,” he said, “and tried to get me gigs everywhere he could.”
Since the interruption of the pandemic, Pickett has continued to reach his growing audience through other means, including social media (he’s on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Reverbnation), a recent live one-man show on Facebook, and the release of his CD.
“It’s different,” he said of performing for a virtual audience. “It’s harder to sing to a crowd of people you can’t see because usually I can feed off of their energy. But when I’m just looking into my camera and looking at myself, it’s a little bit harder.”
Among the shows he’d booked which fell casualty to the pandemic were a May 19 performance at The Tin Roof in Raleigh and a performance at the Carolina Country Music Association’s N.C. Songwriters Festival in Fayetteville.
“I was selected for that,” Pickett said, “and that was going to be big.”
That event, presented by the industry trade group representing country music singer/songwriters in North and South Carolina, has been rescheduled for May 2021 and Pickett plans to be there.
In the meantime, “Who I Am” is available to purchase either directly from Pickett via his social media sites or at a number of local outlets including Silk Hope Service, Brownie Lu’s, Best Food Cafeteria, Pittsboro Roadhouse and Dry Dock Seafood.
And his original composition, “It’s Called Dirt,” was played on WQDR as part of the station’s Homegrown Country program. Listeners can vote for their favorite songs.
“I’m really stoked about that,” Pickett said.
Response to “It’s Called Dirt,” which you can listen to on his Facebook page, has been very positive, he said.
“I’ve gotten really good feedback about it,” Pickett said.
In the song, Pickett sings about the earth — dirt — not as something messy or dirty, but as something important and foundational.
“It gets muddy when it rains,” he sings, “and we all came from it; but we’ll go back to it someday. And I grew up on it.. Beneath these boots, it’s stuck on the bottom; no matter where I go it’s just gonna follow. We this house right on this land; oh how love has grown since then.”
The country song has struck a chord with listeners, Pickett said.
“People tell me it hit home to them, and that’s what I’m shooting for with it,” he said. “For me, it’s about my home and what I grew up on. What’s kind of cool, people use the word dirt as a negative thing. I looked at it from a different perspective and used it as a positive thing about how on this dirt, there’s my house and everything. I looked at how much good it’s done for me and my life, so I flipped it around.”
But back to the challenges of a career in music: Pickett met one of them — finding the funds to record his music professionally — head-on.
“I had to sell my dirt bike to do it,” he said. Recorded over about four weeks earlier this year at Mitch Snow Productions in Thomasville, the album has already sold 100 copies. “It was definitely worth it,” Pickett said of the sacrifice.
When he’s not writing and playing music, Pickett loves snowboarding and wakeboarding. You can find him sometimes on the water at Jordan Lake or Harris Lake. Once a year, he and friend travel to western North Carolina to wakeboard in Fontana Lake.
He said he’s looking forward to a return to Chatham Central for senior year, hopefully under normal conditions, unlike the last few months of his pandemic-interrupted junior year.
His classmates, he said, are among his fans.
“They’re all pretty supportive,” Pickett said. “A lot of people in my class have bought my hats and shirts. And now they’re buying my CD.”
In the meantime, he’s continuing to hone his skills and write. “I’ve written way more,” he said. “I just haven’t got the time and the money to produce them all yet.”
And he’s planning to stay on the music train, full speed ahead, pursuing it as a full-time career.
“Hopefully,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been dreaming about. If I can make a living out of doing something I love, that’s what I’m shooting for.”
Randall Rigsbee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.