by Robert Brind
Jordan Lee, frontman and songwriter of Mutual Benefit, wants to make it clear that Love’s Crushing Diamond is not a breakup album. With lyrics like, “I won’t forget the way she flies,” one might easily make that mistake. The album, as it turns out, is the result of a very rough year. “I lost a lot of people close to me. It was very painful.”
The fourth track, “That Light That’s Blinding,” seems to sum up that year: “To go a year without dreaming/ until it seems that there’s nothing new/ I couldn’t give you a reason/ I couldn’t stop it from washing over you.” Lee says, “I think that’s what explains the popularity of the new album. Everyone has gone through a year like that; everyone has experienced loss.”
Lee is an interesting character. His life is music. He collects sounds to fill the soundscapes that underlie his melodies. He also “collects” musicians to play on his recordings. He travels with his own recording equipment and has met many fellow musicians on the road. “When I was playing a lot of house concerts I stayed with a lot of other musicians.” Conversation after shows often led to impromptu recording sessions. Weaving the pieces of these sessions together is something at which Lee clearly excels. “You make friends on the road, they help you get gigs, and when they come to town you help them in return.” Mutual Benefit indeed.
I ask Lee about his favorite venue and he describes a magical night in a forest in the deep south. “It was in the middle of nowhere, in the woods. The cops had broken it up already, but then everyone came back and we played until the cops broke it up again.” The glowsticks were out. The crowd was happy, made happier by the music. “That was an unforgettable night.”
As with any interview, we eventually discuss Lee’s biggest influence, Bright Eyes. “Fevers and Mirrors changed everything. I grew up on that stuff.” And you can hear that influence in his music. Bright Eyes does employ some strings, and songs like “Arienette” have some of the dreamscape like quality that runs throughout Love’s Crushing Diamond, but Lee has taken the concept to a new level.
You can catch Lee and his band this Thursday in Philadelphia at Boot and Saddle.