Jordan Schmidt hasn’t been playing guitar for very long, but it doesn’t show. He’s moved from a few house jams and informal functions to the Whitewater Wednesday stage, and he owns it.
“I’ve only been playing two years,” he explains, leaning on his arm and pushing his curly mop up off his eyes. “I was working in the coffee shop at the multiplex when it was the Midnight Sun, and I was alone for whole eight-hour shifts.
“It was very slow most of the time and I needed something to do. So I picked up guitar. And they paid me to do it.”
At the suggestion of a friend, Clancy McInnis, Schmidt moved from house jams to playing the jam at Flipper’s Pub. “I got up there, nervous, played an old Neil Young tune, a Nirvana tune and somehow made it through it.
“I also jam with Lane Currie — he’s a very elite guitarist — and just whoever is down at the moment. We spent a couple of weekends jamming out at my Mom’s house while she was out of town and I was house-sitting. She wasn’t very pleased, but we got some good jamming in. I did my best to clean it up, but we just left instruments everywhere.”
With McInnis, he played a notorious bluegrass version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. He laughs, shrugs and says, “It was popular amongst other social groups.”
Cohen aside, Schmidt excels at his interpretation of Neil Young songs. Host Peggy Hanifan says, “Jordan does the best versions of Neil Young songs I’ve ever heard.”
“I don’t try to interpret his material very much,” he says. “I just do it; maybe the way it was meant to be.” Campaigner is a jam favourite: “I remember learning that song.
“I saw him playing that on his Living with War concert tour, switching it up, putting George Bush in there. He’s 70-whatever and still doing political work. It jumped out at me. There it was and I learned it.
“Way back when I was just starting, I was really into Jack Johnson, trying to do the ‘Jack Johnson’ just sounded like cracking falsetto all over the place. It was horrible, but it was great; it was fun. It just jumps around.
“I’m really into Leonard Cohen, right now. I’m trying to get my hands on a classical guitar, nylon strings. I like blues, and that. Ryan McNally, of course, he’s the inspiration for some of the fingerpicking I do. I spent some trouble trying to imitate him, but it’s hard to do.”
No mere cover artist, Schmidt also writes his own songs. “I have, you know, a fairly standard volume of achy-breaky-heart songs, I suppose you could call them. Not exactly two-steppers, but … you know … songs about girls, songs not about girls.
“What else do you write a song about?”
He’s now working on a Yukon Film and Sound Commission grant to record his songs on a demo.
In the meantime, Schmidt is studying journalism at Yukon College and playing the jam where his coffee-shop-honed skills delight a beer-drinking crowd.