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Jordan Valentine, Jordan Valentine & the Sunday Saints

Photo of Jordan Valentine, Jordan Valentine & the Sunday SaintsJodi Hilton

How would you describe your music?

We play original soul and R&B in an old school 60s style, similar to Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings or Amy Winehouse--lots of horns, lots of suits, lots of strong cocktails. I'm especially passionate about New Orleans R&B, funk and soul and we incorporate a lot of that sound in our music. http://thesundaysaints.com

What is your role in your band? In the studio? In business or marketing decisions?

I'm in charge, and I like it that way; it took me a long time to own that. I do the booking, I manage the money, I handle the PR. Which is not to say that I'm not blessed to be surrounded by amazing players from whom I learn something every single day. The guys I work with are incredible performers and have played with people I idolize, folks like Roy Orbison and Eddie Floyd... my guys are better writers than me, better arrangers, better engineers; they do this for a living. I like that I have to keep up with them; it makes me a better frontwoman and a better businesswoman. It also means that whatever decisions I make, I better be doing it right. And the fact that they stick it out with me while I steer the ship makes me feel incredibly lucky.

Describe your gear.

Since I'm a singer, I don't have gear per se, but I'm also the bandleader for an 8-piece big band so I get to worry about everybody else's gear. (Especially the drummer, since he's been my partner for the past 5 years. While I love his drumming, sometimes during a 3am loadout I find myself wishing he took up the trumpet.)

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Do you think being a woman and a musician is different from being a man and a musician? If so, how? Was there a moment that made a difference clear to you?

Its definitely different, in both good and bad ways. As a female musician you're much more likely to get attention for the way you look, good or bad, than a male musician; not that male musicians don't get judged on looks (we're all performers, after all) but the range of acceptability is much much narrower for women and I think we tend to internalize it and potentially let that hold us back. I think Sharon Jones said she held back early in her career because she was constantly told she was too fat, too dark, and too short, and she believed it. I think this is the trap a lot of us fall into. Its also challenging being a female bandleader; I don't think many of us were raised to realize that its okay to demand things a certain way, its okay to be the boss, and yeah, sometimes you've gotta raise your voice. Sometimes I think that male musicians just get to be "musicians", where female musicians are always going to be "female musicians" and have that qualifier attached. On the plus side, that attitude has made me work twice as hard, so maybe its a blessing in disguise.

Do you see differences between generations of women musicians?

This might be a small thing, but I've especially seen that women my age and younger have really embraced the 'nerd' aspect of being a musician, which I think is a huge benefit to any musician's self-confidence and self-sufficiency, not to mention their development. When I was younger, there was a tacit sense that the 'girl' in the band shouldn't bother with the technical stuff--the gear, the sound design, the repairs, the geeking out on tubes and tone and everything else. To get someone to show you how to fix something or do something was a lot harder 15 years ago I think. A few months ago I was on Facebook and noticed a rash of my female friends all over the country all discussing how excited they were to learn how to solder. I know a lot of women who make their own electronic instruments, who run live sound, who repair amps, who've built theremins from a kit, who can bore you to tears with a discussion of the merits of flat-wound bass strings just as well as their male counterparts. I think this is indicative of the rise of 'nerd culture' and DIY culture in general, but particularly in the case of female musicians, I think it helps level the playing field. Plus, its damn fun.

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Did anyone ever give you any valuable advice about making your way in the music industry? What advice would you give to a woman musician just starting out?

One of my mom's favorite expressions has always been, "don't let the bastards get you down." I use that a lot. If somebody asked for my advice (god help'm), I'd say the most important thing is to never ever let anybody else tell you what you're supposed to be. And bring a pillowcase full of peanut butter crackers with you on tour. Just trust me on that one.

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Why did you choose to play the instrument you play?

Little Kerri Brown. I was in 3rd grade and we were putting on An American Musical, and all I wanted to do was sing Chatanooga Choo-Choo. I got up and thought I aced the audition, til Kerri got up there with her pigtails and saddle shoes and five years of tap lessons and whupped my little butt. Never underestimate the power of abject jealousy to engender inspiration.

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