If Mozart was around, we’d most likely be gushing over his latest film score rather than a new sonata. Composers rarely get their due anymore — the "makers of music" are often called DJs, producers or singer-songwriters. But brilliantly composed orchestral music has never gone completely out of style.
Longtime Green River Ordinance producer and Fort Worth native Jordan Critz is familiar with that particular grind. For the past three years he’s made a killing as a commercial composer, penning tunes and crafting melodies for Disney, Apple and Facebook, just to name a few. But now he’s putting out music from the heart, directed toward the listener as opposed to the client.
“In licensing in general there’s a tendency to start writing for licensing, especially if the songs start getting traction, which there is nothing wrong with per se,” Critz says. “But as an artist and as a composer, the second you start writing just for licensing you start to slowly lose your art and what you have to say.”
Critz's first EP as a solo composer, Edge of the Light, is slated for release on Dec. 1 via Tone Tree Music. It's been a long time coming. Critz, who is classically trained, has composed and loved music since he was a child. He says he first realized his connection to his craft while listening to the radio with his brother.
“I kind of realized I heard it in layers, and some people hear it as a whole,” he said. “I was like, 'I think I can do this. I think I can start layering different sounds.' Man, from there I’ve never stopped, honestly.”
Critz, who is now based in Nashville, says that it's the success he's had working for corporate clients and producing albums for other bands that has finally enabled him to release his own five-track album, which he entirely composed. After hiring 30 musicians on strings, Critz recorded his debut EP live on piano — in two takes and four hours — at the iconic Ocean Way Studio.
“With this project especially, I just wanted to push and say, 'Man, I’m just going to do something that honestly brings me joy,’” he says. “I know a lot people that have had success in music, but I know a lot of people that have chased the radio as well or chased what was popular. And it’s funny because as much success as they get, they’re still unhappy. That actually doesn’t bring joy in art or music; I think just pursuing what’s inspiring is the only way to go if you want to be happy and not burn out.”
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And, for now, burn out doesn’t seem to be an issue for Critz. He’s already working on a second album and is planning to release some of his commercial work for causal listeners as well. Eventually he says he’d like to play shows with a full orchestra behind him, but he’s hoping to bolster the composer scene in his adopted city of Nashville first.
“It’s been kind of cool to be here and be a part of something that doesn’t really have anything to do with what Nashville is known for,” Critz says, adding that he’s never been a big fan of the country music scene that Nashville is famous for. ”The composing aspect of what I do really isn’t that big here. There’s a lot of that happening out in Los Angeles, but I wanted to raise a family here in Nashville. There’s not necessarily a composing scene, but it’s starting to become that."
And Critz is hard at work fostering that scene. He says he has started building a permanent studio in Nashville and has worked with the city to create events that not only highlight the work of fellow composers, but also bring people together. Critz is letting things happen organically, just like the rest of his career, and slowing reviving the lost art of the composer. Not just for his sake; but for everyone's.
“All of this really is for other people,” Critz says. “I write for myself but you also write for others to digest it and for it to affect good in the world. I love that.”