Jordan González

Right from the first line, the richness of Jordan González’s LAW ’20 voice and the distinct flavor of music he has created are almost startling. He is neither shy nor unsure of the sound he wants to achieve, the way someone might expect a 25-year-old student to be. “Whatever You Want,” the new song released by González this Friday, instead resonates with the golden confidence of someone with lengthy music and life experience. Indeed, González does have a bit more of both than the average first-year law student.

González started his musical endeavors by briefly experimenting with piano and cello before picking up guitar at age 13 and almost immediately performing small gigs in the Atlanta bar scene. He began singing within the next year and ultimately continued pursuing music throughout high school and his undergraduate years at Tulane University. Despite taking a course load wholly unrelated to music, he was still playing gigs out and about in New Orleans.

“By my junior year, I was playing Friday from 9 to 12 and then from 12 to close somewhere else, so two in one night, and one on Saturday night, which would be from 10 to 4 a.m., and there was no breaks,” said González. “It was fun but also brutal. If you want to go to the bathroom, you put your guitar down, everyone else keeps playing, and you run. I was doing that during the weekend and a couple during the week. I was really grinding hard.”

Although he enjoyed being so close to the music scene, he found himself desiring something more — beyond playing guitar for other performers, he wished to be his own artist. Post-graduation, he decided to pursue his own music full-time and moved to Nashville. In his year there, he said he learned many ways “not to live,” as he scrambled to pay for studio time by cutting meals and working a part-time customer service job. He also discovered that Nashville was not necessarily the place for him.

“There are very different approaches to music, but I prefer the New Orleans school of thought for working musicians,” he said. “It’s different every night, and it’s all improv. Nashville has a lot more corporate infrastructure for music, and I think the hope there is some publisher is going to walk in the door and hear your song. So you have to make sure it’s three minutes and 40 seconds long and it’s the same [every time], so it’s more rigid, and everyone is trying to beat the game there. And so it didn’t work as much for me personally, as I had assumed it would.”

After moving back to New Orleans and playing and making music for another year, González ultimately applied and was accepted to Yale Law School. While some may think that law and music have nothing in common, González sees a link between the two seemingly distinct interests.

“I saw so many things through music that I thought would never pertain to law,” he said, including “a surgeon who’s taking the weekend off and a hobbyist, and I’m in a band with him, or someone who’s struggling with a heroin addiction. I had never thought about those things critically, but I realized that maybe for me, music was a view into worlds I would not have experienced otherwise. It was a great gift of getting to know people [whom] I would have no way of getting to know without our common bond in music, and that’s a very social idea, and law is the thing that holds society together pretty much.”

“Whatever You Want” tells the story of someone who has been through the struggle of finding himself and following his dreams. The song draws the listener out from the first word with the smooth, timeless, almost soothing voice of a person with an abundance of wisdom.

“I was once like what you are now; doing all the motions, trying to figure it out,” he sings.

Almost teasingly, González eases the listener slowly through the first verse and builds up to a louder, more upbeat chorus. In an interview, he described “Whatever You Want” as “obviously pop,” but this song seems to borrow elements from indie rock as well, with guitar strums and a guitar solo at the bridge drawing from González’s blues guitar idols of his teenage years. The music is stripped back to a simple mix of background vocals, a few repeated chords and beats produced by González himself with Logic Pro software.

“I think this song is actually the closest I’ve come to doing exactly what I want to do because there’s some guitar work, but it’s not overly-guitar, where you have to play guitar to enjoy it,” González said. “It has this cross between hip hop sounds, like James Blake kind of sounds, and then pop melodies in writing, and [the] harmony is very simple, and I’m attracted to that kind of framework. It is representative [of the sound I want].”

Ultimately, the song is a product of balance: knowing how to create a rich mixture of sound without underplaying or overplaying particular musical elements. And the song calls out to all listeners to follow a simple mantra in their everyday lives: “[Do] whatever you want.” In unrelentingly pursuing his two dreams of law and music, González lives by this message.

“The longer I do both, the more surprising it is to other people,” he said. “For instance, [I get] the question, ‘How did law come about?’ I’m an enigma to everyone. But it’s a positive thing.”

Listen to Jordan’s song here.

Audrey Huang audrey.huang@yale.edu .