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'I Can Be Myself:' Dexter Jordan on Singing R&B and Loving His Identity

Heather Liebler Photography 1.jpg
Heather Liebler Photography
Dexter Jordan performing neo-soul/R&B music at CreativeMornings/Charlotte.

Acceptance is a recurring theme for up-and-coming R&B crooner Dexter Jordan: accepting new friends and collaborators in the Charlotte music community, accepting new sounds and inspiration for his full-length release Blue, accepting grief and the many paths it takes through life and, more importantly, accepting one’s self (the good, the bad and the potential therein).

"If Charlotte was a person, I would say… ‘Even though you may not think that people are looking at you, people are always looking at you. People are always wanting to see more of you and your creativity, even if you may not think so. [So] strive for the best.' If Charlotte was a person, I would say, ‘Don’t give up girl! Do not give up.’ "
– Dexter Jordan, R&B crooner

Interview Highlights:

On his gospel roots:

My mom was a singer in the church, and my father was (and still is) a minister of music in the church. So that’s how I got started in music at an early age, just singing in church. [Gospel music was a huge influence], especially when it came to singing with feeling and singing from the heart. Every time I sing, everyone’s like, “You’re from the church.” I can’t take that away from my voice.

On playing music with the support of his family:

[Music] was our medicine. It was what we did to always come together. Whether we were upset or anything like that, music [helped us] become better as a family.

My mom would always let me know that I had potential, that I could [make music]. [She taught me] to be very confident in what I had. Even at a young age, I went to an all-arts high school because of my mom. And every time in church, she would always want me to sing, and she'd have her phone camera out [to record]. Even in New York, I’ve been on the Apollo [Theater] because of her. She’s always been very supportive and letting me know I had something.

On performing at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater as a teenager:

I was 13 years old. I still can’t believe that happened. It was weird to be this country boy in New York, just trying to figure things out. It was the highlight of my career, seeing my mom screaming on the side. I will never forget that time.

In the ‘90s in Alabama, we would look at the Apollo and all the talent on there. I just never thought it would be me [on that stage, too].

When I was becoming an artist and understanding myself as an artist, I was not as flamboyant or as accepting of myself. But that has definitely changed. If I want to wear makeup, I’ll wear makeup. If I want to put on pink, I’ll put on pink. I love myself more now versus the beginning of my artistry. It’s helped me understand that I can be myself, and that’s okay.

Music featured in this #WFAEAmplifier chat:

Dexter Jordan - “Separate the Right from the Wrong”
Dexter Jordan - “Be Cool”
Dexter Jordan - “Mumble”
Dexter Jordan - “Green Moon”
Dexter Jordan - “Hello, New Me”
Dexter Jordan - “Snow”
Dexter Jordan - “Me”

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Joni Deutsch is happy to call Charlotte home as WFAE's manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, where she's led the first Charlotte Podcast Festival and helped produce such podcasts as FAQ City, SouthBound, Inside Politics, Work It and the Apple Podcast chart-topping series She Says. In addition to being an NPR Music contributor, Joni is also the creator and host of WFAE’s Charlotte music podcast Amplifier.