Jordan Mackampa Reworks A James Blake Gem For Fender

Last month, Fender—the legendary manufacturer of guitars, bass, amps and more—launched a video series, Re-Creation: Remixed, starring a collection of hand-picked guitar players from across the musical spectrum and from several different eras. Each video puts the spotlight on a different musician as they use one of Fender’s Acoustasonic Player Telecasters to revisit and recreate one of their own hits, as well as a song by another artist they admire.

The Acoustasonic Player Telecaster is the latest evolution of Fender’s trailblazing Acoustasonic series of acoustic-electric guitars. This brand new model offers its own set of six voices which showcase its unique personality and allow sonic shape-shifting between acoustic and electric tones—all with the touch of a button.

For the latest episode, Fender collaborated with Jordan Mackampa, the Coventry-raised singer-songwriter channeling the soul-stirring strength of Marvin Gaye and the defiance of Bob Dylan into stunning and incisive protest music for the modern era. Mackampa’s been bubbling up for a few years now, but thanks to his debut LP, Foreigner—a project that delivered an arresting take on, among other things, his experiences growing up as a Congolese immigrant in Britain—his star is firmly on the ascent.

Jordan Mackampa x Fender
Image via Fender

 

For his episode of Re-Creation: Remixed, Jordan chose to reinterpret James Blake’s haunting classic, “Retrograde”, along with his own “Alibi”, a track lifted from his Come Around EP released at the top of the year. As well as actually performing the two songs, Jordan also explains how he approached the task of stripping down the two songs, making full use of the Acoustasonic Player Telecaster streamlined three-way switch to shift from electric to acoustic tones, as well as arranging the backing vocals on “Alibi”. For his version of “Retrograde”, the icy electronic atmospherics of the original have been swapped out entirely, replaced instead with Mackampa’s own layered vocals, creating a soulful, almost hymnal warmth in the opening moments before making way for the guitar’s gentle yet full-bodied acoustic tones to fill the room.

Speaking on what attracted him to “Retrograde” in the first place, Mackampa said: “For me, what it was that first grabbed me was just how simple it was but then also the intent behind how James was singing it. How I go about approaching a cover is thinking about how I can give kudos to the original, but still make it sound like me. I think it’s important to strip it back, look at what the lyrics are saying and then see how I interpret it from there.”

In the end, choosing “Retrograde” actually ended up informing the way Mackampa approached reinterpreting his own track, “Alibi”. The original, Mackampa says, was “kind of a homage to a lot of the soul and disco and funk,” which he translated for the 21st century. But on this new version, he stripped things right back before referring to Blake’s track. “It started off with just the guitar,” he adds, “and the vocal and the harmonies and the ‘Oos’, which I took a lot of inspiration from James’ work and tried to implement that in ‘Alibi’.”

The end result is a pair of performances that bridges the gap between Mackampa and Blake’s contrasting takes on soulful songwriting. Both artists have a finely-tuned ability to silence the room with a simple chord sequence or a falsetto vocal run, but their approaches—Mackampa from an acoustic standpoint and Blake from an electronic one—contrast sharply against each other. However, with Fender’s Acoustasonic Player Telecaster, Mackampa was able to find a satisfying sweet spot between the two.

Look out for future episodes to see performances from SG Lewis, Self Esteem, Faye Webster and more. You can find out more about the Acoustasonic range here.

Jordan Mackampa Fender

Jordan Mackampa Fender

Jordan Mackampa Fender

Jordan Mackampa Fender

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