You may recognise Jordan Stephens as one half of the successful duo Rizzle Kicks. But, what you may not know is not only is Jordan a musician, but he is also a Hollywood actor, who has appeared in Star Wars, as well as a huge Mental Health Advocate. He is the frontman for the IAMWHOLE campaign which encourages young people to speak out, seek help and get support. Jordan also took time out of his busy schedule to speak to our students as part of our ACC Industry Week.
We wanted to find out more.
How did your music career begin and what inspired you to pursue it?
I started making music when I was in Year 8 I think. I’m pretty sure my first recorded track was a diss on my Form Tutor over the beat to Bad Boys For Life. From then I used music to channel a lot of my emotions. It was actually through graphic design that I got my first break though. I was designing MySpace and Bebo accounts for money and offered to design stuff for a UK hip-hop crew called Foreign Beggars in exchange for studio time. While at the studio I met a guy called Dag Nabbit who sold me the beat to Down With The Trumpets for £50. I was 15 at the time and crashing on my mate’s sofa in Whitechapel to make sure I got as much time in the studio as possible. A lot of the connections I made in the UK hip-hop scene came after going to AudioActive workshops at Brighton Youth Centre. I’m now a patron for them and proud of it.
What’s it been like going from performing as a duo in Rizzle Kicks to releasing solo material and being the focus of all the attention?
Being the focus of attention is unfortunately something that I’ve spent a lot of my life revelling in. I say unfortunately because I’m not sure it comes from the healthiest place, but I’ve always been a performer and I’ve spent the majority of my life as an only child. I love Harley [the other half of Rizzle Kicks] with all of my heart and look forward to the day that we release more Rizzle Kicks music, but I’m not afraid to release music on my own. Performing my solo music will be a different challenge because I’m not the most confident singer but it’s something that I can work on. Harley and I are wonderful together though and I’m genuinely his biggest fan, so I look forward to being in the studio with him properly again. He is so talented.
You have also starred in some big films. How did you break into Hollywood and was acting always part of the plan?
Acting was never part of the plan. It’s probably the one creative medium that I had no interest in pursuing. I’ve had dreams of writing and directing but never acting. My acting career has stemmed from a wild card audition that went well and then me essentially falling forwards. I honestly have no idea how I ended up in Star Wars. I didn’t even audition, they just put me in it. Part of me still wonders if they had made a mistake.
Please tell us more about the #IAMWHOLE campaign?
The IAMWHOLE campaign was created in the wake of me writing a song called Whole as part of a band called Wildhood, which I made after Rizzle Kicks quietened down. The song was about me spiralling into depression and became a campaign after I sent the song to a man called Matt Campion as a suggestion for a TV show he was making. It just so happened that he’d been asked to pitch ideas to the NHS about mental health campaigns and the rest is history. Through loss, personal experience and my mother’s work as a therapist I suppose it naturally became something that I developed a significant interest in.
You talk a lot about Toxic masculinity in your interviews, please can you explain more about what it is and why it’s important to talk about it ?
My perception of that phrase has shifted a little over time so nowadays I prefer the term ‘machoism’. For me, it’s putting a name to harmful actions that come from an unhealthy desire to appear impenetrable and strong. I think that it’s important to highlight that when people are unwilling to allow themselves to feel or break a little, we can often project our pain onto others which is both unfair and irresponsible.
Films, music, mental health advocate, which of these do you find the most rewarding and why?
I love writing generally, because words are so powerful. One sentence can change a human being’s whole life trajectory. It’s magic. I also find that the more I write, the better I understand myself, which is important.
What are your future plans?
More music, more acting, more writing and more reach for the IAMWHOLE campaign. The older I get, the more confidence I have in my voice and the more motivation I have to use it.
Based on your experience what advice would you give your 16 year old self about working within the creative industries
I don’t know what advice I’d give to 16 year old me outside of ‘keep believing in yourself’. One thing I can say for sure is that I had absolutely no shame at that age. I would pester people for opportunities and work any job to keep myself going. If there weren’t any paths where I wanted to go I’d start hacking away at one myself. In fact I’d actually make it a point to go in directions where nobody seemed to be going.
To find out more and to keep up to date with all the incredible stuff Jordan is up to, head to his social @jordanfstephens.