FALLS CITY — Not too many people can say they have been elected mayor of a town, embarked on tours with a band, spent a month in a studio recording an album, and won a song writing award.
Falls City’s Jeremy Gordon can claim all of the above.
He was appointed as Falls City’s mayor in 2017 and elected to the post in 2018, but music was his first passion. Gordon, 44, learned to play his first instrument at the age of 4, after his mom asked him and his sister if they wanted to play an instrument.
“I think she probably said violin, so I said, ‘Yeah, violin,’” Gordon said.
He played violin for five years and took a few years of piano lessons before finding the instrument he fell in love with.
“My older brother and my dad played guitar, and my older brother (Ben) was very good at it. I kinda learned by watching him and taught myself guitar. That is what I stuck with,” Gordon said. “When I got good enough, my brother was like, ‘OK let’s start a band.’”
They started playing at bars when Gordon was 16, and played in various bands together until 2007.
“We were based out of Green Bay and then moved to Minneapolis in 2000 with the whole band,” Gordon said. “We were called Clubhouse Pow then.”
Clubhouse Pow broke up after a few years, and the brothers formed another band, The Vestals.
“This hedge fund manager started a little label, with us as the guinea pigs,” he said. “He also started a booking agency, so we could go on tour.”
Gordon said those years were fun, but not nearly as glamorous as one might imagine.
“Staying on a lot of floors and couches and staying in the van,” Gordon said. “We kind of built up a little following, built up a good presence in Minneapolis. We got a lot of press for our first album.”
The United Kingdom’s Mojo Magazine gave the album a four-star review, and the band opened for Ben Folds.
“I’m really proud of what we were able to accomplish. We spent a month in a world-class studio, paid for, to produce an album. That was a dream come true,” Gordon said. “I grew up a big Beatles fan, and they were very focused on the studio. That was just an absolute paradise for us.”
However, the band was hitting its stride at a time of transition in the music industry, between record labels signing artists to big contracts and artists taking the DIY approach. He said The Vestals focused more on the music, and not the business side. They produced two albums together, but the journey ended in 2007.
“After a while, we just broke up without a conversation,” Gordon said. “My brother said, ‘I’m going to move to New York.’ I said, ‘OK, I’m going to go back to school. I’m sick of being poor.’”
He may have left the band behind, but not the music. Gordon said it was, and always will be, an integral part of his life.
“In my teenage years when I was really working hard at it in to my mid-20s, it was an obsession. It was something I needed for my mental health in a lot of ways,” Gordon said. “I suffered from depression quite a bit as a young adult and really turned to music and song writing as a way to process some of those difficult emotions.”
He said not having music as a career aspiration helped him enjoy for its own sake again. He always has his guitar close by and continues writing songs. “Instead of performing on stage, we’d just have a party or something,” Gordon said. “A bunch of other song writer friends would sit around and drink whiskey and show each other songs. I was pretty content with that.”
When Gordon and his wife Dana Schowalter moved to Falls City, he quickly found a way to get back on stage without having to build a following like his former bands did. He’s played shows in Falls City, Dallas, McMinnville and at local wineries.
“When we moved to Oregon, I noticed a lot of solo artists playing around and thought hey, there’s a way to do this in a causal way,” he said. “It didn’t appeal to me to build something solo in a big city. This is a lot more my speed now. There’s no pressure. There’s no expectation. People just drink wine and are happy you are there.”
Gordon does miss the collaboration that comes with having bandmates, and would like find other musicians to work with.
“It’s wonderful to have my voice be totally unhinged and just be able to sing. When I was in the band, there was drums, bass, two electric guitars and another singer, so I was always trying to shout above the fray,” he said. “I can just focus on singing and developing my voice, which is great. But I’m kind of hankering for a little collaboration, to put a duo or trio together.”
Recently he put a tune to a song about Falls City in collaboration with former Falls City resident Henry Hughes.
Gordon would like to work with another musician on a few songs, and perform them.
“Spice it up with some other energy. I think it would be fun, if I can find the time,” Gordon said. “I miss singing harmonies with people.”
While he’s not looking to make music his career again — Gordon has a full-time job and serving as mayor is no small task — he wouldn’t rule it out for down the line.
“Who knows what might happen? Gordon said. “I might meet another musician and we totally click and say, ‘This is something special. We should pursue something.’”