Elisa Jordana

Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer Elisa Jordana has come a long way since her days as “one of those troubled girls with a guitar writing sad songs.” As “Nymphomaniac” – her down ’n’ dirty reinvention of the Flashdance chestnut “Maniac” – attests, the girl’s developed some genuine joie de vivre and a wickedly delicious sense of humor. She wields the latter to excellent effect in the frequently downloaded “Unstable,” a not-so-thinly veiled recollection of her days playing keytar in the dance-rock outfit Cobra Starship, with whom she toured extensively. (That track is so beloved by Jordana’s legion of online fans that a handful have gone so far as to create YouTube videos to accompany it.) Not that Jordana is a one-note gal. “Sweet Rosalyn” is a contemporary “I lied on the stand for you, baby” torch song, and “Young Love” is a balls-out altrock classic in the making. Equally at home performing pop, new wave, hiphop, rock, disco and various combinations thereof, she’s also skilled in piano, guitar, the aforementioned keytar and a host of electronic music-making tools. And she knows how to pick collaborators. She’s recorded with up-and-comer Secondhand Serenade and written with Colby Odonis (“What You Got”), currently signed to Akon’s Konvict Music, as well as *NSYNC’s JC Chasez and The Summer Obsession’s Lucien “Luke Skywalker” Walker. Skywalker is a particularly apt partner, as evidenced by his rhyming on “Nymphomaniac” and “Unstable.” “Madonna was my idol growing up,” Jordana volunteers, “partly because she always collaborated with such great people.” Another influence, The Beatles, inspired Jordana to add guitar to her repertoire. “I started taking piano lessons when I was four,” she says. “But then I fell in love with the Beatles. I went from singing their songs to wanting to play their songs – on guitar. I thought guitar was the cooler instrument.” She remembers seeing and being “all over” Sade, Whitney Houston and New Kids on the Block, but it was Debbie Gibson who really inspired her. “I was drawn to her,” she confirms. “I thought I was just like her because she sang pop music and she wrote her own material, and I was writing songs just like hers.” Jordana’s first composition, written when she was seven, was about a lost dog named Chessie who was wondering around the ranch where she and her family vacationed. She recalls, tongue firmly in cheek: “It had two chords, D minor and A. It was sad but still poppy, with a monster hook. And it had that great chorus lyric: ‘I love Chessie.’”

Come middle school, Jordana tried to put together a band. “But I was the only one who took it seriously, so I was forced to become a solo artist,” she says. Her efforts paid off in high school when she was asked repeatedly to write songs for the school musical. “That was my reason to live,” she insists. Raised in Old Bridge, N.J., Jordana lit out for New York City at 17. She fell in with Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit crowd, and eventually found herself in a studio with Wyclef Jean, who encouraged her musical ambitions, and, of all people, Tom Jones. During these vagabond days, she occasionally found herself homeless, which she’d remedy by spending the night at Penn Station or couch-surfing, i.e. “meeting people at clubs and staying with them for as long as they’d have me.” Clubs were also fertile ground for performing, employment and gathering ideas. A stint as a go-go dancer was particularly instructive. “I loved the music,” she says. “I’d hear it in my head after I left the club and it would inspire all these melodies. By the time I got home, songs would be pouring out of me.” It was also at a club that she met Cobra Starship frontman Gabriel Saporta, whom she’d seen perform years before. She marched up to him and, after very little preamble, said, “I should sing in your band.” “Of course he said, ‘I’m singing,’” she relates. “So I said, ‘I can play any instrument in that band; what do you want me to play?’ And that’s how I ended up in Cobra Starship playing keytar.” Her tenure in the band saw her sharing stages with Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, Gym Class Heroes, 30 Seconds to Mars and Jack’s Mannequin, among others. She also appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” playing “Bring It,” Cobra Starship’s contribution to the Snakes on a Plane soundtrack. In 2007 her membership in the group was revoked, about which Jordana remains philosophical. “Gabe gave me a huge break,” she says, “and he really inspired me. Being in that band was an important experience for me. I’d watch Gabe onstage every night, and it just made me want to write and sing and do my own thing.” Her own thing took a giant leap forward after an afternoon of playing Guitar Hero with a seven-year-old. He subsequently turned her on to the recording program GarageBand. “I bought a Mac that day,” she says, “and started playing around on GarageBand. I recorded a bunch of songs” – some of which feature her dog barking in the background – “and put them up on MySpace, and all of a sudden people were contacting me and telling me how much they liked my music.” Music-industry types began sniffing around not long afterward.

Jordana, meanwhile, is well on her way to amassing enough material for an album, with “Nymphomaniac” likely its first single. This would surely please the commentator who recently opined on the music site www.threeimaginarygirls.com: “If you … have spent the last several years lamenting the dearth of upper-middle-class suburban wink-wink hip-hop song recasting, you will dance the dance of joy when your ears are massaged by the songs ‘Nymphomaniac’ and ‘Barbados.’” Speaking of the dance of joy, Jordana declares: “A lot of people complain about where music’s going these days, but I like it. I love progressive, innovative, crazy dance music and I hear interesting stuff like that all the time. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither do I.”