August 21, 2018
Arts & Entertainment
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  • A self-taught musician, Pressing Strings lead singer and guitarist Jordan Sokel learned from listening to recordings of Al Green, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Sam Cooke and Paul Simon.
    Photos courtesy of Alison Harbaugh/Sugar Farm Productions
    A self-taught musician, Pressing Strings lead singer and guitarist Jordan Sokel learned from listening to recordings of Al Green, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Sam Cooke and Paul Simon.
  • Pressing Strings currently operates as a trio.
    Photos courtesy of Alison Harbaugh/Sugar Farm Productions
    Pressing Strings currently operates as a trio.

For Jordan Sokel, Music Is About More Than “Pressing Strings”

Zach Sparks
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View Bio
February 6, 2018

Catching Up With The Local Singer-Songwriter

He didn’t know it as a 5-year-old who sang contemporary pop songs during karaoke. He didn’t know it during his time at Broadneck High School, where he played guard on the basketball team, wide receiver for the football squad and midfielder for the lacrosse unit. And he certainly did not know it as a college freshman studying communication arts and marketing at Salisbury University.

Jordan Sokel did not know that he would pursue a career not in athletics but in another form of entertainment.

“I did nothing but sports in high school,” said Sokel, who suffered a shoulder injury at Salisbury, forcing him to reconsider his options. “I didn’t know what I was going to do, and around 19, I started to toy with the idea of focusing on music.”

Sokel and a friend started gigging at small bars under the name Pressing Strings around 2009. A friend came up with the band name.

“It’s literally what we are doing,” Sokel said of the moniker. But since then, he has embraced the idea that music is so much more than that. “There’s this duality there because with ‘pressing,’ there is a verbiage that implies something that needs immediate attention.”

Music drew Sokel’s immediate attention. Three years after partnering, Sokel and his friend came to a crossroads. Pursue music as a career or perform as a hobby? Sokel chose one path, his friend the other.

“This is my identity and this is what I need to be satisfied in life,” Sokel said.

Pressing Strings transitioned between a few lineups during the recording of its first three albums: “Where We Are” (2008), “Episodes” (2010) and “Pressing Strings” (2012). Today, Sokel fronts Pressing Strings alongside bassist Nick Welker and drummer Brandon Bartlett.

“When Nick first started, he was shy singing-wise, but now he’s solid,” Sorkel said. “He has evolved the most out of any of us. Brandon has always been steady; he’s like a human metronome. He’s the backbone of the band.”

Their music fuses elements of blues, funk, soul, folk and reggae.

Sokel, a self-taught musician, learned from listening to recordings of Al Green, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Sam Cooke and Paul Simon. Those influences served as the basis for the trio’s sound.

“It wasn’t a cognitive thing; I didn’t decide to mix a bunch of different types of music,” Sokel explained. “It was a hodgepodge of my influences. It’s hard to categorize [the music], but it’s singer-songwriter.”

After releasing “Life of a Tree” as a solo effort in 2014, Sokel partnered with his new bandmates to record “Owe the Source” in 2015 and “Five from Three” and “Most Of Us” in 2016. “Most Of Us” was recorded with Scott Jacoby (John Legend, José James, Rachel Platten, Vampire Weekend) and Neil Dorfsman (Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits and Bob Dylan).

“I’m still trying to figure out a sound that feels like my own,” Sokel admitted. “I always enjoy when bands switch their style or when every song doesn’t sound the same.”

To showcase a different sound, Pressing Strings recently released a new live album that was recorded in July 2016 at Red Bridge Studios in Savage, Maryland. The studio is co-owned by former Pressing Strings drummer Bob Novak. Sokel described the performance as a “house concert-style show.”

“I appreciate what the band sounded like live, because the studio can be sterile and controlled,” he said. “When we’re playing live, it’s like playing music for a group of friends.”

Looking ahead to spring 2018, Pressing Strings plans to release a new album reminiscent of early 60s soul while maintaining its foothold in the local live music scene with shows at Rams Head On Stage, Stan and Joe’s Saloon in Annapolis, and a St. Patrick’s event at Fadó Irish Pub.

In the song “What’s Around You,” Sokel lends his tender voice to the lyrics, “My senses feel that the urgency is real, that the ghost of our future selves are scratching at our heels.”

As for the future of Pressing Strings, Sokel is optimistic.

“Things are looking steady,” Sokel said, “even though the music industry is tough to navigate. I enjoy the challenge and always want to keep releasing new material.”

 

SIDEBAR

Upcoming Shows

Every other Thursday: Stan and Joe’s Saloon at 37 West Street in Annapolis.

Feb 24: Jordan Sokel opens for Rachael Yamagata 1:00pm at Rams Head On Stage.

Feb 25: Jordan Sokel opens for Rachael Yamagata 6:30pm at Union Stage in Washington, D.C.

March 2: Pressing Strings and Skribe perform at Metro Gallery in Baltimore 8:00pm.

March 17: St. Patrick’s Day show at Fadó Irish Pub on West Street in Annapolis. Time to be announced.


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