Track-by-Track: The Tender, Driving Nuance of Caiola’s Debut ‘Only Real When Shared’

Caiola © 2020
Mo Lowda & The Humble’s Jordan Caiola spellbinds with earthy folk rock grit on his solo debut ‘Only Real When Shared’, an emotionally turbulent upheaval full of room to breathe and space to feel.
for fans of Mt. Joy, Lucero, Kings of Leon, Mo Lowda & The Humble
Stream: “Alaska” – Caiola




That mask was nothing compared to the one you had underneath and me under your thumb…

Moments of love and loss, togetherness and separation, reflection and abandon; these are the experiences, good and bad, that make up a lifetime – and they are the substantive foundation of Jordan Caiola’s debut solo album. Releasing under his last name Caiola, the Philadelphia artist spellbinds with earthy folk rock grit on Only Real When Shared, an emotionally turbulent upheaval full of room to breathe and space to feel.

Only Real When Shared - Caiola

Only Real When Shared – Caiola

I wonder what it might be like to be
within the same four walls as you again…

Pressed against the cabinet in your room.
I watch you throw the pillows to the floor.
Your daily affirmations in the corner
of your mirror penned in lipstick.

I read ’em over three times on my own.
I resist the urge to add another line…

To your life…
To your time here
Til it burns out with the lights.
Are you leaving or just getting home?
It gets so hard for me to tell when I’m out here all alone.

Entangled in your presence while you told me of your time spent in Alaska.
We laughed about the silly things we’ve done for love…
But, we were only kids then.
And I watched you get dressed for the very last time,
Just thinking how I’ll never trace the contour of your spine with my fingertips again…
Watching my world become so small…

Released October 2, 2020 via Workaround Records, Only Real When Shared is an exciting new side to Mo Lowda & The Humble’s intrepid vocalist, Jordan Caiola. The indie rock frontman presents himself as a heart-on-sleeve troubadour on a record that aches with longing, love, memory, and meaning: It’s as evident in the feverish churn of single “Finders Keepers” as it is in the ethereal, atmospheric ambience of the shiver-inducing “Alaska.”

Only Real When Shared takes its name from a quote by Christopher McCandless in the book and film Into the Wild: “Happiness is only real when shared.” Caiola embraces this message as a mantra: “Not every song relates, but many of the songs are about relationships which I believe can be boiled down to trying to find someone who makes you happy, and then constantly figuring the best way to share that happiness,” he explains.

“It’s not easy. I chose the album art based on the quote as well. There are two gulls within reach and sight of each other but they both have their backs turned to each other. I saw it as a symbol of people who are right there, but don’t quite give enough or put in enough effort to get the most out of their relationships — whether they be romantic, family, or friendships.”

Caiola © 2020

Caiola © 2020

Caiola’s subject matter ranges in scope, but nearly all his music is, if not personal to him, then intimate in that more existential, ever-present manner that speaks to our collective, individual human existence. The opening title track, inspired by the aforementioned Into the Wild story, sets off with four dynamic, energizing minutes of feverish folk rock charm. Within its folds, we hear an artist striving for purpose and place – embarking on that search for fulfillment and identity.

You said you’re gonna let go.
But I know what you want…
And I came here to tell you,
You’re gonna get lonely
But I know your mind’s made up.
There’s no use in all of this. 
You brought all your books about the wildlife and vegetation.
You promised me you can tell now
What might kill ya and what might sustain ya.
So where do I fit in?
And how long is this plan to be living like a runaway?

What follows is a rollercoaster of immersive alternative nuance. It’s a spiritual release – the kind of bliss that comes from dwelling in the dark crevices of one’s depths. “Alaska” and “Faceless Better Half” are achingly sparse and vulnerable moments of folk truth; meanwhile, songs like the soul stirring (and deeply catchy) “Own Medicine,” “Wolves,” and “Petrichor” present themselves as stunning worlds of sound and feeling, each one an insular haven unto itself. The nearly seven-minute closer “Petrichor” is of particular note for its stunning sonic architecture: Caiola builds an ambient immersion through heavy, reverberating guitars and relaxed drumming, inviting all who listen to fall headfirst into this daydream brought to life.

I’m going cross-eyed lookin’ at this small screen just
Waiting for you to acknowledge me. 
I needed someone like you to creep in
To remind me I never had thick skin.

You went to work and you never came home
And I walked the beach in the cold alone.
I needed someone like you to remind me
I’m only human… I can feel too. 

But you fucked me up.
Yeah you gave me a taste of my own medicine 
And it chokes me up
Just thinkin’ how I’ll never feel your warmth again.

I play those hours we spent that night
Over and over in my head like a highlight.
You touched my face like you gave a damn…
Like an actress with a grudge and a revenge plan.
I counted freckles upon your face
When you took your makeup off back at your place.
That mask was nothing compared to the one
you had underneath and me under your thumb…

If Only Real When Shared can pull us into that heartwarming slumber and make us feel – even just for a little while, taking us outside our everyday – then Jordan Caiola will have done his job, and done it well. Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Caiola’s Only Real When Shared with Atwood Magazine as Jordan Caiola goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his solo debut album!

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:: stream/purchase Only Real When Shared here ::
Stream: ‘Only Real When Shared’ – Caiola



:: Inside Only Real When Shared ::

Only Real When Shared - Caiola

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Only Real When Shared

The title track was inspired by ‘Into The Wild’. It puts the narrator in the shoes of someone whose significant other has chosen a path similar to that of Christopher McCandless and runs away from the structures of society in search of solitude amongst nature.  Instrumentally it gets the full band treatment, chugging along with doubled electric guitars, dreamy backup vocals and an ‘All Things Must Pass’ inspired guitar solo in the bridge.  The song makes the listener wait 4 minutes until the eventual “hook” makes its entrance to conclude the story.

Back Then

This song is a forward driving folk-rock tune led by crispy drums and jangly acoustic strums. The Fender Rhodes and piano leads take the spotlight after the first chorus and keep the momentum pushing forward all the way up until the song’s climax and into the breakdown.  Lyrically, it tells the tale of two people who seem to have given up on a declining relationship over several years and question whether the love is salvageable.

Alaska

This tune builds delicately around the repetitive fingerpicked pattern on the acoustic guitar.  It unfolds patiently until eventually developing into an ethereal and warm soundscape as the story of a brief, yet impactful love affair is told.  The lyrics remain the focus throughout, due to its minimal nature.

Own Medicine

This song is a droning, textural pop tune driven by a rumbling, constant drum groove and builds upward from its synth pad foundation.  Lyrically, it involves someone who has let their guard down after a long time of being closed off and eventually gets burned because of it – a taste of their own medicine.  Baritone guitars, side-chained bass, and a fizzy, phased out guitar solo set this song apart from the rest of the album production-wise.

Wolves

This track was meant to feel like it was being played live in one big room.  A drawn out, belted intro eventually tightens into a catchy, clap-stomp type hook with crunchy electric guitars sharply weaving between other elements.  Lyrically, ‘Wolves’ tells the story of a girl who grew up in an abusive family and eventually ran away to create a life for herself.

Hydroplane

Hydroplane was inspired by true events – a very close call during a single car crash on the highway due to rainy conditions.  It allows for reflection and gratitude after surviving something like that.  The song heavily features tight three part harmonies and James Rubush on slide guitar.

Finders Keepers

This song was meant to sound like trip across the desert.  Spanky Stratocaster licks and a guitarmony filled bridge set the scene whilst the lyrics lament over feeling like “the only one.”  The irony lies within the idea of how many people across the world have ever felt they are “the only one”… which inherently would make the statement untrue.  It is meant to provide the message that you are never alone.

Faceless Better Half

The purest folk song on the record.  The original demo ended up being used for the official album version.  It is one take, one track, and was recorded the same day the song was written.  Lyrically it deals with the question of “will I ever find my better half?” as time goes on.  Though the first two verses express pessimism and doubt, the narrator holds out hope in the end that it will one day happen for them.

22nd Time

The instruments, chorus and first verse vocals for this song were recorded over 4 years ago. The original plan was to feature another artist who would write and sing a second verse.  That never happened, and therefore the version of the song on the album has two verses written and recorded 4 years apart.  Lyrically the song discusses the struggles of trying to get help for a loved one with an addiction and how difficult and heartbreaking that process can be. 22nd Time features Jeff Sarafinas on drums and back up vocals.

Petrichor

The album closer is a slow-burning, nostalgic story of childhood inspired by a seemingly insignificant event involving a summer rainfall.  It notes how massive things used to feel when we were small – all about perspective.  Arrangement-wise, the song essentially is made up of two halves: the stripped down first half in which a warm, woody acoustic accompanies the single vocal track and the orchestral weaving second half that serves as a “rolling of the credits” for the entire album with multiple musicians making appearances. (Shane Woods, Jeff Lucci, Kirby Sybert, and Aaron West)
Three days it rained in our neighborhood…
We rode our creaky bicycles ‘round the muddy yard.
On our street it poured, on the next block it was dry. 
We learned that day
Even rainstorms have a fine line. 

10 years old and we up and left…
Shattered our world as if the worst was next. 
Yet only 5 minutes drive between our old and new homes. 
But you can’t tell a kid what he don’t wanna know. 

The end of our street felt like coast to coast… 
But the universe scaled with our growth.

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:: stream/purchase Only Real When Shared here ::

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Only Real When Shared - Caiola

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📸 © 2020

Only Real When Shared

an album by Caiola



Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com