Dynamic local duo Flagship Romance can truly do it all. Over the last four years, Shawn Fisher and Jordyn Jackson have effortlessly traveled among acoustic folk, country, pop and rock, independently recording, producing and releasing three crowdfunded albums (two full-lengths, one EP). The husband-wife team lives together, writes together, sings together, travels together and loves together, sharing a custom-built dual microphone stand and a reliable Subaru Outback they call Winston. Flagship Romance’s scope ranges near and far: while Fisher and Jackson specialize in the intimate living-room show, logging more than 150 of them across North America each year, their Clean Water Music Fest nonprofit has raised $125,000 for life-changing projects in Africa. Folio Weekly spoke with the duo as they crossed the Florida state line after six months on the road supporting sophomore album Tales from the Self-Help Section.
Folio Weekly: Welcome home!
Jordyn Jackson: Thanks! It felt like we never left. We’re excited about the homecoming celebration show. We’ll be performing new material we wrote on the road and a bunch of fan favorites, as well as telling a lot of stories.
Nearly 70 percent of Flagship Romance’s shows are intimate house concerts. What’s that like as an artist?
Shawn Fisher: We realized we don’t have to be “famous” to have an impact on people. In Phoenix, a man told us that the music video for “Scare Yourself” led him to have a genuine conversation with his 16-year-old son for the first time. In Leesburg, Virginia, a young girl told us that same song was her anthem when she was gaining the courage to come out to her family and friends. Our stories and songs about mental illness have connected with countless individuals dealing with the same fears, anxieties and insecurities. Showing up at a stranger’s home on a daily basis to gather around the hearth of music and find our commonalities in real time has shown us firsthand the vast differences and underlying similarities we all have as human beings.
Are you happier taking that approach as opposed to, say, signing a major-label deal and blowing up overnight?
Jackson: We call it “taking the stairs instead of the elevator.” When the two of us met, we had both individually been spit out of the music industry machine. Shawn was signed to a major label with his previous band and I was signed to a UK-based indie label for my jazz career. We had both peeked behind the curtain, saw the gridlock, and experienced the inevitable loss of creative control. When we started making this music together, we asked, “How can we do the things we expected other people to do for ourselves?” Flagship Romance could have existed if we had gone down a different path, but I’m not sure we’d be as happy as we are now.
How is 2017’s Tales from the Self-Help Section different from 2014’s Fee Fie Foh Fum?
Jackson: Tales is the first album that consisted of songs either written or inspired by our experiences on the road. Songs like “Garden” or “Big Sur” are deeper, more personal realizations that could’ve only been facilitated in a setting of constant movement. Others, like “Life Is a Song,” are literal retellings of stories that impacted us on tour in the summer of 2015. The Costco Jesus who lyrically appears in the first line of that song is a real dude. On Fee Fie Foh Fum, we created a raw, real record: vocals and guitar captured at the same time in full takes. With Tales, we teamed up with Lucio Rubino in St. Augustine to infuse each song with the same energy of our concerts while adding sonic textures.
The songs are emotional, aching, even scathing at times. Did you feel you had to write like that at this point in your career?
Fisher: A lot of them acted as genuine therapy. Tackling these incredibly personal and emotionally heavy topics together also brought Jordyn and me even closer together. I don’t think either of us felt like we had to be so vulnerable—it’s just where we come from. We wear our hearts on our sleeve, sometimes to a fault. We have gotten better at taking hyper-personal subjects and cracking them open slightly to make them more universally understood and relatable. However, music will always be a vehicle for us to find out more about ourselves. There are rarely times I feel more in my own skin than when I’m neck-deep in the sticky mud of piecing together melodies and lyrics.
You’re a married couple who writes, records, travels and performs together. Do you ever need time apart?
Jackson: Very rarely. We love each other’s company and we’re best friends. We’re thankful that we get to live this life constantly by each other’s side. There are days right after a tour ends when all we want to do is stay in, binge-watch Rick & Morty, and order take-out. We seize those moments when needed.
What’s new for Flagship Romance in 2018?
Fisher: We’ll be performing on Cayamo, a weeklong singer-songwriter cruise with 4,000 music lovers and headliners like John Prine, Brandi Carlile, Patty Griffin, Lee Ann Womack and John Paul White, in February. Also, at the end of our last six-month tour, we went to the Sonic Ranch studio outside of El Paso and recorded a new full-length album. We’re keeping it close to the chest for now, but it will be released in 2018.