The Fort Worth-based band Green River Ordinance is launching its newest album, Fifteen, on Jan. 22, followed by an album release show on Jan. 29 at Billy Bob’s Texas.
At the core of Fifteen, the third studio album from Green River Ordinance, is a simple message: Hold fast to the things that are true. No matter what’s going on around you, remember to stay grounded and focus on the things that are important.
“We’re at our best when we’re challenging ourselves about why we’re doing what we do,” explained singer Josh Jenkins. “The purpose can’t be to sell a bunch of records − it has to be about something more.”
Finding that “something more” has been the band’s mission since its members first came together as teenagers 15 years ago, an accomplishment celebrated by the album title. They have gone from high school kids with big dreams to successful recording artists to young marrieds, and now they are transitioning into parenthood together.
Every band member is also involved in an outside pursuit. Front man Jenkins (lead vocals and acoustic guitar) has co-written songs with some of country music’s most notable artists, including Allen Shamblin, Sharon Vaughan and Josh Osborne. He also has a song on country singer Randy Houser’s new album. Jamey Ice (guitars, banjo and mandolin) co-owns Brewed, a coffee shop and pub, with his wife. Jamey’s brother, Geoff Ice (bass, backup vocals and harmonica), is just wrapping up his MBA. Joshua Wilkerson (guitars, backup vocals, mandolin and piano) is an avid cyclist who rides with the Fort Worth cycling group Night Riders. Denton Hunker (drums and percussion) founded Hunker Bag Co., which designs leather and canvas bags.
That “something more” was also the mission behind their Hope GROs initiative, where each of the band members donates proceeds from concerts and album sales to a charity of his choice. It informs the work Jamey and his wife do with The Net, a nonprofit dedicated to providing a support system for homeless women. “This is the thing Green River Ordinance stands for,” Jenkins explained. “We believe that you truly find yourself when you give yourself away. Any time we get the chance to do that, to us, that’s what it’s all about.”
“I feel like growing up together, music started off as pure fun for us and then we had success and signed our first record deal,” Jamey Ice said. “We had so much to prove at that point. We felt the push to sell records. Now that we have enjoyed independent success, it’s more about remaining five best friends and playing together, making the music we like … let’s just make music.”
Much of the freedom found on Fifteen comes from the fact that the band recorded it on its own terms, as independent artists. “EMI really wanted to squeeze us into a pop rock mold,” said Ice. “I think your taste in music evolves and changes over time and we wanted a chance to explore other musical forms.”
“In that world, everything is about the three-minute pop hit,” Jenkins explained. “We wanted the freedom to dig in and create our own sound.” After walking away from a contract with EMI in 2011, the band set out to make the kind of music that was true to its members, away from the demands and restrictions of commercial music.
Their first experiment out of the gate validated their instincts: “Dancing Shoes” became a breakout hit for the group, landing in rotation on Sirius XM and selling upwards of 150,000 singles. It was bigger than anything they had done while they were on the EMI label.
The band can be hard to categorize, but that is just the way they like it. “We don’t let the world define us,” said Jenkins. “Those opinions are like leaves in the wind, so easily blown from here to there. We try instead to speak truth into our lives.” While you cannot miss the sometimes overt and other times more subtle Christian overtones in some of their lyrics, Green River Ordinance is not a “Christian” band either. “We sing about life and our faith is important to us, so it comes through in our songs, but we play more in bars than we do in churches,” Ice said.
They wrote the bulk of Fifteen at the same cabin on Caney Fork River in Tennessee where they wrote their 2013 EP Chasing Down the Wind. “That cabin is a sacred place for us,” Jenkins said. “When you’re out there and your phone doesn’t work and you can just jump in the river and relax − that environment really affects the things you want to write and sing about.”
Green River Ordinance has recently signed with a new label, Residence Music, out of Nashville, which is distributed through Universal Records. The band thinks the partnership will help with marketing the new album, which was recorded independently prior to the deal. They will be playing at Sundance Film Festival in late January in Park City, Utah.