To paraphrase an old saying, you can take a man out of his hometown but you can’t take his hometown out of a man.
In Jordan Umbach’s case, this certainly holds true.
Growing up in Washington, Umbach started songwriting at age 15 under the tutelage of celebrated Pittsburgh songwriter and guitarist, Tom Breiding. By age 16, Umbach had already formed a band named Redstone and said he developed, “a real conviction to become a singer songwriter.”
Performing at various venues including the Washington Arts and Cultural Center and recording two albums of his songs with a folk sound, he decided to move to Nashville, Tenn., in 2013 at the age of 22.
“I felt it would be better for my career and I also wanted to become more of a country songwriter,” he said. “I took some time after my move to discover who I was as an artist.”
Since relocating to the “Music City,” he’s played at several venues, including Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar for three years and composed more than 120 songs.
“It’s been a lot of learning and time put in paying your dues,” Umbach said.
Part of the learning equation includes time spent with Dave Pahanish, another Southwestern Pennsylvania native, who wrote number one hits for Keith Urban, “Without You,” and Toby Keith, “American Ride.”
“I’d been a fan of Dave’s for a long time and attended a songwriting workshop where I worked with him and another songwriter, Jeremy Michael, called ‘Improvise,’” Umbach said.
Five years into his experience in Nashville honing his craft, Umbach suffered an upending experience when his grandfather, a pattern maker for the Johnstown steel mills, died. After paying his respects, on the flight back from Johnstown, Umbach was inspired to write “Life in the Valley,” which featured memories of his grandparents’ lives as well as his own growing up in Washington.
“I had most of the song down and the lyrics in my notes by the time the plane landed back in Nashville,” he said.
After tweaking the nostalgic ballad for a few weeks, he was inspired to record it as part of a 13-track album titled “Hometown,” which features a Southwestern Pennsylvania theme.
“As part of the album, I started compiling other songs that were more country than the folk influenced songs on my other two albums, but they had more of a small town Western Pennsylvania vibe,” he said. “These songs reflected where I grew up, and I was fortunate to have worked with acclaimed Nashville producer Daniel Dennis on the album.”
One of the songs that vividly capture the flavor of Washington and the surrounding area titled “Hot Shot Quarterback” is about a man wanting to relive a bit of his high school glory along with the woman he loved. Another, “Party in Our Hometown,” celebrates life in a small town where there’s not much to do except hang with friends.
“It was inspired by my buddies living in Washington at the time,” Umbach said.
“When the Shine Wears Off” is about a man beyond his prime Umbach said sadly reminds him of the mindset of some people living in rust belt towns.
“Anyone living in a small town across the country should be able to relate to the songs on the album,” he said.
With “Hometown” now available online at jordanumbachlive.com, either as a download or hard copy CD, Umbach plans to return to Washington sometime this summer and stage an event with a release party format.
“I plan to play mostly songs from the album,” he said. “It should be great to be able to perform for my friends back in my old hometown.”
Information about the venue, time and day of the hometown performance will be available on his website once the details are finalized. For more information, visit jordanumbachlive.com.