For most high school seniors, the principal’s office is a place best avoided. But for Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan, it was a final stop en route to becoming an indie rock star.
Armed with a permission slip signed by her mother and teachers, the then-17-year-old sat politely at her principal’s desk, fielding questions as to why he should allow her to miss school in favor of touring with snarling D.C. punks Priests.
That Snail Mail’s debut album, “Lush,” was set to drop on Matador around graduation certainly helped Jordan’s case, but she mostly just smiled and hoped for the best.
“I was going through high school, really scared about what would happen in my 20s,” Jordan recalls. “And I was sort of assuming I would have to become a music teacher or something — I didn’t think I was gonna get that far to begin with.”
Jordan, now 20, left the office with signature in hand. In the year or so that followed, the Ellicott City, Md.,native has continued to forge her own unlikely path. With muscular guitar work, identity-plumbing songwriting and lucid candor (“Being a girl is not a genre,” she told an interviewer last year), she has gone on to earn more weekly streams than any other artist on Matador, and the title of “indie rock prodigy” from Rolling Stone.”
Ahead of her headlining show this week at the Wiltern, we spoke to Jordan from her home in Maryland about her whirlwind year and growing into her own shadow as an artist.
When you were in high school, how did you envision what your 20s would be like, and how does it compare so far?
Growing up, I always wanted to be a musician, but I never was that person who was like, “Watch out, I’m gonna be one!” I always assumed I wouldn’t ever get to do it as a job. But I’m really glad that I got this opportunity ‘cause it was something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m learning a lot about myself and being really fulfilled as a writer, which is what I feel like I am first. So it’s cool with me.
What’s been the biggest challenge in experiencing the kind of audience growth you’ve seen over the past year?
I get real nervous still onstage. And the bigger the crowd, the more nervous I get. And that’s just been something I’ve had to overcome. We do sound a lot better than ever, and we have a keyboard now. I’m rearranging the songs and trying to make sure we keep things interesting. But we haven’t really caught up yet.
How do you translate the intimacy of your songs to a live performance?
I try to channel wherever I was and what I was feeling when I wrote the song. Just submerge myself in that. It’s tough and strange to see so many people connecting with these intensely personal songs. I’m still kind of learning how to do it.
A lot of your songs are about suburban malaise and wanting to break out beyond that. Now that you have, how has that shaped your songwriting?
Pretty much everything about my songwriting has changed. I’m taking a really long time to write this next record because I think it deserves consideration. I’ve had so many experiences in such a short amount of time. You’re forced to grow up quickly in this job.
Snail Mail with Choir Boy and Sasami
Tickets start at $19.50
7 p.m. Thursday, the Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., wiltern.com