Nearly five years ago, Vanessa Jourdan called for friends, family and strangers to pledge to her on Kickstarter, with a headline proclaiming the campaign a "Beloved 'Baby' Shower."
Now the baby has arrived. And it's been some gestation.
The bundle of joy in question, "Never Too Late," is the fourth full-length album by the Huntington Beach singer-songwriter. When Jourdan stopped by a restaurant in downtown Surf City with an advance copy of the CD on Monday, it looked to be on the fledgling side: an unlabeled disc in a generic blue, see-through container. But it was ready to go out into the world, and it had a proud parent — plus some extended family — towering over it.
"Nobody's heard this except my mom," Jourdan said. "And I think my dad may have listened to it now. And my friend Chris Williams, who's a jazz musician and plays at Steamers a lot. He listened to it yesterday, and my mom listened to it yesterday, and they both gave thumbs up."
Jourdan, 38, is small-scale enough that she can sometimes count how many people have heard her latest work, or at least how many discs have been printed. She expects the first 1,000 copies of "Never Too Late" to arrive at her doorstep this week. After that, she plans to offer the album on CD Baby, an online independent music store, and hold a release party Feb. 8 at the Federal Bar in Long Beach.
After that? Jourdan, who works as a sales manager at Parkers' Lighthouse and Queensview Steakhouse in Long Beach, may schedule 2015 as she goes.
"It's still fluid in my mind right now," the native Texan said. "My New Year's resolution is to write more and play more, but I don't yet know what that looks like. It feels like it all just happened so fast after waiting so long that now I actually will have a CD to go out and play again."
Mother knows best
It was a family connection — someone else's, actually — that began Jourdan's recording career a decade and a half ago.
Jourdan, a UC Irvine graduate, was teaching and leading the choir at a small private school in Riverside. The teacher in the adjoining classroom had a college-age son who was interested in music, and she recommended that he give Jourdan — whose singing voice sometimes carried through the wall — a listen.
"She tells me, 'You have to hear this girl sing! I don't know if she's recording. You need to help her,'" said Paul Antony, who produced Jourdan's first album and has worked in some capacity on all her records since. "I'm like, 'OK, Mom.'"
Antony, who sometimes substituted at the school, flagged down Jourdan in the hall and asked her to sing some of her compositions for him. He liked what he heard, and despite never having produced an album before, he set up a studio in the back room of a local sewing shop and recorded Jourdan's debut, an eight-song set with the hopeful title "Give Me a Stage." (The album's liner notes thanked the women who ran the business.)
On her second album, the folk-flavored "Wanderlust," Jourdan handled much of the production while Antony served as engineer. On her third, "Eternal Things," Antony alternated production duties with Tom Harris, a friend of Jourdan's. For "Never Too Late," Jourdan requested that Antony take full-production responsibilities. To kick off the project, she sent him a song, "Beloved," that she had recorded while teaching English in Korea in 2009.
With Antony between professional recording spots — he now runs Eclectic Soul Studios in Riverside — he and Jourdan found themselves in a location almost as unorthodox as the sewing shop: Antony's own childhood bedroom in his parents' house. The cramped confines meant that only one musician could typically fit in the room at a time, but Jourdan, Antony, drummer Steve Ochoa and guitarist Mike Turpin made do.
"When Steve came in with the drum kit, it pretty much took up the whole room," Jourdan said. "So I was, like, sitting on the floor against the wall, boom mics everywhere. But it worked."
'An amazing race'
After the tracks worked, Jourdan's support team got going.
With 62 backers on Kickstarter, the singer raised $2,550 for production costs. One of the album's main donors was Jourdan's brother-in-law's brother-in-law, whom she had met only once. He lives in Connecticut and footed half the bill for mastering and duplication. (She plans to meet him for brunch soon and give him as many copies as he wants.)
Some of the tracks on "Never Too Late" previously appeared on "Beloved, Vol. 1," an EP that Jourdan funded with her earnings from Korea. She originally intended to call the follow-up disc "Beloved, Vol. 2" but opted instead to title it after one of the other songs.
The phrase "Never Too Late" is partly a tongue-in-cheek reference to the time the album took to finish, but it has a quite different message in the lyrics. The song, a devotional rocker, features the refrain "He is never too late / He is always on time."
Jourdan, a member of Community Bible Church in Huntington Beach, considers "Never Too Late" her most religious album to date, and some of its inspiration came from her time in Korea, where she lived for a time without a cellphone and felt out of place culturally. Many of the lyrics on her new album deal with summoning inner strength. A typical verse reads, "It's an amazing race / and we will run with grace / until we see his face / and claim the prize."
Jourdan pushed herself another way on "Never Too Late": The songs feature the densest harmonies of any of her work so far. Overdubbing herself, Jourdan laid as many as 30 vocals on some tracks, often listening to Florence and the Machine between takes for inspiration.
When Jourdan takes the stage Feb. 8 at the Federal Bar, she'll use recorded tracks for harmonies, and her studio band — her bedroom band, that is — will accompany her onstage. Antony, who usually plays bass with her live, relishes the thought of trying the material before an audience. And the next time Jourdan has an idea for a project, he's up for it.
"Hopefully, I'll be there forever," he said. "We'll be gray and old and still playing together."
Never too late.
IF YOU GO
What: Vanessa Jourdan CD release party for "Never Too Late"
Where: Federal Bar, 102 Pine Ave., Long Beach
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 8
Cost: Free (18 and older only)