HARVARD -- When Ashley Jordan wrote a song called "New England Tears" for her latest album, "Nothing in Doubt," the 21-year-old singer/songwriter was thinking of the tragic aftermath of two terrible events last year: the Boston Marathon bombings and the shootings at a Connecticut elementary school in which most of the victims were children.
Jordan said she was thinking of survivors and their families as well as the victims who died and their loved ones. "It's terrible and sad," she said. "But it's forever" for them.
In a recent interview, Jordan, a Bromfield School grad and award-winning musician who launched her career while still in high school, talked about the song and how it came to be part of a compilation of inspirational music called "Boston Strong."
Sponsored by the nonprofit group Musicians for a Cause, proceeds from "Boston Strong" CD sales will benefit One Fund Boston, a charitable foundation for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
"New England Tears" channels the anguished aftermath of the bombings and the school shootings.
"A bomb goes off and someone yells in terror...A baby cries, a mother screams, a father pleads with God..."
Accompanying herself on guitar, Jordan probes a dark subject in a voice as clear and sweet as sunshine, asking questions that echo like haunting cries in the wilderness. "Lord, Tell me...where will this pain end? When will this hate end? "
"A telephone rings, there's been a shooting at the school. When a little child dies, what's a mother to do?"
"New England Tears" sears the listener with snapshot flashes, each one an aching lament. But for all its emotional exploration, the song ends on a strong, soaring note, full of hope.
"We are strong, we will carry on, we will fight for those we love."
There's inspiration in the simple melody; evocative lyrics tug at the ties that bind: "Say a prayer for your neighbor, say a prayer for a stranger, raise our flag a little higher, hug your family a little tighter."
The slogan used for the compilation's title -- Boston Strong -- evolved from motivational mottos such as Live Strong and became a rallying cry after the 2013 Boston Marathon.
In late May last year, Musicians for a Cause held a Boston Strong benefit concert at the city's TD Garden. The playbill featured New England-based stars such as Aerosmith, James Taylor, New Kids on the Block, The J. Geils Band and others.
The new Boston Strong album also features local talent. Newcomers like Ashley Jordan.
"It was really cool...amazing" to have her song selected for the album, said Jordan, who also made a video version of "New England Tears," filmed in Harvard.
Producers compiling the collection were "down to the wire" but still seeking material when Jordan submitted hers. "I had this song..." she said.
She sent off a late-night email and got a phone call the next morning. Her song was in.
Asked about her creative process, Jordan said her songs are "always personal."
"New England Tears" is her heartfelt response to the bombings and the school shootings. And it means even more to her now that it's helping "this great cause," she said.
Jordan wasn't at the Boston Marathon last year, but she went this year. "It felt supportive, patriotic" to be there, she said. "It was really positive, upbeat," she said.
Last year, when the news came, Jordan was home in Harvard with her parents. "The TV was on," she said. "It was like 9/11."
Both music lovers, her parents consistently supported her career and from the start have gone to all her shows, lugging her gear. "They're still my roadies," she said.
Jordan said her family is attuned to the risks public-safety personnel face at accident or disaster scenes because her brother Derek is a firefighter and paramedic in Weymouth.
Her brother's department wasn't among those called to the Boston Marathon finish line last year, Jordan said, but her sister's boyfriend was a spectator at the race. It took some time to find out if he was OK. "It was so chaotic, you couldn't call anyone," she said. "Everyone was so upset."
The Sandy Hook school shootings "felt like that, too," she said, and she responded as artists do, translating her feelings into work in progress. "I had to finish this song, put it out there," she said.
Having her song chosen for Boston Strong was "awesome," she said. "And it's for such a good cause." It's available online at songs4acause.org/bostonstrong.
Jordan's career is going strong, too, with engagements lined up throughout the area.
As a solo act, Jordan sang on the street in Harvard Square, Cambridge and appeared at the iconic Club Passim, where legends like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez once sang for free.
She enjoys intimate settings like that, she said, but concert halls are thrilling. "I love doing benefit concerts," she said.
Jordan's music features storytelling songs and she's often struck by inspiration.
When friends see her clicking cellphone buttons like mad, she's probably penning lyrics, she said. "I love telling stories."
Sometimes, her songs raise awareness, targeting social issues such as anorexia.
Although she prefers acoustic to plugged-in and has won awards in the country music category, Jordan doesn't link her style to one genre, citing influences that skirt the country/pop/folk line. "I grew up listening to Jewel," she said.
Jordan's musical roots run deep. Her grandfather, Buck Jordan was a folksinger. He died when she was 5, but her parents saved his music, she said, converting his old tapes to new formats.
Music is for everyone, as she sees it. And it's a joy to share. "Bringing music to the community" was the theme of Jordan's high school senior project. She was in a "dual enrollment" program that year, taking college courses with credits toward a degree.
Now she's a part-time student and full time musician, taking music and business courses at Middlesex Community College and singing all over the region. One recent gig was a fundraiser for the Evergreen School in Devens, she said.
"My main goal is to make more time for music," she said.
To hear more about -- and from -- Ashley Jordan, visit ashleyjordanmusic.com.