Band: John Paul White
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m.
Venue: Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St., callaghansirishsocialclub.com
Tickets: $30, available through Brown Paper Tickets
Singer-songwriter John Paul White is returning to Callaghan’s for another intimate performance. White, formerly of the Grammy Award-winning act The Civil Wars, will be performing music from his latest solo effort, “The Hurting Kind.”
For this album, White delved into the “Countrypolitan” sound. Made legendary by country artists such as Roy Orbison and Chet Atkins, this classic Nashville sound is best known for its poignant lyrics and clean delivery both vocally and instrumentally.
For this project, White entered the studio with songwriting icons Whisperin’ Bill Anderson and Bobby Braddock for guidance throughout this sonic study.
Lagniappe Steve Centanni and White discussed both his collaboration with Anderson and Braddock and his exploration of the Countrypolitan sound for this great collection of classically inspired songs.
Steve Centanni: What is it about the Countrypolitan sound that made you want to tackle it?
John Paul White: Growing up, my dad listened to a ton of country music, but mostly what he listened to was that stuff. It was the more sophisticated country records like the earlier Chet Atkins and Jim Reeves records. My only theory about that is that my dad didn’t gravitate toward that honky-tonk stuff because I think it reminded him of his life that he already lived. Something about the more refined versions had a little bit more of a sense of hope and a dream that he was trying to attain. My mom always played jazz crooner stuff around the house. This record was a hybrid of the two things.
Centanni: How did you recruit Whisperin’ Bill Anderson and Bobby Braddock for this project?
White: When I first started doing it, it was just me selfishly thinking, “Alright, I need to write some songs for my publisher. Why not seek out my heroes and see if I can get in a room with them?” I knew that my publisher, BMG, had a big Rolodex and could call anybody. They might all say no, but I wanted to give it a shot. Once I started, I started to see a theme between the songs that I was writing with these guys and the songs that I was already writing alone. The album just laid itself out in front of me.
Centanni: What was it like writing this album with those guys?
White: It was strangely normal. I have been writing for about 20 years now, but I don’t even perceive me to be in any league with those two guys. The disarming thing about going into the room with them was that they’re normal dudes. They’re chasing a song every day, just like I am. They love other songwriters and respect other songs and lyrics so much, the same way that I do. There’s a lot of common ground. It felt incredibly normal, except everything that came out of their mouth was gold. I not only got to work with my heroes, but they also became my friends as well.
Centanni: What did you learn about yourself as a songwriter from working with them?
White: Well, there’s a couple of things from them and Donnie Fritts and people like that. They really love and admire and respect songs and songwriters. They look at it as a noble art. I don’t always. Sometimes, I get fed up. I hear bad songs, and I hear good songs. I know how much music has been devalued over the years. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think, “What are you doing? You’re selfishly doing this for your own benefit.”
Being around those guys taught me that there’s a lot of honor in what we do. Plus, they just can’t wait to write a song. Mr. Anderson is 80, and he just cannot wait to write another song. I just hope that I have the same love and energy as he does at that age.
Centanni: How do you think the title track represents the album as a whole?
White: The title track was a phrase that popped in my head. When I thought of it, I knew that it had to be a country song, and it had to be the name of this record. I don’t know what the song is about yet, but it’s really what I deal in. It’s “The Hurting Kin”’ when it comes to songs. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s sad. They just make you feel something. At least, I hope they do. That’s definitely my criteria is that they make me feel something. That could be love or the lack thereof. It could be pain or longing or all those things. That’s what moves me. So, that’s what I do. So, I just prayed, “Oh, man, I hope this is a good song, because it’s going on the record, no matter what I do.”
Centanni: Are there any tracks that didn’t make the record?
White: There were. There wasn’t a lot, but there were two or three. We did an extended version for Record Store Day, where you could get a couple more tracks that were on there. I have a couple more that I think that I’m going to save for the next record. They didn’t quite fit into the pile, along with some other songs that I did not record that I wrote with some of my heroes. I’m holding them in my pocket for maybe to a do a hero-centric EP or something like that.
Centanni: With that said, how do you think the experience of writing this album is going to affect the sound of your future songs?
White: I think that I pick up something from every writer and musician that I’m in the room with. Those processes have definitely affected me and pushed me toward being the classic songwriter that sits down and writes the best thing that they can every day and then pulls from that pool to make the best records that you can, instead of going into it with a preconceived notion with what it should sound like. I think the best way that I create is when I write the best things that I can. There tends to be a common thread throughout it all. My brain runs in specific patterns over the course of a year or two. So, it makes sense that those songs would all have a bit of a common denominator.
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