john paul white

IN CONVERSATION WITH: John Paul White

WORDS: MELISSA KAPLAN

John Paul White is an American singer-songwriter hailing from Alabama. He was ½ of the Grammy Award-winning folk duo The Civil Wars, exposing him to a wide array of fans reaching listeners of indie rock, folk, Americana and more.

John embarked on a mini Ireland/UK tour throughout the last week of January and played a sold-out crowd at The Night & Day Cafe in Manchester on January 28th. This tour leads up to a new album release for White titled The Hurting Kind, which is due out on April 12, 2019. The album takes influence from artists such as Chet Atkins, Patsy Cline, and Jim Reeves and more.

We sat down for a chat with John in the green room of Night & Day for a look into the family man’s passion for music and inspiration for his upcoming album.

Tell us about your new single “The Long Way Home?”

John Paul White: “It’s really about my love/hate relationship with doing this for a living. As glamorous as this may look – it’s something I’ve been doing for a long time. So, there are things I used to enjoy that I don’t necessarily anymore. I love my bed, I love being with my kids when they have dance recitals and things like that. My kids know this, and when I wrote this song and played it for them, I didn’t expect them to cry, and they did! Not going to lie, I was really proud of that, so it instantly jumped to the top of my list of songs for this new record.”

What do you like about touring in the UK?

John Paul White: “The people really appreciate music and respect artists and art and it’s palpable and it shows. In after shows when you talk to people, they’re very appreciative that you’re here in the first place, because they know it’s not cheap to do that and takes a lot of time out of your year. They’re also just very appreciative of artists in general – and we have egos! It goes a long way that people care that you’re working hard at what you do. That helps you get through the rough patches along the way.”

Do you have a favourite gig moment for a show you’ve attended?

John Paul White: “You know, it might surprise you, but I have not gone to lots of concerts. I didn’t really grow up that way. My parents weren’t keen on me going to shows, so I’d usually have to sneak out to go see them, but live performances were never as euphoric for me as they seemed to be for my friends. I’m really jealous of that. As a performer, I think I just have a really hard time letting go and disconnecting and just immersing myself in a show. I’m constantly thinking: what kind of guitar is that? Or man, he’s taking a long time in between songs. Things like that, I can’t turn it off.”

Too analytical with it?

John Paul White: “Yeah – I can say though, Randy Newman, I saw him at a place called the Lyric in Birmingham (AL), a gorgeous theatre there, that was definitely a show that my mouth was open the whole time. And, Kris Kristofferson at the Ryman. Those are probably the two that I didn’t want them to end – and I usually want them to end. I don’t know why I’m that way, after about four or five songs, I’m like – yeah, I’m good, I got it. And I’m jealous of folks that don’t have that experience. I go to shows with my 16-year-old now, and I see shows through his eyes and it’s a lot more fun. I’m able to leave some of that at the door.”

Is there anything you would like to plug with your record label [Single Lock Records]?

John Paul White: “Yesss! I’ve got a new record coming out [Under Single Lock Records] on April the 12th called “The Hurting Kind”. It’s 10 songs deep, and I wrote it partially with my country music songwriting heroes. I’d say 70% of the record is just me, but there are 3 tracks on there with people like Bill Anderson and Bobby Braddock, that are not household names per ce, but wrote a lot of songs that everybody knows. I really wanted to reach out to those guys and try my luck at writing a country song with the people that made me want to do it for a living. It went wonderfully and I’m really proud of this record, as all artists are proud of their new record. As you do this for a while, you’re constantly looking for angles and things that keep it relevant in your own eyes. Something like what do I want to say now? Well, what do I want to say now?

I felt like with this record it was kind of the first time that I, as a solo artist, could say whatever I wanted to say. Cause, my first solo record I had 12 years of material I could dig through and just find all the best songs. And then, with The Civil Wars, everything was collaborative, so that’s two people. So, with “Beulah” [JPW’s 2016 Record], which came out a couple years ago, that fell out like in a week and a half. There was no thinking about it. It was just like “blehhhh” and there was the record. So this was the first record that I can honestly say – I sat down and said, alright, what do you want to say? What do you want it to sound like? Who are you? And it was like a couch session for me, and I’m really proud of what I came up with. And I really feel like I’m scratching the surface for what could come after that.”

john paul white

Well, we hope to see a lot more from you! (And if you come back to Manchester or the UK in general, please let us know!)

John Paul White: “I hope you do too! I’m sure I will and I will let you know.”

It was truly a pleasure speaking with John Paul White. The over-packed room was so silent during the acoustic set, you could hear the glass bottles rustle on the floor. Not only were the vocals and guitar playing exceptional, but White also interrupted his own set to make sure an audience member was not overheating and cheekily sang his most played Spotify track ‘Hate the Way You Love Me’ to an audience member with piercing eye contact. Thanks for the excellent show JPW – Manchester will welcome you back with open arms!

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