Being a teenager can be brutal, to borrow a descriptor used by bourgeoning teenage pop superstar Olivia Rodrigo. You spend your teens trying to fit in with your peers, meet your parents’ expectations, and figure out who the hell you are, often while getting your heart broken. You itch to leave your life behind and start anew.
According to press materials, Calgary-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Bella White said that her debut album Just Like Leaving, “feels like a storybook of the things I went through when I was 18 and 19.” Within the nine tracks, White’s reflections mirror the harsh realities of adolescents. She sings about being heartbroken and disoriented; she’s often on the road in search of something new. At one point, on the jangly mandolin-led “Gutted,” she even describes feeling completely removed from herself, singing, “My name is something that my parents gave to me, but lately I disassociate when it’s hollered out at me.”
Just Like Leaving was actually self-released last year, but re-released last month via Rounder Records. Throughout the record, White uses bluegrass traditions as her source material, but manages to create a finished product that is fresh and authentic. The songs are lively: “Not To Blame” is bouncy and the melodious fiddle and mandolin combination in “All I Gave To You” feels downright playful.
But lyrically, the album is quite melancholic. White watches the country rush by her window as she travels from state to state, questioning her past and soaks in the sorrow. On “The Hand of Your Raising,” she wonders, “Should I have followed you out the door?” On “Not to Blame,” she’s in tune with her anger, singing, “I hate the way you always make me feel.”
Through it all though, it’s clear that Just Like Leaving represents White’s growth. The closing track really encapsulates this: White looks back one last time to recall a past love, but admits, “And now she can hardly remember what it feels like to love you.” Her focus is on the future.