Interview: Amelia White
By: Kim Grant
Born in Virginia, raised in Boston and now settled in Nashville, TN– Singer-songwriter, Amelia White is touring in support of her new album Beautiful and Wild. Produced by Marco Giovino (of Band of Joy-and White’s drummer for 6 years), the album is gathering accolades for the lyrical poetry and the impassioned voice of White. The stories on the record reflect love and loss, but they never let go of hope and possibility. Southland Serenade catches up with Amelia White while still touring in the UK, before she heads to LA this week for several dates.
Southland: Hi Amelia, you seem to be a hardcore troubadour, always on the road. As a matter of fact, as I write to you, you are touring the UK. How is your trip so far? Are you playing on the road with a band or is it just you and your guitar?
AW: Yes, I still feel that the best way to spread music is to get out and play and win ‘em to your side one by one. UK has been a fantastic experience. I’ve met so many great people who actually have the attention span to listen to a whole night of original tunes…:) I’ve been playing solo, but I’ve been touring and sharing the shows with another Nashville troubadour Mark Huff. (http://www.therealmarkhuff.com)
Southland: How long have you been based out of Nashville?
AW: 11 years! I can hardly believe it’s been that long. Oh, and by the way I’ve only lived on the East Side, proudly.
Southland: The lyrics for the songs on Beautiful and Wild seem to follow the path of heartache and loneliness, but also end with threads of hope. When you write for an album, do you ever set out to create a theme?
AW: I haven’t made a theme record yet. I write a lot of songs, and when the time comes to make an album I have to weed through, and pick the strongest that fit together and create a vibe. On Beautiful and Wild, Marco Giovino, who produced it, was a great help to me with that process; we weeded through about 40 tunes, even listening back into some of my older material. I think the “heartache and loneliness mixed with hope theme” is pretty much the way I view this life.
Southland: You have mentioned on your blog ” One of the things that makes songs translate into goosebumps is the sheer truth of them” and your lyrics are definitely capable of that. What are some songs by other artists that make the hair on your arms stand up?
AW: I absolutely LOVE music, so I could go on and on here, but let me sing the praises of some of my friends– Jon Byrd and Butch ( Doyle Primm’s) IN A CAGE OF SKIN and BONES , MERCY NOW by Mary Gauthier , FIFTY DOLLAR WHORE by Anne MCue, and SIDEWAYS HEART by Julie Christiansen– these songs just about put me under the table:)
Southland: When you’re writing lyrics for a song, do they show themselves right away, or are they something you have to keep shaping?
AW: Both… I do feel that sometimes my best tunes just come rolling out in about two minutes, but then again there are songs that have some kind of seed that starts one night and doesn’t get finished for years. I try not to TRY too hard, it’s best when the writing happens instinctively.
Southland: You seem to write autobiographically– is it the case or do you take on “characters” and write for them? If personal, does writing it down help you to process your feelings? Is it hard to share those feelings with the listening public?
AW: I do a lot of autobiographical writing, but I also listen to people’s stories and feel them, and write them as well. Everyone has a skeleton in the closet, or a cross to bear, and I find those sensitive spots to be the best for songs. Writing absolutely helps me with keeping sane, I’d probably be a drug addict without it, on the other hand yes it’s scary to get up in front of people and be strong enough believe what I write is important enough to share, especially playing solo. I find it satisfying and cathartic though when people are moved by what has moved me.
Southland: Your album is titled Beautiful and Wild and you have a song with that title on the album which is dedicated to the late, Duane Jarvis. Duane meant a lot to the roots music community in LA. How did your friendship with him come about?
AW: I met D.J. the first year I moved to Nashville at the Slow Bar after one of his shows. Rosie Flores had told me that I needed to know him and write with him, which we did but not until years later. We kind of had the same circle of friends at that time, and we became close right away, and stayed close after he moved back to LA. He always made me feel so special, and I felt that I could call on him when I needed support. The last time I saw him I picked him up at the Nashville Airport and even though he was sick and consumed with trying to fight it, he was just as concerned with me, and how he could help me get my music to some of his new friends.
Southland: It seems that roots music communities are more open and reaching out to each other these days. Being on the road so much, have you noticed a ‘change in the air’? If so, what do you think the reason is?
AW: When times get hard people pull together. The audiences for live music have become thinner due to economics, and I think it’s made artists get more tenacious, and resourceful and also work together more. I’m also blown away by the kindness of true music lovers on the road and how they will take you in, feed you and give you a bed.
Southland: One of our LA heroes, Dave Alvin, was recently on the FX TV show “Justified” playing a live band scene. Your song “Broke But Not Broken” was playing in the background just after he played. How did that come about?
AW: My album Black Doves was released on Funzalo Records, and they own half of the publishing to those songs, so they pitch them, hopefully they will continue to do so, they’ve been helpful to me in this way. The inside story was that “Broke But Not Broken” beat out a song by The Judds for the spot, ha-ha.
Southland: You’ll be coming to LA this week for a weeklong stay. Do you have ties to this city?
AW: I have ties through friends— it started with DJ, through whom I met Bliss Bowen, and Anni Celsi (2 local singer-songwriters), who took good care of me. Then I met Anne McCue, and we became close, and even though she lives in East Nash now, she’s introduced me to a lot of LA folks. I recently played a show and fell in love with Julie Christiansen, and I’m excited to meet some of her friends. The song “Beautiful and Wild” led me to meet Kevin Jarvis (Duane Jarvis’ brother who wasn’t around when I hung out with D.J. in LA years ago) There seems to be a strong current between LA and Nashville, and I think I’ve gotten swirled into that in a nice way. Again, there are friends I’ve met through my music in LA that go above and beyond in helping me to survive when I’m out there!
Southland: We look forward to meeting you! Thanks for taking the time for this.
AW: Thank YOU, I really appreciate you giving a damn!
Amelia White Los Angeles Dates:
Saturday, June 9th @ The Talking Stick (Santa Monica) 8pm
Monday, June 11th @ The Coffee Gallery Backstage (Altadena) 8pm
Tuesday June 12th @ Room 5 Lounge (Hollywood) 9pm
Wednesday, June 13th @ Firefly Bistro (South Pasadena)7pm
Friday, June 14th @ The Cinema Bar (Culver City) the event is hosted by Kevin Jarvis 8:30pm
Saturday, June 15th @ Zoey’s Cafe (Ventura) 7pm w/Julie Christianson
Sunday, Jun3 16th House Concert (Santa Barbara)
For more information: http://ameliawhite.com/