Bryan White Gets Ready to Shine: An Exclusive Interview
Bryan White is set to relaunch in 2014. After a successful Kickstarter album funding campaign, the native Okie is on the verge of releasing his seventh album called Shine. Its release will be timed with the February television launch of The Private Lives of Nashville Wives, a reality show starring his wife, Erica. After 17 singles on Billboard’s Country Charts, a mantle full of country music awards, two platinum records and six No. 1 singles including “Someone Else’s Star,” “Rebecca Lynn,” “So Much for Pretending,” and “Sittin’ on Go,” White still feels like there’s more to share.
“I have been blessed over the past 18 years to be smack dab in the middle of what I love doing, making music,” he says, calling during a tour stop in North Dakota. “Because of my family, friends, and especially the fans, I’ve seen my wildest dreams become a reality. I’ve experienced so much and am grateful. I’ve recorded many albums under the umbrella of record labels. While very grateful, I am also excited to be into a new chapter of my life. Somewhere free from someone looking over my shoulder during my creative and most vulnerable process.”
You mentioned on that Kickstarter page was that your goal was to find the “inner-kid” again. What did you mean by that?
As you get older, you get a little more jaded. You’ve heard it all. You’ve seen it all. You’ve done it all. Nothing really surprises you anymore. It’s hard to find that real raw and brand new inspiration. It’s a challenge. For me, the process this time around, is trying to do things a little more unorthodox than normal. I’m trying to capture a moment or a vibe in the studio rather than fixing it and manipulating it and make it into something that’s perfect. We have the capability to make a track seem clean and pristine. It can be perfect. I didn’t do that this time. I didn’t want to punch them to death. I wanted to recognize that it was fun and that we left it alone at that. A lot of people don’t realize that a challenge as an artist and as a producer, depending on the hat you’re wearing, is this amazing technology and editing capabilities at our fingertips. The challenge is to not let that override the feeling. It’s important to keep things real and honest and fresh and not manipulate it and not fix it to death. Obviously, we edit things and take pieces of different passes. We might steal a guitar riff from bar four of the second pass. But we don’t want to go overboard.
But to make a long story short, I just tried to walk away more. When I knew that something in my heart was good, I just walked away from it. I’ve tried not to make rough mixes. A lot of times, we make a lot of rough mixes and listen to them over and over again on the plane and in the car. You have a tendency to get burned out things and talk yourself out of things. I really haven’t done a lot of that.
And I’ve listened to a lot of the music that first inspired me to want to be an artist. I’ve gone back and listened to everything that set me on fire when I was kid, from Steve Wariner to Vince Gill to Stevie Wonder and Michael McDonald. I’ve really gone back and listened to that. Haggard. I’ve listened to a ton of Merle Haggard and listened to his lyrics. I’ve tried in my mind and go back a little bit and awaken that part of me that when you first heard the music, you were like, “Oh my God.” It hit you so hard. I tried to rekindle some of that.
Does that “rekindling of the spirit” tie into the title of your new record, Shine?
Probably somewhat. I think it’s just a cool title. You can really make it anything you want. It’s from one of the bigger energetic up-tempos on the album called “Another Day in the Sun.” The whole concept of the song is to fly in the face of the naysayers that say you’re over. The way our culture is, our industry is, it can chew you up and spit you out. The hook is, “Who says you can’t have another day in the sun?” And in the chorus, it chants, “Shine,” quite a bit. It just jumped out at me one day as the title of the album.
I think it’s my time to shine again. I don’t think that necessarily means career-wise or music-wise or just life in general. I think about it a lot. I’m going to be in my forties and I’m not going to worry about what anybody else thinks. I’m just going to be me and have fun. I think my time to shine is that, in this time of my life, I’m ready to be completely unbridled and approach everything like a kid and not think too much. It all just falls into that, I guess.
Your last album, Dustbowl Dreams, looked back at your Oklahoma roots. Any common themes tying this project together this time around?
It’s falling into place. Every record you hear from any artist, if they’re being really honest in their music-making process and in their songwriting, and not just chasing hits and paying the bills and those things, you can hear their heart and what they’re trying to say. On this record, you’ll hear about being you and not being somebody else. It’s about forging on leading in life and your kids and leaving that stuff behind that you’ve wrestled with your whole life. You finally see that it’s silly that you let those things hold yourself down.
There’s a song on there called “What I Already Know.” It’s a lot like a prayer. It talks about some really tough struggles. You’re just talking to God in the song and just saying that you don’t need a miracle, that you don’t need amazing truth revealed. You just need a little more faith to believe in what I already know. That’s a real raw emotion that I’ve experienced and continue to experience. I wrote about it with hopes that it would encourage others as well.
Those are some of the darker moments that go on in my mind and in my life. It falls in the more melancholy side of things. I find that I write a lot out of the box in the darker melancholy place. It’s weird. Maybe that’s just the musician songwriter part of me. I hear a lot of artists say that same thing. They feel like camp out in there a lot. You’ll hear a lot of that, but you’ll also hear some fun stuff on there as well. I don’t ever want my records to be all of one thing. I want it to be an experience that runs the gamut of all emotions we all go through.
Do you have release date planned yet?
I’m going to have it done in January. I’ve been holding off because I wanted to tie into the new TNT show that my wife and I are on which debuts on February 24. I’m not trying to be tragically strategic. That’s hard to say. I don’t even know if that makes sense. I pushed it back a little because of that. We may get a little legs with the promotion if we hold off until then. We should have it mixed and mastered by that second week in January.
Your wife Erica and you, as you mentioned, are involved with a television project. Tell me about that.
We’ve been filming this past May. We shot the pilot over a year ago. It’s all done. It’s an unscripted docu-series called The Private Lives of Nashville Wives. It’s going to be an interesting and fun show. It’s a cool twist on the unscripted reality television series. The personalities and the people involved in the show are going to give a nice insight and new perspective on Nashville and the people close to the industry. The focus isn’t on me, although I’m in it quite a bit. The focus is on the wives of these artists and business people that are on the show.
Did you find it a major intrusion on your lives with all the cameras around?
If you’re extremely private and not a people person, I can see how it would be very difficult. But for us, it was a pretty relaxed thing. It is pretty different. The first few times I come home and see, wow, there’s a bunch of cameras in my home. Not just a camera, but multiple cameras. You want to be yourself and what your life is about, so after a while, it’s almost looking at a blind spot in your mirror. You almost have to be reminded that they’re there. It was a unique experience for us and definitely challenging. We’re used to being in the public eye, but this is much different.
What lies ahead for Bryan White? What other career or musical goals to you see for yourself down the road?
Not to sound super spiritual or anything, I ask that question every day. I ask God, “What are you going to do with me? What’s next for me?” I don’t know, but I can tell you the things that I’d like to do more of and accomplish and look into. I’m always going to make a record every couple of years because I have that privilege. I have an audience that I know that will always be there and always support me no matter what. That’s a great thing because that’s always a way that I’m going to want to express myself. I’ll keep writing songs and encourage people and myself that way.
I’m passionate about producing as well. I’m hoping that in the next year or two, I’ll continue to have some more opportunities to that will open the next door for me to do more of that. I hope to be successful in that arena. Obviously, I’ve done a lot of it, but you have to take on a lot of things you don’t necessarily want to do, but they’re stair steps to get where you want to go. It doesn’t matter where it is, although as you’re aspiring to do it in whatever arena you choose to do it in. Wherever I find a niche as a producer, I want to be good at it and I want to grow. I think I’m going to find out where I belong in the next few years. I really want to do a lot more of that. It’s something that will allow me to be home a lot more. As I start to get more versed it in and add to my resume as a producer, I’ll be able to be home and be a dad more.
If I’m daydreaming, I think of my love of the outdoors. I love hunting and fishing and I love doing that with my kids. At some point, I can definitely see us out away from Nashville just a little bit in a rural area. I’d love to have a farm someday and have more time to do those kinds of things. I’d like to exercise the inner-cowboy. (laughter)
And there will always be the songwriting. I hope to continue to grow as a songwriter. I want to continue to build my catalog and write with new people. That always leads to bigger and greater experiences too. I think I just want more of all of that.
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