Bryan White :: Official Artist Site
 
 
 

From 9513 by Ken Morton, Jr.

 

Native Oklahoman Bryan White knows just enough about Dust Bowls to be an expert. After seventeen singles on Billboard’s Country Charts, a mantle full of country music awards, two platinum records and six number one singles including “Someone Else’s Star” (1995), “Rebecca Lynn” (1996), “So Much for Pretending” (1996) and “Sittin’ on Go” (1997), his music career came up dry.

For the last decade, White has toured intermittently, worked on several small projects and continued songwriting. But most of all, he’s taken some time to take stock of his life and delved headfirst into a family with his wife, actress Erika Page of One Life To Live.

“After a decade of building my career and being on the road so much, I was spent, mentally and physically,” he says. “I knew, I needed to get away and take some time to breathe and do some of the other things I had always dreamed of. I found my true identity, not only as an artist and a songwriter, but as a human being. I realize now that life is an incredible gift and it’s meant to be lived on purpose. Music is a gift and a great vehicle but it’s really about what happens beyond the music for me.”

But the music siren called again and White has answered her by completing and releasing his eighth studio album entitled Dustbowl Dreams last month. The title track could be one of the most autobiographical songs of 2009. As the “son of a son of an auctioneer,” White talks about things like pressing on and perseverance, losing his way, being bruised and cut and carrying on the dustbowl dreams of his family. In three minutes, White tells his ten year story. The song ends with an old clip of his grandfather being introduced as an auctioneer and then auctioning off some piece of farm life.

The 9513 had a chance to sit down with the singer/songwriter and talk about his new project and its inspiration.

KEN MORTON JR.: Why 2009 for Dustbowl Dreams?

bryan-white-interview-01BRYAN WHITE: That’s a really good question. For fear of going into way too long of a story, there’s just a lot of things that have gone on in my life in the last few years. 2000 was the last full-on record that I released–it was the Greatest Hits. And during that time, I was pretty spent. I was really worn out. I really dealt with the road well and handled it well, but I needed some time to grow up a little bit. I knew it was time for me to take a break. My label at the time went under. Asylum Records went under. The powers that be at Warner pulled the plug. And we all got flipped over to Warner, so I had all of that going on at the same time. I sort of dealt with some confidence things at the same time as well. The airplay went down. It’s a combination of things. All of those things happened, and I had wanted to get away anyways. So this just kind of prodded it a little more. I always dreamed of having a family and all of that. Several different elements came into pulling me in off of the road and it was an opportunity to say, “Hey, I need a break.” And this might have been God’s way of making me take a break. I spent some time away from it all, all the while maintaining some creativity. I’ve always been a writer. So I continued to write.

I was fortunate enough to have a couple cuts a year for other artists. And I did a small collection of dates each year. I wasn’t in a big hurry to do a new record. I felt like it was okay to just write and stay creative. I would know when the time was right to put another record together. There wasn’t a light bulb that went off in my head to start another record. I just started writing about what was going on in my life. I was just jotting down everything going on in my life and it wasn’t too long before I was writing some heavy subject matter. When I looked up from the paper, I realized that I had written some really good songs here. So I wanted to jump in and do this. I didn’t know where it was going to go, but I didn’t want to focus on looking too far ahead. I wanted to just do a real solid project that was representative of who I am now. Let’s just have fun. I took my time and dealt with the struggles in my life and learned a lot about myself. The reason it took so long was I was sorting out who I wanted to be in my life and doing a lot of soul-searching. Amidst that, I was writing about it. And soon I discovered that writing was a great collection for a record. That’s how it got started.

KMJ: I’ve had the pleasure of listening to it extensively and it’s far more introspective and autobiographical than anything you’ve done previously. Why the decision to do something so much more personal?

BW: Because it’s healing to me. These songs are very therapeutic to me. Now I realize more than ever the importance of writing songs from your own perspective. They’re real. They can help a lot of people but there’s nothing like singing something of your own that you’ve really gone through and continue to struggle with. There’s something powerful about that. There’s something powerful about releasing a record that you didn’t hold back with. You didn’t just cut stuff because it was a hit. You were writing stuff because it meant something to you.

To put that in perspective, I remember how I used to go about making a record. There wasn’t usually any thought about any depth to me. So I would just go around, listen to all the publishers and wait until I heard a melody that I really loved to sing. And oh-by-the-way, it might have some pretty cool lyrics that went along with it. There wasn’t a whole lot to me back then. I was a knucklehead kid that sang good and found songs that were fun to sing. I wasn’t thinking as much about what I was singing about. I wasn’t as nearly as an experienced songwriter back then as I am now, either. It’s really powerful to sing about things that mean something to you. When you can do that, then you’re really reaching people for the first time.

KMJ: Let’s talk about a couple of the specific tracks off of the album. The first song and title track is “Dustbowl Dreams.” That could be the deepest one of the bunch. Tell me about that song.

BW: I dealt with a mild depression with that time off because I was used to having hits and a certain level of success. When I moved to Nashville, I really didn’t have a long sob story. I was very fortunate. When all of that was pulled out from under me, it caused me to implode in a lot of ways. I found myself because of that. When all of that gets taken away from you, you have to really look at who you are and really pick that apart and start finding who you’re really made of. That’s when the character building really starts. Through some of that hiatus, I started identifying better with people–especially my home. Without sounding like a cliché, I really did go back to my roots and got into reading about where I came from. I was looking back through my lineage. I read a book about those that survived the dustbowl. I sort of did a big study for several years about where I’m from and the kind of people I’ve come from. I lost my granddad along the way who was really my father-figure. He was an auctioneer at the stockyard for thirty-something years. He was the only guy I ever saw who really got it done. He was a really hard worker and really loved his kids. He was this jovial man with boots and cowboy hat. He was the perfect image of what a man was when I was growing up.

That sort of put me in a melancholy funk back in 2004 when he started ailing. Those kind of things will put you on a course. I was having struggles and then I lost him, it made me look at myself. A lot of refinement came as a result of losing him and those struggles. But it also inspired me to write about some of those things. That’s really where “Dustbowl Dreams” came out of. It was God just reminding me who I was. I went back and found some confidence in just being an Oklahoman. When people say “Okie” they don’t realize it is a badge of honor for these people. It started out as a derogatory comment, but it ended up being a badge of honor. That’s what it is for me too. I can really identify with the whole dustbowl thing.

KMJ: Although lighter in weight, but just as personal, there’s a duet with your mentor, Steve Wariner on the album. It sounds like a blast was had in the studio. Was it as much fun making the record as it sounds like it did?

BW: It was. Steve is about as good as they come as a person. He’s really been there for me through thick and thin. He was my first major influence as a kid. I heard him sing and that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to emulate that tone and sing like that. For whatever reason, I was fortunate to have our paths cross and become good friends. He’s just a fun guy to be around. He’s very encouraging and is a great writer. You always learn from Steve when you are in a writing scenario. And he’s also an amazing player. He puts on a guitar clinic every time we’re around each other. I’m always asking him questions. We’ve done other duets but I’d never ever done anything for any of my records. We basically just hung out for an entire day tracking this song. It was an absolute blast. When you own a studio and are past all the record exec stuff and don’t have a bunch of suits sitting around you, you can make a record like you always wanted to make it. No clock. No finances. No budget. That was the greatest thing about making music this time–it could be done at our own pace. And that made it fun. Steve was very gracious to take time over to do it. I’m glad it comes across sounding that way to people because it really was that way in the studio. Just fun.

KMJ: If there’s been any criticism to your music over your past, it is that some might say that it has been more lightweight ballad fare. Is that a fair perception or stereotype? How do you see that inside looking out?

BW: As weird as it might sound, I still go back and listen to the old records. A lot of times, if we’re working in a new musician or player to come out with us, I have to go back and listen to that stuff and refresh my memory and listen to the parts so I can be as helpful as possible. And each time, I think to myself, these are still really good songs. Believe it or not, they continue to inspire me. When I get away from them for a while, it makes me come back and think that we did a really good job with these songs. So I am constantly reminding myself that the element of those records need to be in everything I do. Some of it might be a little on default. It’s part of the way that I go about making records. It’s the way I play. The way I sing. But I also think I’ve grown a lot as a singer and as a player. I think I sing a lot smarter. I used to sing for myself, if that makes sense. It was about trying to impress everyone by what I did. It was to impress. Now I really try to be smart when I sing a vocal to be dynamic in the right spots but not on 12 all the way through just so people are wowed. Really, I’m kind of a less is more kind of guy these days. It’s a balance of keeping what people liked about what I do and working it into back into what I do these days.

KMJ: Any aspirations of jumping in front of the camera like your wife?

BW: (Laughing) I don’t aspire to do it per say. But if someone called me and threw a role at me that I thought I could do with the right coaching, yeah, I might try it. But I don’t feel that in my soul there’s an actor screaming to get out.

KMJ: What’s the old saying? “What I really wanted to do is direct.”

BW: Yeah, that’s better. I’d like to sit back and drink coffee and tell somebody else what to do.

KMJ: What is country music to Bryan White?

BW: That’s tough. There’s so many ways to answer it. There’s so many things you think you have a grasp of when you’re younger. We keep going back over this theme with me today. It’s not until you get to certain places in your life when you start appreciating things and understand things and start to figure out what life is about. And by no means do I mean that I’ve figured that out yet. But I think I understand a little more about it after becoming a dad and being hit by some of life’s curve balls and dealing with them. I appreciate country music more in my life than I ever have. I understand the real power behind an honest song. When I’m writing now, I’ll leave something alone when I feel it’s finally something somebody would actually say or something I would say. I don’t try to over-think things.

The best thing about country music is that it is simple and it’s pure. And honest. It’s music of the heartland. It’s middle America. Those are all of things I get much more now. I appreciate country music and the history of it and where it came from. And I appreciate, more than ever, great songwriters. That is a gift. There are those that are extremely gifted with songwriting. And for others it’s hard work. For me, I’m just one of those guys that has something to say but it’s going to take awhile for me to figure out how to say it. Sometimes it’s being around somebody else to help you get there. But I’m grateful. Country music has saved my life in a lot of ways. I don’t mean to be cheesy but it has. To have music in my life is amazing. I really don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t doing these. I’m grateful for all of the things I’ve had a chance to do because of country music. I’m just grateful to be in it.

AOL --  The Boot

by Gayle Richardson

 

After taking an almost 10-year hiatus, a move that would signal the end of most careers, Bryan White is boldly reappearing on the country music scene. Releasing his latest studio album, 'Dustbowl Dreams' this week, Bryan explains what took him so long, and why now is the time to come back.

"After a decade of building my career and being on the road so much, I was spent, mentally and physically," he says. "I knew I needed to get away and take some time to breathe and do some of the other things I had always dreamed of."

Those things include marrying actress Erika Page and becoming father to two boys. Now, with the long respite behind him, Bryan is ready to step back into the music scene, assuring fans the music will be worth the wait.

"I found my true identity, not only as an artist and a songwriter, but as a human being," Bryan says."I realize now that life is an incredible gift and it's meant to be lived on purpose. Music is a gift and a great vehicle, but it's really about what happens beyond the music for me. What kind of legacy did I leave as a husband, as a father, and a friend?"

The album centers around Bryan's journey away from home, which in many ways took him right back to where he started. "The song 'Dustbowl Dreams' was inspired by my pride as an Oklahoman, my fascination with my lineage and history, and identifying with the grit, soul and spirit of Oklahomans, especially during the Great American Dustbowl. I love to think of myself as a product of their perseverance. 'Dustbowl Dreams' is, in essence, the American dream."

Even though there are plenty of new faces on the country scene now, Bryan, who scored four No. 1 singles, isn't worried about achieving any of his earlier success again. "I've already swung the bat hard and put the ball out of the park. I have nothing left to prove but I have a lot more to say,"

Bryan's 'Dustbowl Dreams' is available now.

bw2Limewire By:  Chuck Dauphin

The year was 1990. Bryan White was a junior in high school, and one Tuesday early in the school year, he decided that he would take a few minutes and disappear from school during his lunch break. Was it a romantic rendezvous or a chance for some wild and reckless living while his friends were in class? Actually, it was neither. Steve Wariner, one of White’s musical heroes, was releasing a new album that day, entitled Laredo, and the teenager just couldn’t wait to tear off the cellophane. “I was so passionate about music, especially about Steve’s music,” White tells LimeWire. “I would get the breakdown on a new record. I would ask the store owner when a new record was coming in and they would tell me. I would literally get the breakdown and find out when the shipment was coming in. I remember one specific day skipping my lunch break, and driving way out of my school zone to get Laredo.”

“You become a better songwriter because life makes you a better songwriter, and I think this record is a great example of that. I really didn’t hold anything back. In records past, I think that I was always more focused on writing hits, but on this one, I wanted to do something honest and real.”

Though close to two decades have passed since then, White’s passion for music remains intact, and it comes through loud and clear on his new album, Dustbowl Dreams, his first full-length release in a decade (since 1999’s How Lucky I Am). White says the time away from the spotlight has been a good thing for him, stating that “the end of the ’90s was a good time for me because I stepped away to take a break, which was a bit longer than I anticipated, but it was all good. It was kind of a soul-searching time, about getting in touch with who I was.” With marriage to actress Erika Page and fatherhood with two sons, Justin and Jackson, other changes also came into play. “I became a dad and pursued some things I always wanted to do, like becoming a parent.” The life experiences gave him plenty of creative juice. “In turn, there’s a lot of great inspiration that happened along the way. I just started writing about my life, and the next thing I knew I had a group of songs together that I was really proud of. I thought ‘Well, let’s get back in here and start doing this’, and a few years later…here we are!”

With the first new single released to country radio being “The Little Things,” White is telling the world about his happy state of mind right now. After listening to the whole album, one notices that Dustbowl Dreams is more true to Bryan White as a person than any other album he has released. Though many artists have used that quote to talk about an album in the past, he says that “While it may be cliché, when an artist isn’t saying something like that, it kind of isn’t a good thing. That’s what you do when you start to make records — to keep learning and doing something that is more honest each time. There’s a lot of heavier subjects here. You become a better songwriter because life makes you a better songwriter, and I think this record is a great example of that. I really didn’t hold anything back. In records past, I think that I was always more focused on writing hits, but on this one, I wanted to do something honest and real.”

The title cut, which kicks off the album, definitely fits that description. “That’s a really personal song for me,” he admits. “It’s probably the most autobiographical thing I’ve ever written. All the time off for me was good, but a lot of it came from some struggles that I was having. I needed to get away. I went through a small depression in the early part of this decade. I lost my grandpa, who was dear to me and kind of like my father figure. A lot of those struggles inspired me to write about it, and that caused me to look at who I was. I really identified again with the struggles that Oklahomans went through with the Dustbowl [and] the Oklahoma City bombing. I started digging into that history and going back. That’s what I did with this song, which is a real badge of honor for me.”

White has always made great songs, whether from his own pen or from other writers. One tunesmith that he feels a special kinship with is Skip Ewing. The vastly-underrated balladeer released several albums for MCA and Capitol in the ’80s and ’90s, but is primarily known for the songs he has written for other artists. Three of those hits belong to White. “Skip and I have a history with each other. A great part of my career I credit to him. I had three number ones in a row that he wrote (”Someone Else’s Star,” “Rebecca Lynn,” and “I’m Not Supposed To Love You Anymore”). I guess there was just something about my voice and what I wanted to sing about, that Skip seemed to be doing that for a long time. I heard those songs, and thought ‘I really want to sing that.’ You can’t explain it…it’s like something to do with divinity or something. Needless to say, I’m grateful that our paths crossed!”

No doubt familiar with Ewing’s original recordings of some of the aforementioned songs, White admits to being very much into liner notes on albums. “That’s what it was about to me as a kid. I was just excited about music, and when something was new from an artist admired, I couldn’t wait to get it. I love seeing who played on what track, and who wrote what. I think that should never go away — although you can go completely digital and buy all the music online, I think it’s really important to hang on to that.”

As the singer gets ready to launch another phase of his career, LimeWire asked him about his initial burst of stardom. Not more than two years after graduating, White was on the roster of Asylum Records, where he began charting with “Eugene (You Genius).” Of his quick rise, which also included the 1996 CMA Horizon Award, he said, “I think it was really amazing, and I take time to be grateful for it. Everything did happen fast. I don’t have a sob story like a lot of people have, and I still can’t explain how it all happened. I believe it was one of those divine moments where I was put in the right place at the right time and met the right people, and for whatever reason my sound was whatever was needed at that time in the marketplace, and people got excited about it.”

Bryan White 2

Having seen the top of the Music City mountain, White feels that takes some of the pressure off at this point in his career. “I do believe it happened fast, which is kind of a blessing, because jumping back in, I don’t feel an immense amount of pressure. I’ve swung the bat a few times and done pretty well with it. Some people might look at it like ‘You’re starting over again’, but I don’t look it like that. Yes, we’ve got our hurdles to jump over, but having been able to do that kind of stuff at a young age, that’s a blessing — especially now.”

Launching the album for White is exciting for sure, but it’s something he feels he has a little bit of experience with. “It’s kind of like riding a bike,” he says, admitting that some things have changed within himself. “I guess the thing that’s different this time around is that I’m way more grateful than I have ever been. Every opportunity I get, I’m overly thankful. I’m so much more a people person than I was when I got started. I just got out of high school, and didn’t really know who I was…and you’re touring the country, talking to radio stations and you don’t know how to talk, because you haven’t found you yet. I really value people and relationships, and that’s a difference.

“I really identified again with the struggles that Oklahomans went through with the Dustbowl [and] the Oklahoma City bombing. I started digging into that history and going back. That’s what I did with this song, which is a real badge of honor for me.”

In this writer’s opinion, the highlight of the album is the emotional “When You Come Around.” It’s definitely the type of song that shows White’s growth as a writer, and not one that you probably would have found on any of his discs in the 1990s. Talking about the song, he says that “I have had that idea for a really long time, and I wanted to say something like that.” The song is based on first-hand experience. “A lot of people don’t know, but I have a father who has dealt with alcoholism for most of my life. I finally got to a place where I wanted to write a song about that — but when you do that, it’s so easy to come across as judgmental or like you’re pointing a finger, and I didn’t want to do that. If I was going to write something about that, it had to be hopeful, and it had to have grace, and it had to have a redemptive outlook. I wrote it with two other guys who have had the same situation in their family, as well. We all had a common ground, and they helped me say what I wanted to say…but in the right way. I don’t perform it a whole lot live, because I haven’t gotten to the point that I can. It’s really personal, and knowing my father has heard that song — that kills me as well. That’s a real issue in life and history. Many people are dealing with that, and I realize now, looking back, how great it was that we did write a song like that, and hopefully that will be a song that will help people in their lives, as well.”

A lot has changed since White went to the record store to pick up Laredo, but he’s glad to be back with new music, and equally proud that Dustbowl Dreams includes a duet with Wariner: “Hands Of Time,” a song the pair penned together for Steve’s 1998 album, Two Teardrops. When asked about recording with the singer he has so long admired, he said that “I always tell people he’s one of those people that you’re just grateful to know him — even if he had nothing to do with music. If he had no musical talent, he’d be the kind of person you’d just want to be around. He’s that kind of guy, you know.”

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