Jim of all trades

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The film industry proved to be another temporary stop for White. He graduated from NYU after five years and got gigs doing sound design for the sixth Halloween movie and 1996's Sudden Manhattan, a little-seen indie picture helmed by Adrienne Shelly. He also raised the $50,000 it cost to make The Beautiful World, a black-and-white film he wrote and directed. But, unfortunately, the movie's odd length--56 minutes--caused most film festivals to turn it down. He was struggling with what to do about this unexpected complication when he received a call from Luaka Bop about a demo tape he had sent the company on the advice of a buddy. Shortly thereafter, he was presented with an opportunity to head down a new path--and this one, he says, was the most unexpected of all.

"I walked in, and there was David Byrne shaking my hand, and my mouth fell open," he says. "I didn't know what they wanted to talk to me about. After it was over, I went home and called the girl who was helping me and said, 'They kept mentioning something about an album. What do you think they mean?' Then we had more meetings, and they would be like, 'Don't you think a slide would fit in good here?' and 'Have you ever listened to this band?' And I would be looking at them like they were out of their minds. At first I thought it was a practical joke, but it involved a little too much machinery for that."

The release of Wrong-Eyed Jesus and an international tour opening for Byrne finally convinced White that the folks at Luaka Bop weren't trying to put one over on him. But he still isn't certain that he was born to be a performer. His album has received impressive reviews, and he's working hard to pen songs for a follow-up that he hopes will be even more intriguing. But, he says, "I don't believe for a minute in the reality of this. I laugh at it just like I laughed at being a model. It's crazy. It's like I imagined the whole thing.

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Michael Roberts
Contact: Michael Roberts