Don’t misunderstand John Paul White. He loves performing and appreciates the fact that many of his recent concerts have been selling out.
“It means I must be doing something right,” he deadpans.
It’s the being away from home part of the deal that he could do without.
“It’s gotten harder to be away from my wife and kids,” White muses as he chats over the phone with the Observer. “I’d be perfectly happy if I could narrow in to that couple of hours of stage time and fast-forward through the travel and waiting-around time.”
It’s that downtime, though, that leads to songwriting, and White is a man fiercely devoted to the craft. An Alabama native who lives in and owns a studio in Florence, White spent over a decade working long and hard as a songwriter on Music Row, churning out hits for other country-oriented artists. Concurrently, he was busy with his own music, too, releasing his debut album in 2008.
A year later, he joined fellow singer-songwriter Joy Williams to form The Civil Wars, a folk duo that captured two Grammy Awards in 2012. White followed the split of that project with Beulah, a celebrated solo album released in 2016 that featured a plethora of his trademark plaintive and heart-wrenching story songs. He's quickly following up that release with another slated for an upcoming release.
“These new songs are adult-oriented, for sure. Writing the material and working on it really forced me to think about what I wanted to be when I grow up,” he chuckles. “I really thought about what to say and expressly how to say it.”
Known for working with sparse arrangements that serve to highlight the quiet, often reflective nature of his songs, White hints at a new direction for this upcoming batch of tunes.
“The identity of these songs is basically modeled after my dad’s record collection,” he explains. “I spent a good deal of time on the orchestration and arrangements and wanted a Countrypolitan sound. There are hints of Roy Orbison and Chet Atkins influences scattered throughout.”
On the upcoming batch of October concert dates, though, White will leave the band at home and head out there solo, armed with only a guitar and a head swimming with new lyrics. It’s an opportunity that he finds a bit challenging but rewarding in the fact that he’ll be “woodshedding” the new material to see what fits and what might need some further tweaking. Furthermore, the upcoming month will find White heading to cities and towns strictly in the Southwest and along the West Coast, two areas of the country he’s eagerly looking forward to visiting.
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“This tour is taking me to a lot of places where I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time," he says. "That was intentional this time around. It’ll just be me and a few other dudes traveling along with me so we’ll have time to take a look around the cities we’re hanging out in."
As for his performance in Fort Worth, he’s all smiles.
“I love playing in Texas. It really forces you to step up your game and be on your toes,” White enthuses. “There’s usually musicians in the audience who won’t hesitate to observe and comment on the technical aspects of your playing. They’re not shy about that at all down there!”
John Paul White plays 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7 at Fort Worth Live, 306 Houston Street. The show is sold out.