By Brent Thompson
Bella White falls under the “Americana” artist heading which is appropriate because her sound – like the genre itself – isn’t easily defined. It’s also an ironic categorization given that White is Canadian. Earlier this year, the singer/songwriter released her sophomore album, Among Other Things [Rounder Records] with the help of producer Jonathan Wilson (Dawes, Billy Strings, Margo Price). Currently, White is on tour with Band of Horses and the two will perform at Avondale Brewing Company on Sunday, October 1. Recently, White spoke with us by phone.
Southern Stages: Bella, thanks for your time. We are looking forward to your upcoming Birmingham show. Where is your home base these days?
Bella White: It’s kind of in flux. For the past two years, it’s been Vancouver Island, but I’m moving to New Orleans so half of my stuff is here and half of it is New Orleans [laughs]. Right now, I’m in Victoria.
Southern Stages: We are really enjoying Among Other Things. If you will, talk about the creation of the album.
White: I kind of wrote the album over a stretch of time. I spent most of the pandemic writing those songs, not necessarily all to be on one album – I was just writing a lot and feeling inspired. Some of them happened really quickly and then I wouldn’t write for a couple months and a few more would come out. It was a slow burn of writing a lot and finding the songs that made the most sense together.
Southern Stages: How would you describe your writing process?
White: It really varies. Being on the road is harder for me to write, yet I’m also taking in a lot more of the world in some ways – I’m constantly watching things and taking notes. But, for me, writing happens the most when I have room to breathe and less going on. It’s a very emotional process for me, so it’s hard to predict when I’m going to feel inspired.
Southern Stages: How did you connect with Jonathan Wilson? How was the experience of working with him?
White: Working with Jonathan was an amazing experience. I just love that man – he is so talented and so kind and so creative. I got connected with him through my record label. Mark Williams – the president of my label – knows Jonathan and suspected that we might like working together. I cut the first two singles two Decembers ago at Jonathan’s studio and we wanted to see how we collaborated and it went really well. I went back that following spring and made the whole record. Working with Jonathan was a dream and I hope to do it again.
Southern Stages: This must be an exciting time to be on your label, Rounder Records. The current roster – you, Billy Strings, Sierra Ferrell and Ruston Kelly among many others – is impressive.
White: It definitely feels like a privilege – there are so many people that I admire. Rounder Records stands the test of time – they’ve always had an amazing roster. I grew up on bluegrass and country music, so getting to be on that label is truly special.
Southern Stages: Some artists say this is a great time to be in your position given that music is so accessible via modern outlets. Others say, for the same reason, it makes it difficult to be found among the crowd. How do you view the current climate?
White: I feel like that’s a complex question. There are a lot of ways you can go about it, and now is an incredibly fruitful time to be making records and it’s so accessible and anyone can find it. There is a lot of room to be heard and have a voice. At the same time, it’s also hard because artists aren’t making as much money because there are less CD sales and less people purchasing music. I think streaming is a big reason I have my career and I’m grateful for that, but at the same time I think it’s a challenging time to be an artist. Touring is so expensive and touring is the way you can grow your audience. I feel like that’s complicated because I have two schools of thought. One is it’s an incredibly fruitful time to be an artist because everything is a click away, but at the same time it’s hard to make money and support yourself when music is free.
Southern Stages: How do songs stay fresh to you after you have performed some of them literally hundreds of times?
White: That’s a good one [laughs]. I feel like it’s valuable to rework your songs after a period of time. After a year of playing a song most nights of the year, it does get stale and you can lose the relationship you once had with it. A couple of ways that I find helpful are to rearrange it and to really tune into where you were when you wrote it and try to put yourself in that place. It’s also pretty cool to be in a room with people singing along to a song of yours and that connection puts me back in touch with it.
Southern Stages: Of course, New Orleans has a rich musical history, but what drove you to relocate there?
White: I’ve always had a love affair with that city. The first time I went there was in 2019 and I was smitten with the place. I didn’t want to leave the first time that I went, and the following times that I’ve gone back I just always felt a connection to the place. I started making a lot of friends that live there and really falling in love with the people and music community there. I feel like in New Orleans there are a lot of artists who are just making music because they love it – that to me is really beautiful.
Bella White will perform at Avondale Brewing Company on Sunday, October 1 in support of Band of Horses. Tickets to the 7 p.m. show are $30.50 and can be purchased at www.avondalebrewing.com.