Singer Andy White is heading back to Canada to showcase his latest CD with a stop at Fratters on Nov. 22nd.
White is well-known as half of ‘folk super-duo’ of Fearing and White (with Stephen Fearing), but this time around the Belfast-born, Australia-residing artist is venturing out on his own on The Fearless Tour.
White’s music has been described as a mix of folk, UK pop-rock, punk, and storytelling – all filtered through a poet’s sensibility. How Things Are marks White’s 11th studio CD.
The project came about after his marriage ended, in order to answer the often asked question ‘How are things?’
”When my marriage broke down I instinctively did what I always do when things aren’t going well or conversely, going amazingly well – I write,” he explained. “I’d go up to the studio at night and sing and play – do whatever it is that I know how to do. Working it out, I guess.”
A few months after returning from the first Fearing & White tour, he went back and listened to the material again.
”It was obvious – the songs which would become How Things Are shone out from the rest, telling a particular story,” he said. “Also, an important thing about How Things Are to note is that even though it’s natural to focus on the lyrics when writing about it, at least half of it for me is the music,” he said.
The style ranges from full-on rock to impressionistic acoustic, all shot through with White’s trademark wit.
As well as writing If I Catch You Crying for Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, in an illustrious 11 albums-and-three-published-books career, White has also written with the likes of Neil and Tim Finn, and Peter Gabriel, who recently shared White’s song Dignity on his facebook page. He has also worked with Van Morrison and Sinead O’Connor, won Ireland’s top songwriting awards and been inducted into the HQ Irish Music Hall of Fame.
All of this, plus joining with Fearing during Canadian tours, supporting their two albums Fearing & White (2011) and Tea and Confidences (2014).
But even without Fearing this time around, he’s looking forward to his Canadian adventure. “The four-way stops are a problem and I can’t get used to the frozen-with-fear expressions of drivers coming towards me as I veer towards the left-hand side of the road,” he said. “You guessed it – when we tour Canada, Stephen drives. In the UK I take over – with the result that we’re actually always sitting in the same seats. I have rarely seen the left side of his face, in fact.
“Seriously, it’ll be interesting to see how many of the Fearing and White fans turn out. I’d hope that of all the thousands of people we’ve played to in Canada, some will be intrigued enough to come and see what the Irish guy on the other side of the stage does on his own.
“I know that not many people know my musical history in Canada, so it’s been amazing to write, play, and be introduced to the depth of (Canada’s) musical tradition by Stephen. To get a feel for the respect folk/acoustic/roots music holds in Canada. The UK’s really about rock bands. Ireland – traditional music, poetry and U2. Canada – it’s the home of the singer-songwriter.”
Meanwhile, White said his own start in music began rather early.
“I was lucky – I grew up in a good neighbourhood, but the violence in Northern Ireland affected everybody and was all-pervasive. We couldn’t go down town at night – there was a curfew, with the city centre ringed by army checkpoints. Constant bomb scares. Everyday explosions and killings – the numbers were relatively small – 3,000 total over 30 years – but it was a relentless catalogue of real horror.”
The instability kept many musicians away, but the ones who did come to town included musicians like John Martyn and Roy Harper, or punk bands like The Clash.
“After a childhood listening to my mum and dad’s record collection of Beatles, Dylan, jazz and Burl Ives – digging it all – when punk arrived in 1977, I knew it was my music,” he said.
“Punk suited Belfast – we knew the hippies lived in Dublin and thought the Boomtown Rats were really just the E Street Band in pyjamas. A saxophone? Really?
“Music was a way out – I met kids like myself from the opposite side of the religious divide for the first time. We ripped up our t-shirts and a drank cider/lager mix in alleyways.
“By the mid-eighties punk has passed and I thought there was no one expressing what I was feeling musically – it was the era of Wham and Duran Duran. A friend threw an acoustic guitar out of a first floor window in University Street and I picked it up on the way home. Put a poem to the chords I knew from folk and punk songs, and that was Religious Persuasion.”
It was released by Stiff Records and, “Janice Long played it every single night on BBC Radio One until it hit the top of the independent charts.
“Stiff Records folded, and the album of those songs was signed by big companies – Decca in the UK, MCA in North America – and was released as Rave On Andy White in 1986.
“That was how it started. Bringing it full circle – again, I didn’t write the first album to be released or as part of a career plan. I wrote it because I had to express all I felt so deeply about life, love and politics.”