Interview by Joyce Peters
Reprinted courtesy of Taconic Press
I caught up with Kenny White in New York City recently to discuss his record, “Uninvited Guest” and his recurring dreams.
JP: Describe your process of writing for commercials versus for your own record.
KW: You get paid for trying [grins]. You spend one day creating a song versus. 6 months on a demo record only to hear, “This won’t play on radio” or “You’re too diverse. I don’t know what to do with this.” “My Recurring Dream” came out very fast –.90% came out in a day. I love when that happens — it just feels right when it happens. The courage disappears
after you start thinking [laughs].
JP: On “My Recurring Dream” you sing about the rules of karma. Tell me more about your philosophies.
KW: I’m not philosophical [laughs]. When I got on airplanes, as soon as I saw the babies and the priest, I’d say, “Okay I’m alright.” I’m not so sure about priests anymore [laughs]. I always thought people carried a certain karmic weight with them. But I sure don’t want to pay for someone else’s deeds.
JP: What were your expectations for your record, “Uninvited Guest”?
KW: To make a name for myself as a solo artist. To get people familiar with my name. All I really want is for the clubs where I play to have an open mind and then I can prove myself. I don’t want people cutting me any extra slack. This isn’t about anything I’ve done in the past. It’s brand new. Did I answer your question? My shrink says I talk all around the issues [grins and smiles].
JP: Whose praise is most meaningful?
KW: People who will be direct and say, “Kenny, that’s not your best work.” My manager, songwriter friends. There are a few people who I know will tell me one way or another. They won’t say black when it’s white. But it [criticism] stings. I grew up with blanket praise so I’ve become very mistrustful about praise to a fault. It came too easy as a kid. I don’t look to be criticized either [laughs].
JP: Which record producers do you most admire?
KW: Daniel Lanois — when he’s not too Lanois-ish. You shouldn’t be able to hear the production on first listen. I like to listen and hear something new or surprising after 10 listens. I thought “Time Out of Mind” was a great record.
JP: What do you fear?
KW: Failure, rejection, success. Success — because it means having to repeat it. I remember Seinfeld did a bit about how ludicrous it is [to fear success]. It definitely beats failure. I always question if I have it in me to do it time after time.
JP: What would people who really know you say about you?
KW: That I’m kind, gentle, generous. People feel comfortable talking to me. I’m a good listener. People often tell me things they haven’t told anyone else. I think I don’t allow myself to judge because I’m so judgmental of myself. I’m trying to find the good in everybody because I’m trying to find the good in me. I think people trust me. I’m trustworthy by and large. I have a very calm exterior but I’m percolating on the inside.
JP: Can you describe your strangest gig?
KW: Someone asked me, “Do you play ‘Blue Suede Shoes’?” I said we play mostly originals, but then he put a gun to my head and asked again. I said, “Yeah, I think I know that one. We can play that.”
JP: What was your family like growing up?
KW: They were loving and supportive. I was terrible kid — I was a brat. I threw a lot of inner tantrums.
JP: Inner tantrums?
KW: I guess they weren’t always inner [laughs]. I was very stubborn — I still am. I acted out a lot. My mother always said I couldn’t be punished. I never let them win. My parents are still married, going on 60 years.
JP: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
KW: No. I prefer to race in without time to really think about it. I perform better that way.
JP: Do you want to be wildly successful? What would that look like?
KW: No. You can’t do the kind of music I do and be wildly successful. I guess I was wildly successful doing commercials. I got respect from my peers that did a lot for me — gave me confidence. If I could headline some of these clubs and get more of these non-commercial radio stations to play the record, that would be wildly successful. If I could make records without losing money. To keep writing and keep connecting with audiences.