John Paul White tries to spend as much time at home as he can.
“I try to keep things as insular as possible, at least when I’m not on the road,” White said during a recent phone interview from his home in Florence, Ala. “It keeps me sane.”
White – a multi-Grammy Award-winner as a member of disbanded folk duo The Civil Wars – and his family have been living in Florence, not far from where he grew up in Loretta, Tenn., for the past several years.
His studio, where he either works on his own music or on projects for the record label he co-owns, is just across his driveway in the house next door.
“I used to tour for months at a time,” said White, who was a part of The Civil Wars from 2008-14. “And that’s necessary for certain things that you’re trying to accomplish. But in this stage in my career, I’m more strategic with how much is enough and how much isn’t.
“I’ve kept most of my touring under two weeks and, more often than not, at a week,” he continued. “That feels good; it feels like I’m giving the music the attention that it deserves. … But man, I’m never bummed out when I have days at home here with my family (wife Jenny and three kids).”
After taking some time away from making music, White jumped back into a solo career with the 2016’s “Beulah.” It was his first solo album in about a decade.
Now, the musician is on his first solo acoustic tour through October, during which he’ll unveil new material written for a forthcoming record as he performs songs from that 2016 album. He has two shows in New Mexico – in Santa Fe and Taos – next week.
White views the people who come out for this tour’s show as a “focus group” for his new songs.
“It was definitely strategic,” he said of this mini-tour. “It was definitely me being a bit self-indulgent and saying I have this new batch of songs that I’m really proud of and, more so than normal, really chomping at the bit to play them for people, get their reactions and see if they connect with them.”
He said he wanted to create a “complex, arranged, orchestrated record” that was emotionally moving for his listeners. His signature style, he noted, is often dark or sad, the kind of music that has always had a more powerful effect on him.
He spoke of his to-be-released record as coming from an unprecedented creative opportunity, different from his collaborative work with The Civil Wars’ Joy Williams, the first solo album in 2008 that featured a selection of songs made during his 10 years writing for the Nashville market, or “Beulah,” where the songs came out of him like a “faucet.”
“At this stage of my life, it’s interesting to be making make a record for the first time where I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and said, ‘All right, you can do whatever you want. You can say whatever you want, you can adorn it in any way you wish, what do you want to do?’ ” he explained. “That was exciting and daunting.”
The result, he noted, is a collection influenced by the sound of his upbringing, the type of music that made up his parents’ record collections.
He said he felt a void of emotion and melody in today’s music – one that he said he couldn’t find outside what was created in the 1940s and ’50s – and decided to try to create what he was missing.
“I was really trying to channel my favorite country music songwriters and artists over the course of my life, people like Bobby Braddock and Bill Anderson, who I wrote songs with for this record, but also people like Sonny Throckmorton and Wayland Holyfield and Bob McDill, all the people who made me want to write songs in the first place,” he said. “I’m really channeling those guys.” ”
“My intention with each and every one of these things was, I really want to set out to write a classic with every song I write. Who knows what a classic is or will be, but I’m really putting everything I have into everything I do and make them all stand the test of time. Time will tell if I’ve done that.”