Jack White: Into The Twilight
Photo credit: Paige Sara
Jack White likes to stay busy. So it’s no surprise that, even as most of the live-music world took a collective pause due to the global pandemic, he still found various passion projects to immerse himself in.
“At first, I thought I should take a deep breath for a second—a giant break—and then I just found myself in my upholstery shop every day for 10 hours,” White says with a chuckle when asked what he did after his plans were unexpectedly put on hold in the spring of 2020. “I realized, ‘Oh, this is what I’ve been waiting for.’”
Before he broke out with his first great band, the generationally defining garage-blues duo The White Stripes, White ran his own upholstery shop—the original Third Man—in his native Detroit and planned for a career in the furniture business. And while he quickly shifted that workman-like mentality and focus to his myriad musical projects and starting his equally enduring Third Man Records, White never left his love for upholstering behind. He says that he classifies each of his projects with a different color. The White Stripes is red; Third Man Records is yellow; his solo work, like his current hair color, is blue. And, unable to tour or regroup with his various bands, he returned to his first artistic love.
“I just never had a moment to really dedicate myself to a lot of these projects that are sitting here,” he says. “I would get maybe one or two done a year through all the years of music-making. Touring really swallows up a lot of time. So that was great.”
As he looks back on the early part of the coronavirus era nearly two years later, White is at home in Nashville, Tenn., preparing for his first full run of shows in almost three and a half years, the extended Supply Chain Issues Tour. And this time, he’s promoting not one, but two full-length releases—the loud, electric and, at times, aggressive rock record Fear of the Dawn, which arrived in April, and its gentler, Sunday morning sibling LP, Entering Heaven Alive, which will be released in July. Never afraid to break some music industry norms, White almost concurrently unveiled singles from the two albums, which grew out of a series of sessions that started roughly eight months after COVID-19 temporarily placed the concert industry on ice. And he plans to add tracks from both releases into his setlists this spring, as he heads out on the road with a limber three-piece backing band.
“I’m trying to get better at preparing myself for the band rehearsals,” White admits, as he inches closer to reconvening for some more proper run-throughs with keyboardist Quincy McCrary, bassist Dominic John Davis and drummer Daru Jones.
“Oftentimes, I will get in there and realize, ‘Oh, I don’t remember what key this song is in or what the chords are on the chorus.’ It’s so funny because, after the years pass and you’re involved in so many projects, your brain has been scattered in so many different places. Sometimes I have to go back and think, ‘Now, I’ve really got to write all these chords down again.’”
“We’ll walk out there on some pretty big stages and make some noise without knowing what he’s going to do,” admits Davis, a veteran of several of White’s solo outfits, a few weeks later. “The benefits are worth the risk because, in the end, it is a living, breathing thing.”
Davis has known White since he was nine years old, when they started jamming in the future White Stripes cofounder’s attic while they were still in middle school. “He was playing drums; I was playing guitar and bass,” Davis says. “He’s famously the youngest of 10. So we had all the tools that we could ever need. We could have picked any hobby and we would have been well-equipped because of the nine siblings that came before him.”
Though they toyed around with a Paige Sara lot of songs and styles, White and Davis quickly gravitated toward the blues, which they both felt possessed an almost mythical, intangible quality while they were sequestered in their urban Detroit neighborhood. However, years later, Davis would score a chance to forge a direct connection with that lineage after he met Luther Dickinson, when the guitarist rolled into White’s Third Man Records with California blues musician Seasick Steve. Davis went on to join Dickinson’s North Mississippi Allstars, where he was able to filter the blues-based sounds he had been working on for decades through an entirely different kaleidoscopic lens.
“The blues are in an interesting place—trying to be authentic and trying to do something new with it. But, anytime you try and do something new with it, you’re not being authentic so it’s a tightrope,” he says. “If you look at the Allman Brothers, really what they are doing is using the blues as a vehicle for psychedelic exploration. And Jack gets that. He gets that you are not going to tell a new story with the blues—you are going to tell a story that has already been told in a new way.”
In addition to his work with White, the bassist has also become an in-demand producer in another corner of the roots-music world. His self-described “early-Americana, pre-Oh’ Brother” group Steppin’ In It’ were popular on the Michigan folk scene, inspiring the members of jamgrass staples Greensky Bluegrass before that project even coalesced. He’s gone on to work with them in the studio, including producing their most recent set, Stress Dreams. “David Grisman was having a moment back then and there was the Telluride Bluegrass scene,” he says of Steppin’ In It’, before touching on Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros.’s Live in Colorado, which came out on Third Man thanks to bassist Don Was’ longstanding connections.
Both White and Davis admit that the Dead were something of a blind spot growing up. As Davis explains, they were listening more to Iggy Pop than Jerry Garcia, and the Dead’s music just wasn’t part of the cultural zeitgeist of their largely Hispanic neighborhood. Yet, unknowingly, they found themselves drawn to the same source material.
“I didn’t discover the Dead or their world until the late ‘90s when I went to college,” Davis says, making sure to note that both White and the Allstars have been able to bring the blues to an entirely new generation. “Their repertoire was all these roots tunes that I already loved. I credit the Grateful Dead with turning a whole lot of people on to a whole lot of good music—Mississippi John Hurt, bluegrass and blues.”
Fear of the Dawn, like most of the music White has released throughout his decade-long solo career, is firmly rooted in that blues-based rock sound, remained his signature since his early days. Yet, the LP— his fifth—also takes a left-field turn into the world of hip-hop production and even boasts an appearance by Q-Tip. According to Davis, White—who appeared on A Tribe Called Quest’s 2016 record, We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service—and his band worked on some ideas in the studio while Q-Tip FaceTimed in and sent over Voice Memos. Some show up on the record while others remain in the can for a future, undetermined project.
“Sometimes it seems like we’re there to fill up a reel of tape,” the bassist says of his sessions with White. “There’s a blank canvas, and he can figure stuff out from there. So his process is really fascinating because it’s just all process. He’s not really worried about where it’s going as long as it’s going somewhere.”
White describes his recent studio sessions in the same way. “An artist is lucky if he has the ability to manipulate his environment at will—if you can shake yourself up,” he says. “As musicians, we live in this really spoiled scenario where, if we don’t like what we are creating, we can just stop. That’s a rarity. If you find yourself in the middle of the Grand Canyon filming a Western and, two weeks in, you realize that situation is just not working out, you still have to keep making the film. You have to put it out and you have to swallow it. Musicians don’t have that problem. We can just erase those tracks and move on if we want to.”
And, as he prepares to return to the road—kicking things off by bringing it all back home with an intimate two-night hometown run at Detroit’s Masonic Temple Theater in early April—White is ready to remind the world why he has grown into a festival headliner and dynamic touring act. He is just not quite ready to see for himself.
“I wish I could watch live footage of myself, but I have to look at it through my fingers, like watching a horror film when you’re a kid,” he says with a laugh. “I want to pick it apart. I’ll go, ‘The tempo’s too fast’ or ‘Is that what I look like when I’m playing?’ I don’t think about anything when I am playing. I don’t plan. At times in my life, I’ve thought maybe I should go and talk to a Broadway choreographer or someone who knows how to move properly onstage. But, in the end, it’s just better to go with my gut.”
It has been four years since you released a solo album and now you are returning with two very distinct records. Of course, the pandemic happened in the middle of that multi-year gap, but have you been working on new music throughout that time?
JACK WHITE: The first year of the pandemic, 2020, I didn’t really want to write music at all. I felt that it was too much of a mystery as to when live shows were going to happen again. And, if that’s not going to happen, then is releasing an album a good idea? I was scared to get too excited about a batch of songs and then have to sit around for two years waiting to put them out. I just thought, “That’s not for me.” So I just said, “It’s OK, I could take a break—a much needed break.” But that didn’t last long because I started working on furniture at my house and at my upholstery shop. And I realized, “It’s just so nice because I almost never have enough time to work on any furniture projects. And, now, we’ve got plenty of time.” I dove right into it. I also refinished, redid and redesigned my whole upholstery shop—I refinished my sewing machine table and my cutting table and I reupholstered it. I just brought a whole new life to that.
Was there a specific moment when you decided to start working on new music again?
JW: Yeah, at the end of 2020. It was the late fall, maybe November, and I went to Kalamazoo, Mich., where I have a house. I went there by myself just to fast and write music. [After reading Upton Sinclair’s 1911 book The Fasting Cure, which compiles articles originally published in Cosmopolitan,] I wanted to write songs in the middle of a fast. I fasted for five days—it was just water and coffee—to see what would come out of me under those conditions because the energy levels are so different. I started fasting during this whole break at times— you go through this autophagy, and your body is trying to give you the energy you need. Your body is trying to force you to get out and find food.
A lot of people think that, when you stop eating, all of a sudden you start to wither away and you can’t get the energy to get up anymore. But what really happens is that, after two or three days, your body kicks into this high gear, and you can’t even sleep. It’s just this incredible experience. It’s incredibly healthy and your body is cleansing itself in an amazing way. You can really feel it. The energy that comes from that is hyperactive. It was so interesting. I’m already a pretty hyper person, so I wanted to see what it was like to write like that. [Laughs.] It was really nice—I wrote about 10-12 songs in those few days.
Was that the first time that you had fasted during a writing session?
JW: Yes, it was the first time I did that while writing music. I did it as well when we played Saturday Night Live the last time we did it. [White was a last-minute addition to SNL on Oct. 10, 2020 after Morgan Wallen violated the program’s COVID protocols.] They called us on Wednesday, and I didn’t eat until after the second song on Saturday. It was great. By the time we were getting there, I was in the full energy of a fast. It felt so cathartic, so fulfilling. Everything was coming to a head. My manager was worried I was going to pass out or something. It was exciting. [Laughs.]
Many religions, from Buddhism to Christianity, Islam and Judaism, advocate for fasting as a ritualistic cleanse. And it does change your perspective on the world around you for a time.
JW: The extended time period of it—it gets more and more interesting. It’s all based on autophagy. It’s this really healthy thing where the body is cleansing itself. Autophagy means “to eat itself.” So your body is getting all its nutrients and minerals from wherever it can inside you. It’s trying to find any nutrients it can, and these half-dead cells it’s eating. It’s a really interesting concept.
Was there a point where you realized that this batch of songs that you’ve been working on was actually two very different albums, sonically?
JW: I’ve never said that I’m going to make “this type of album,” like a “blank” type of album, before. But after writing a few of those songs, I came back to this idea—“I don’t have a full Sunday morning album.” I had never made a completely gentle record. I’ve always had these heavier or very eclectic records. These ones that I had written in Kalamazoo were mostly very gentle. So I thought that was what this record would end up being. But, as I got in and started working in the studio [back in Nashville], I started off on a few ideas and, quickly, some heavier things started to come out. And then, pretty soon after that, I had so many tracks that I didn’t know what to do with them. I didn’t know if they were any good or how they would all piece together for an album. But it was pretty obvious, after about a month or two of working on it, that these songs were starting to divide themselves up. The gentle ones were all going on a playlist on my computer, and the heavy ones were all going on a separate playlist on my computer. They started making their own records.
A number of your musical associates and live bandmates contributed to Fear of the Dawn, but there are also some tracks where you played every instrument yourself. Was that due to the pandemic or did you just conceptually hope to finally inch closer to your true “solo” record?
JW: I suppose it’s probably going to end up being a little bit of a cliché thing as we look back on how many people made records where they played all the instruments themselves—Paul McCartney, and I’m sure I’ve heard about six or seven other people. It’s interesting because it comes out of that necessity— out of that moment.
Nashville is a studio town—the biggest studio town—and a lot of my friends who are session musicians weren’t going in because people didn’t want to get in a room together. It was a little bit scary. Even when we finally did get together, people were leery to do it. Recording with masks on and trying to sing with masks on—it’s a pretty difficult, cumbersome thing at times. It was probably half and half, but I never intended to do all the instruments myself. I had only done that once before—I did all the instruments on the James Bond song that I wrote.
Though the two LPs sound very different, they both reflect extremes of the pandemic— the heaviness of the experience and the eerie quietness of the lockdown.
JW: When it came to completing the albums, I had the thought that people might take some of these tracks or even the entire two-album project as a reflection of the pandemic, the time period they were made in. And that’s fine with me—I can see a lot of the lyrics being seen that way. I think that a good artist is a victim of their environment and a good artist is a product of their environment, if you come from an interesting place. And, if you don’t come from an interesting place or you don’t exist as an artist in an interesting place, then you almost have to construct one. You have to make up your own interesting place or put yourself in a bizarre scenario to provoke yourself.
I come from an interesting place in Detroit. I come from a large family, I grew up in an all-Mexican neighborhood, I went to an inner-city school and I went to a Catholic school. There wasn’t a record store in my neighborhood. There were all kinds of strange things that pushed me and that brought me to my interest. Also, I had my own business when I was 21. I owned an upholstery shop. These are strange things for someone in the inner city to have experienced, but that all led to the things that were coming out of me back then.
You realize, 20-25 years later—as you get older—that the environment that you came up in is going to be with you forever. If you were in a folk band in the ‘60s in Greenwich Village, then you might stay that way for the rest of your life. And even if you move on, that experience is always going to stay with you. Even though I moved to Nashville [in 2005], and I am raising a family here, it stays with you for the rest of your life. But as I encounter new environments, I create new environments. It brings new inspirations all the time.
The Rolling Stones, at any time, could rewind and put themselves right into the Marquee Club and be that band from back then if they felt like it—and not in a pastiche way.
I’m probably one of the rare people that vacations in Detroit. I have a house there so I spend a good deal of time there. I’m there five or six times a year—Third Man Records’ pressing plant is there so that also draws me back. It’s nice. It’s just like how we opened Third Man Records London, too. It’s a place that I’m often at, so it kind of makes perfect sense. These towns mean a lot to me, personally, in terms of my musical journey. And they also function as these musical headquarters for my brain. It’s been nice to start with that. If Third Man keeps going and going—and I hope it does—maybe this thing could move on to Tokyo and Paris and to other places that we had a musical connection to.
Fear of the Dawn features an unexpected William S. Burroughs sample. What led you to include his voice?
JW: I was editing this track “Into the Twilight.” I was cutting up so many sections and piecing together different riffs in different sections. It made me think of this William S. Burroughs record I had when I was a teenager, Break Through in Grey Room. There were some tracks on there where he talked about tape cut-ups and how to advance poetry and writing by cutting up words and piecing them back together. And he did some examples of that tape-cut-up method on that record, too. So I thought it would be nice to include his voice in this song. I’m doing so much editing and cutting up on this particular track—sampling Bobby McFerrin and Manhattan Transfer and other people’s music, which I had never done before either.
The album also includes a collaboration with Q-Tip, “Hi-De-Ho.” Was that left-field dive into hip-hop methodology the result of the fact that you built so many of these tracks by yourself?
JW: Yeah, my head started to go in that direction. I’m always trying to think of some different way to attack it, or different ways to produce it or to construct the song. That was something that I’ve never gotten around to touching on. 20 years ago, I would not have done something like that. Even if I had been given the chance, I’d think, “Oh, that’s not for me. I wouldn’t feel right about using someone else’s art.” But I think, as time has gone on, I’ve realized it’s possible to find moments where something like that makes sense and you can make something brand new out of it. I think The Onion had a joke once: “Singer samples Michael Jackson’s ‘Billy Jean’ in its entirety.” And it’s a funny way of looking at what you can do with someone else’s art. If you do it too much, then maybe you’re not making Paige Sara something new. But I felt like, with these songs, something interesting was being synthesized and maybe I got to a new place with it.
It has been a decade since you released your first solo album, after being involved in myriad concurrent projects for many years. Did you ever worry that releasing music as “Jack White” might put parameters on what you could or couldn’t release under your own name?
JW: There was a little bit of worry in my brain about making a solo record while The White Stripes were still an existing band. And so The White Stripes not being an active project anymore, and us announcing that to everybody, was the only way I could actually go over and make solo records at that point. Because I was concerned that people would say, “Well, why are you bothering with this? Why don’t you just make a White Stripes record? Why are you insisting on making a split in two different directions?”
I write the songs in The White Stripes anyway. I just didn’t want people to degrade The White Stripes or degrade the idea of me making my own record under my own name because of that. It seems a little bit trickier when you’re a two-piece band instead of a four-piece band. People just look at it differently. Maybe those worries were all unfounded, but that’s just the way it worked out anyway. We announced that The White Stripes wasn’t going to be happening anymore, and then I did a solo record. It wasn’t a death in a negative way; it was a positive thing. It was the kind of death where you have a party at the funeral instead of thinking of it as a tragedy.
We were never beaten down until we were on our last leg or anything like that. It felt like we closed that up while it was feeling incredibly positive. So that was a good thing to transition to—it made me feel comfortable about making a record with my name on it. And then once I finally did that, I almost felt, like, “Wow, what took me so long? Why did I wait so long to do this?” I think it’s just a testament to [the fact that] I usually don’t get in the way of something happening. Like, The Raconteurs formed, and I didn’t get in the way of it and say, “Hey, you can’t do that. You’re already in this other band that’s doing really well. That’s bad business.” I’m not smart enough to stop that. It was the same thing with The Dead Weather. I’m not smart enough to say, “Hey, this is a distraction or might confuse people.”
When we released the first White Stripes record in ‘99, I was in Two-Star Tabernacle, I was in The Go, I played bass in The Hentchmen and I was doing my own solo shows. I was in multiple projects and always have been ever since anyone would have me.
You focused on your upholstering work and your furniture business during the early part of the pandemic. Do you see a correlation between those creative releases and your musical output?
JW: The creativity is almost identical, whatever it is. If I am designing an interior or designing the industrial sections of a pressing plant that we are building or building the bowling alley that I designed or working on a piece of furniture for [the baseball bat company] Warstic’s headquarters, I attack it in almost the same way as writing a song or directing a small film clip or taking a photograph. I am directing it in my brain in a similar fashion. I’m attacking it from the aesthetic point of it, but it has to have a meaning for myself—underneath it all. It has to come from a deeper place, and it can’t just be for image’s sake or for attention’s sake or anything like that. It has to come from a real place.
You mentioned that one of the reasons that you held off on working on new music was because it was unclear when, and if, touring world resume. Have you always written with your live show in mind or has that paradigm shifted as the record industry has changed throughout your career?
JW: Ever since I’ve been making records, I’ve toured. We even did it before the first White Stripes record—we toured on weekends. But since I’ve made records, I’ve only toured when I have an album. I’ve always left it for that. I’ve never gone on a tour without a record release, though I suppose that’s coming one day. But I just never had the chance to do that. It just turned out that way over time. I like to make albums and I like to write, so the odds of me going on the road without an album are pretty slim.
So I guess that also dictated my way of thinking since they said that there’s not going to be any live shows for a long time. I kind of felt, “Well, maybe that means no album and maybe that means no single.” You almost don’t want to release something you’re working hard on, in a strange way, because it just might disappear after a second. It’s almost like doing interviews. There’s this strange sense that, if you don’t do them, it’s almost like the record you just did doesn’t exist. If there’s not a photograph or a headline or a cardboard cutout at a record store, then it’s almost like the record doesn’t exist. There is a reason why there are TV commercials and billboards—mostly to make people realize it’s actually here, that something’s actually out in the world. You have to take part in that process and make judgments based on that.
But, that being said, you’re talking to a guy who’s made a lot of artistic decisions that are very bad business decisions because—not to sound pretentious about it or self-righteous about it—I’m going to do it either way. It might be able to pay for itself, but, if it doesn’t, I’ll catch the next train. That dictated a lot of that stuff.
When you were on the cover of Relix in 2018, you mentioned that music making has never been “fun” for you—you and Meg White were not high-fiving each other after you nailed a take. There is a workman’s mentality to your methodology. Has that changed during the past few years, especially after going through the isolation of the pandemic?
JW: The fun part has always been tough for me. It’s popular for a lot of rock-androll artists or musicians to say, “You know, it was great fun to play that show.” I came from an era when it was blues musicians and folk musicians and early rock-androllers. And that wasn’t really part of the conversation. Salvador Dali never talked about how much fun he had painting. [Laughs.]
It’s just a different mindset [in terms of ] how you are trying to push yourself into a place that’s uncomfortable—or that is not comfortable. If I was to see something comfortable—if I were to see “Weird Al” Yankovic—then I would say, “That’s really fun.” How could you not have fun doing that? Or if you make a comedy film like Step Brothers or Anchorman—it must have been incredibly fun to make those movies. But, I don’t imagine it being incredibly fun to make Apocalypse Now. [Laughs.]
There are just different ways of jumping into the zone. There are different ways you can push yourself to do something you wouldn’t normally do. That’s where my brain usually has gravitated toward.
Shifting to your upcoming Supply Chain Issues Tour, you have famously avoided using a setlist for years, yet songs from almost any of your projects are on the table when you tour under your own name. How do you prepare the live band for those on-the-fly decisions?
JW: We will only be able to play about 15- 20 songs a night. But we’re going to be rehearsing about 80-100 songs, not counting any cover songs and all the onstage improvisations and offthe-top-of-the-head things that end up happening. You’re probably looking at us playing possibly 125-plus songs during the tour. And there are certain ones that you are definitely going to play because it’s just good showbiz to make it work. And there are certain things, parameters, that you need to follow. I wouldn’t dare start a show with “Seven Nation Army.” You learn, over the years, that there are certain things that will just work. But other than that, I’m trying to figure out what to do at any moment. I am asking myself: “What’s the vibration in the room telling me to do?” And I might make mistakes and take a left turn where I should’ve taken a right turn. I’ve come to learn, over the years, that people don’t really notice that. A lot of musicians who play with me might say, “God, it bugs me that those people at the show tonight didn’t know that we didn’t rehearse three of those songs. They think we rehearsed that because it came off so well.”
We sold it in a way that made it seem like we rehearsed it. You want to have a blinking light above your head—like an “audience applause” sign—that says, “We’ve never done this before.” I can’t imagine going out there and doing the same show or having the same drum fill happen at the same moment every time— it would be pretty lifeless after a couple of weeks.
You have unintentionally written stadium anthems and have released true hit singles which, as you mentioned, you are obliged to play every night. As an artist with such a restless spirit, have you ever felt the success of those songs to be somewhat limiting?
JW: It is really hard to say. I haven’t thought about it. There have been a few times when I have experimented with actually writing [our setlist] down or times when I was doing some special event or radio show where we could only do six songs.
At those times, I’ve had to think to myself: “What songs am I going to choose?” I am just glad that I don’t waste too much energy on that most of the time because I would rather put that energy toward making myself feel a little bit worried inside in the moment. We’ve played on this sandlot, barn-storming baseball team—me and these fellas from the Warstic company—over the last few years. I’m no athlete, but the times when I do well and I actually get a hit are when we are in a clutch moment— when we have two outs and we’re losing. That’s where I thrive—being in the zone where things are scary and worrisome. It’s a different mentality; it’s like a ninth-inning pitcher.
I think that “without-a-net,” ninth-inning mentality is what makes a live performance feel authentic in this day and age, when so much music is synthesized and tied into the spectacle of it all.
JW: And I think people maybe don’t understand that about me. When I say that, it’s the truth, and it’s an attempt to not be boring and just say, “I like music; it’s great. Two thumbs up.” But people take it the wrong way, like I expect other people to do these things or, if you don’t do them, then you’re not as enlightened or something. I don’t like being a posterboard for that sort of stuff. People ask me how I do this stuff or why I do it or whatever. These are the methods that I’ve come to use that make sense for my brain. I wouldn’t tell someone else that they shouldn’t eat food for a week. I would never say that. It would be incredibly unwise and unhealthy for me, not being a doctor, to advise anybody about something like that. That’s an extreme example. A lesser example would be telling somebody that they shouldn’t record on a computer and instead use analog tape. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s just the methodology.
It’s like hearing about Kanye’s method of recording his album in a stadium. I don’t really have any opinion about the music or him—and I’m not trying to state an opinion about him as a celebrity or anything. But speaking of just having a method, that’s the first time I’ve heard of someone else having a method in a long time, other than “we went into the studio” or “we recorded songs on a computer.”
You still see that a lot in film. You see people going to a certain location or filming under certain circumstances and trying to get that shot in the golden hour at 6:30 a.m. They are trying to capture the right light at a specific moment.
You have headlined some of the most iconic music festivals in the world. Do you see the festivalization of the touring world as a positive development?
JW: What’s great is that some really amazing artists can get some good attention at a festival. They might have trouble selling more than a couple of hundred tickets in a certain town but, at a festival, they can get in front of all these people. There are also some party aspects to it—the beach-party atmosphere. Some of that stuff—playing electric in the daytime—is a little bit strange. There’s something off about it that doesn’t feel right. It makes you want to turn the sun off or something.
Obviously, the Dead made such a festival of everywhere they played, with the people following them around and the parking-lot atmosphere. When I was coming up, that was a whole different world than the music I was feeding off of. You also saw that in the heavy-metal world—a lot of that tailgating atmosphere. And, again, these are all communal things—people communicating for the sake of art. Maybe, to a certain percentage of the people there, the art is a pretense— it’s just an excuse to hang out with other people. But, any excuse to get people involved with music and involved with art is always a good thing.
Before becoming a musician, you considered a career as a priest and there are many similarities between the communal nature of a large, outdoor gathering and a religious service, where you are drawing in all these disparate people to one spiritual experience.
JW: Yeah, it’s evident. A great example is a Baptist preacher. A lot of Baptist preachers will have a fork in the road in their life where they could’ve become a blues singer or an R&B singer and, instead, they became a preacher. The ideas are very similar—you’re trying to bring a message, you’re trying to share something with other people, you’re trying to enlighten people, you’re trying to turn people on to something new. Then, there’s the pitfall of people looking for easy answers. And the preacher and the singer are both supposed to provide those easy answers. And that’s sort of the negative side of the scale. But then the positive side is that they have the ability to bring people together in a room—to make everybody clap and make everyone wave and make everybody give each other a hug. They are both making sure that everyone is in tune with the same thing at the same moment. A rock concert is church. It’s no different really.