Sometimes, it can take a lottery winner a minute to process what’s happened to him. In 2001, Nashville singer-songwriter Jason White released a critically acclaimed debut album, “Shades of Gray.” After reps for Tim McGraw got an earful of White’s song, “Red Rag Top” off the album, the country superstar recorded a hit cover of the tune. Wheelbarrows of cash and songwriting opportunities were pushed in front of White. But after a 2003 follow up, “Tonight’s Top Story,” White disappeared from the New Releases buzz bin, along with MTV’s Buzz Bin and most bricks and mortar record shops for that matter. Forty seven Lady Gaga singles and 137 asymmetrical haircut-laden Lady Antebellum videos later, White is back with an excellent third album, “The Longing” and an appearance in the round Saturday night at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur.
“After that second record, I was really burnt out,” White tells Atlanta magazine. ” I needed to get my personal life in order. I met a girl. Then I met another girl. Along the way, I learned a lot about myself as an artist. I tried to do the whole Nashville Music Row songwriter thing and discovered that I’m just not suited to that. I’ve never had any success sitting down trying to write specifically for another artist. I only really ever write well with another artist or writing what I want to write and having someone else hear it and pick it up. When I’m writing for myself, I just write better stuff. Truer stuff.”
“The Longing” is chock-full of that “truer stuff” too, from the exhausted title character who falls asleep in her chair still in her greasy work uniform in “Waitress” to the Cleveland, Ohio native’s trademark biting wit on “California.” White jokes that after exploring “guy rock” on his first two records, he wanted to write an album with women in mind this time out. “I had done so much hard edged, sarcastic stuff with crunchy guitars, I really wanted to do something that sounded different this time out.” For “The Longing” recording sessions, White recorded late-night in an intimate trio setting in a dimly lit control room. “We wanted it to sound like we had just smoked a bunch of hash!” he cracks.
Of “Waitress,” White says: “I have boxes and boxes of lyrics and notes scribbled on bar napkins and diner napkins amassed over the years. I’ve been in that situation so many times. It’s the end of the night at the end of the shift and this guy is sitting there and thinking about striking up a conversation with the woman waiting on him. Man, I’ve fallen in love with so many waitresses in my life I cannot even begin to tell you!”
“California,” meanwhile, initially strikes your ear as a radio friendly Jackson Browne-esque tribute to The Beach Boys‘ favorite state. Until a closer listen reveals a very funny “f-you!” written from the perspective of a Midwestern guy freezing and watching the loves of his life relocate to a warm climate. Explains White: “I had this Baja California type riff on my guitar and I needed a four syllable word. One day I just tried, ‘California’ and it worked. Then I started thinking about my relationship to California, growing up in Cleveland and being in the snow. I probably lost two or three girlfriends to California.” White laughs and adds: “It’s my angry, hopefully humorous rebuttal reply to all that. You’ve got to be sturdy to live in Cleveland. It’s my “f-you” to the entire sunbelt!”
A past relationship with a former actress battling bulimia inspired White to write the emotional, string-accented ballad, “The Mirror Lies to Susan.” On it, White sings: “And every evening after dinner Susan disappears/Leaves you sitting at the table choking back the tears/Cause you can’t make a dent in something that’s been going on for years.” “I don’t want to give too much detail about her,” White says protectively. “But she was a person in the industry who was really on her way. Her condition either kept her from going where she was headed or it was her way of self-sabotaging the whole thing. It was just awful. She was a beautiful sweet girl and some of those lines in the song are quite literal.”
White is looking forward to introducing his Atlanta fans to songs from “The Longing” Saturday night at Eddie’s Attic in the round, along with singer-songwriters Mindy Smith, David Mead and the members of Swan Dive (to buy tickets, go to the official Eddie’s Attic website). “Why isn’t there an Eddie’s Attic franchise in every major city?” asks White. “It’s an amazing venue. People know you can go to Eddie’s Attic on any given night and hear some great singer-songwriters and have some great food. It seems like that could catch fire all over the country. As a performer, the crowds are so welcoming and Eddie is so cool, Shalom, the sound guy, just everybody. It’s a really a calming atmosphere. You feel like you’re standing in your living room, playing for some friends.”