A Conversation with Peter White
SUN: You have a new album called “Playin’ Favorites” that was released in stores everywhere June 27?
SUN: We’ve listened to it and it’s terrifi c!
WHITE: Well thank you very much!
SUN: We’ve been putting it on as background music while we work on our articles and during dinner.
WHITE: That’s great! So it’s not just work then for you, there’s actual pleasure involved in listening to it.
SUN: Yes, defi nitely! In reading your bio you seem to love interacting with your audience and watching them dancing and having fun while you are playing.
WHITE: You’re right. That is sort of my reward you could say. With all the hours you spend putting the music together, and you go out there and you fifi nally play the songs at a concert and you see people responding that way. There’s a show I do every year at a winery. Now that’s my kind of show, because by the end of the show everyone’s been drinking wine and my goodness they’re dancing and having fun and I’m thinking, this is great! Then I pull out all the disco hits. It gets crazy, you know?
SUN: (laughs) It does?
WHITE: “Brick House” always works.
SUN: (laughs) That always gets them up and dancing. It’s funny, we saw Jon Secada recently and he did Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.”
WHITE: Yes! “September!”
SUN: There’s a certain song as entertainers that you know will grab people.
WHITE: Yes and you know, by playing those songs you’re saying to the audience, “Hey, you know it’s not all about me. It’s about this great rich tapestry of music that we all relate to, and let’s go back and relive our childhood for the moment.”
SUN: Exactly! And it shows too, usually more times than not, that it’s a song that you yourself personally enjoy. And it shows how comfortable you are with your music and yourself, that you can play another artist's song and not have a problem with that.
WHITE: Oh yes. As in fact this new album is all old songs by other artists that I’ve rearranged in my own way, some of which affected me very much as a child or a young adolescent.
SUN: The idea for this album came to you when you rediscovered a couple of original demos, “The Closer I Get To You” and “Walk On By?”
WHITE: Yes. Those songs were on an album I recorded in 1994 called “Refl ections,” which is kind of the prototype for this new album. It was all old songs. I did it to sort of amuse myself. I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to take the pressure off trying to write a hit song. Choose a song that’s already been a hit.
SUN: And put your own take on it.
WHITE: Yes, then put my own take on it. And I thought this would be a fun thing to do as I did recently, when I made this new album. I had completely forgotten that I worked out these arrangements and I thought these arrangements are too good to disappear forever, so I thought, I’ve got to make another album.
SUN: How did you choose the other songs that were put on the album?
WHITE: I got together with Paul Brown, my producer, and he brought up some suggestions including “What Does It Take” by Jr. Walker which is the fi rst single.
SUN: You do a Christmas tour every year?
WHITE: Yes, I’ve done it for two years now.
SUN: Well you’ve missed Buffalo. You need to add us to your schedule this year.
WHITE: I know, I do! You know we always end up with shows in Florida for about a week in December, when really we should be up there in upstate New York.
SUN: We hear you love meeting your fans after your shows.
WHITE: Yes! It’s hard enough to get people to leave their homes to see the show, so if they want to stop and meet you afterwards, why not?
SUN: That’s nice of you to look at it that way.
WHITE: It’s a few minutes of your time. And it’s also another reward we get. It’s a fun thing to do. It’s not just us and them you know. With us up on the stage and you down there. So afterwards we can mingle.
SUN: Your brother Danny is also in the music business. Have you and he ever written anything together?
WHITE: That’s a very good question that no one has ever asked me. No, we’ve never written anything together. We’ve collaborated many times. He’s played on songs that I’ve written and I’ve played on songs he’s written, but we’ve never had that relationship of writing together really. That’s a good and interesting question.
SUN: So any chance on you doing that?
WHITE: Well… yes. I would love to. Maybe on my next album I’ll send him some half fi nished ideas that are going nowhere. I mean he’s incredibly talented.
SUN: Actually we read your brother Danny is responsible for your love for the acoustic
WHITE: That’s a very famous story by now that just happens to be true.
SUN: Would you like to tell our readers the story?
WHITE: Sure. We shared a bedroom as kids and he went through a phase in his life where he liked to play with matches, starting little fi res to see what would happen. He eventually one day set fi re to our bedroom. Yes, my electric guitar, which I bought a few weeks before, was burnt to a crisp. You know he actually blamed it on the amplifi er?
SUN: (laughs) Are you serious?
WHITE: Yes. Like the amplifi er spontaneously… (laughs) it’s impossible you know. He was like, “yea, it was plugged into the wall and a circuit must have…”
SUN: (laughs) Like he really knew that.
WHITE: (laughs) And oh, by the way, probably about 20 years later while we’ve become great friends working together he says, “Oh, you know by the way… that was me that set fi re to your guitar.” (laughs)
SUN: (laughs) He felt safe enough to say it now.
WHITE: Well yea, all those years ago (laughs). I said, “Thank you Danny!”
SUN: (laughs) Now you know, he’s been carrying that with him all these years.
WHITE: Yes. If it wasn’t for him I might still be trying to squeeze into those leather pants.
SUN: (laughs) So how many albums did you record before he felt safe enough to say to you, “Guess what? It’s because of me…?”
WHITE: (laughs) I don’t remember.
SUN: Well you had at least a couple under your belt right?
WHITE: (laughs) Oh yes. And that’s the funny part of the whole story, he never really confessed…
SUN: Until he was sure you were a hit with the acoustic guitar! (laughs) That’s a great story! One thing we picked up on you while reading all the information, and we’re sure our readers have now realized, is your sense of humor. Another great example is the titles and reasons behind your fi rst two albums. Can you tell us about that?
WHITE: Sure. My mother is French, which makes me half French. My fi rst album I titled “reveillez-vous” which means “wake up” in French, and my mother used to say that to me all the time. So I thought the very fi rst song on my fi rst album sounded like a song you would wake up to in the morning. So I thought in honor of my mother, who I love dearly, why don’t I call it “reveillez-vous.” Not thinking that no one was going to be able to pronounce it or understand it. And my record company said this is a big mistake.
SUN: (laughs) That was nice of them!
WHITE: (laughs) And I was being a bit pigheaded and I thought no, I want to be different, so I’ll go with it. It’s part of me, my history. And of course they were right. Everyone was like “What does that mean, how do you pronounce this?”
SUN: (laughs) And then…
WHITE: (laughs) So my second album I called “Excusez-Moi” as an apology. I even wrote an apology on the inside of the album. I wrote, “It appears the title of my fi rst album was too hard to pronounce…” (laughs)
SUN: (laughs) And you wrote it in…?
WHITE: I wrote it in French! (laughs)
SUN: That’s hysterical!
WHITE: Nobody ever got it!! You’re getting it right now, but no one ever said, “Oh that’s really funny!” It went way over everybody’s head! I think as an entertainer I’ve learned a lot since then. That you can do things that go way over people’s heads. So I don’t think I will do anymore of that.
SUN: Well Peter, we want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us. It’s been a real pleasure. We hope to see you in this area soon.
WHITE: You’re most welcome. And I hope to be there soon. It’s been too long.