Jim White, the ever-elusive Americana maverick sat down with Esthetic Lens to discuss navigating his life during the pandemic. White returns with his most upbeat, hallucinogenic record to date, Misfit’s Jubilee.
1. How are you holding up?
Hell, even in the best of times I’m prone to regular bouts of depression, so this dismal swamp of a year has been quite the psychological gauntlet, between losing my livelihood and the continuing bungling of the COVID response by greedy politicians who clearly care naught for the little people who provide them their jobs. “Let them eat cake” appears to be the prevailing sentiment with the powers that presently be. Let us hope that changes in January.
Throw in that I’m a single parent to two beautiful daughters, sensitive souls who I worry about…particularly in regards to the impact such pandemic related isolation has on them, and the onslaught of daily deaths, including beloved characters the likes of John Prine and so many more and you got yourself on hellaciously thorny MF of a year. Worst I can ever recall.
Several times in the last few months I’ve gone real dark, and understandably so, with no daily target to aim at like to improve my life, my children’s lives like I do when I’m running my typical album release/touring/making a new album cycle gauntlet, I’ve felt just this side of despondent a few times whereupon that black cloud of depression descends. Lethargy hits, muddled thinking, a sense of hopelessness. Thankfully I’m at an age when I recognize the symptoms at their onset and so do my best to remember that my present-day life isn’t really all that much different than normal, as by disposition I’m a card-carrying hermit who seldom socializes or goes out to eat at restaurants, etc. Using that logic I’ve been able to knock back the dangerous energy wanting to take hold in my brain. And because I’ve lived through previous episodes of depression I understand that such states of mind are wildly subjective, and in the blink of an eye everything could change, and even if it doesn’t that things far worse could befall me, tragedies that would, after the navigating of them, make me feel grateful to be where I am present.
2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?
I’ve done very little in the way of creative endeavors. I figured this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to get long-deferred physical labor done so I got caught up on most of the ancient nagging chores that I’ve been dogging me for years—built a shed, built a fence, picked a huge batch of pecans when they fell after that hurricane passed nearby. Sold off some gear that I’ve been meaning to move on for a long time. Daily I get up and lay eyes hard on the horizon, scanning for some form of progress related task to grab by the throat, something to make my life, my children’s lives better. That I haven’t written anything of consequences has to do with my writing process. I’m not one who revels in plummeting into depression so I can lay hands on the makings of gut-wrenching, soul-baring songs. While under duress creative me tends to hunker down and just abide. Me, I have to navigate the maze first, then report on it after the fact–often times decades after the fact. I guess you could say my internal processing mechanism is labyrinth and byzantine, rather than reflexive and spontaneous.
3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?
Nothing I can think of, but if something does further down the line I’ll let you know.
4. Of the artists you follow, who’s handling this particularly well?
I admire the hell out of that Patterson Hood, from the Drive By Truckers. He’s a principled, full immersion type artist. Mary Gauthier‘s doing a good job with her weekly concert series, as is Otis Gibbs with his podcasts. But me, I’ve been living in my hunker down cocoon, so I don’t really know much of what’s going on out there. I tend to wait for things to come to me, rather than vice versa—I’m a catcher, not a pitcher.
Jim White’s catalog puts forth sounds of dark ruminations on all things Southern, White’s latest outing, Misfit’s Jubilee, features a nonstop parade of manic, blue-collar conflagrations exploring realms dark and light, mystic and mundane, cynical and heartfelt; all presented within a buoyant, hook-laden sonic framework.