Check out our interview with singer-songwriter, producer and label partner John Paul White who is best known for his work with The Civil Wars. The Civil Wars with Joy Williams captivated audiences worldwide with their folk-infused sound, leading to the release of two acclaimed studio albums and winning four Grammy Awards during their time together.
More recently John Paul White and Joy Williams joined Taylor Swift on her single “Safe & Sound”, a re-recording of their song originally featured on the Hunger Games blockbuster movie.
John teamed up with Swedish production outfit Wildo DM for the reimagined version of Fleetwood Mac’s classic hit, “Big Love” – a fusion of folk and rock.
Follow John @johnboymusic
Hi John, please tell us a little about you?
I’m a singer/songwriter/producer/label partner/educator from Loretto, TN. I reside in Florence, Alabama, in the Shoals where I was born.
Describe your sound in 3 words?
Sad Southern soliloquies?
Do you play any instrument?
Guitar primarily. I took 5 years of piano lessons as a child, which helped me understand theory a bit. So I can get around on that instrument with enough time.
Do you ever get nervous?
No. I do have a healthy (?) amount of anxiety, and that seems to get more prevalent as I get older. I’m still obsessed with playing the “perfect” show, and falling short of that is a bit terrifying – but there’s no such thing.
Tell us about your new cover single Fleetwood Mac’s classic hit “Big Love?”
My good friend Mathias Wollo reached out to me about collaborating in this way. I love his work, and have for over a decade. It’s always a pleasure to work with him and his team. It doesn’t hurt that we reimagined a song I love by an artist that was very influential for me.
And now tell us about co-founding The Civil Wars with Joy Williams? Now how was working with Taylor Swift on her single “Safe & Sound?” That’s amazing!
I was happy to be asked by Taylor to re-sing and play my parts for her re-recording of the song. I was quite looking forward to changing some of my original guitar parts, as they were over ten years old and a bit sloppy. I was told quickly that they wanted everything just like it was, so I had to somewhat relearn all the various “flaws” in my original part. The beauty of that approach is that it retains its structure and tone that has become familiar, yet has 3 people singing that have all matured and improved at their craft. Very proud of the result.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The connection made with others. It’s the reason I still make this my vocation. I’ve done more than I ever dreamed of – there is no longer a bucket list. What keeps me out there on the road is the way these songs connect with people. I can see it in their eyes, and in their body language – that look that tells me that what I’m singing has an effect. Whatever that effect is. I just want to make people feel something. When I can accomplish that, I feel whole.
What book should every entrepreneur read?
I’m a horrible business man. Maybe the David Geffen biography. It definitely showed me what guts and determination (and ruthlessness) can accomplish against all odds. And that I wasn’t willing to do the things it took to get there.
What advice would you give to your younger self and why?
How would your best friend describe you?
That would be my wife, and that answer probably changes day to day. I’d like to believe that most days she would say that I’m compassionate, empathetic, tolerant, a good father, and a good companion. Please don’t ask her on a bad day.
What’s next for John Paul White in 2023?
Writing a new record, producing some more records in my studio (Sun Drop Sound), and teaching at the University of North Alabama.
What is your favorite healthy food?
Fruit. Pretty much every kind.
And your favorite cheat food?
How would you explain your fashion style?
My style is heavily influenced by the work of Billy Reid. He’s a designer here in Florence, and lives a block away. His aesthetic is southern in nature, classic and refined while retaining comfort.
What is your own definition of happiness?
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Shakespeare. Partly to pick his brain about his work, but also to find out who he really was.
What would be the dream holiday, and who would you go with?
Switzerland, with my wife and kids.
Best advice ever given?
Do unto others as you would have done unto you.
Do you support any charity?
Yes, many – but not one in particular. I do host a Christmas show here in the Shoals with the profits going to an endowed scholarship fund in my name at UNA. It is dedicated to tuition for students majoring in the Entertainment Industry.
What is you favorite song to belt out in the car/for karaoke?
“When Doves Cry” by Prince.
What do you think of Social Media?
It’s a necessary evil for those who do what I do. I’ve eliminated all but Instagram from my daily life, but all of the avenues are integral to an artist’s career. And they’re (mostly) free. But as an individual? Not so much.
Book: Too hard to narrow it down to one. Currently reading “A Season in Hell” by Rimbaud.
Quote: “Them that don’t know, don’t know they don’t know.” The late legendary producer (and my friend) Rick Hall.
Tv Series: The Wire.
Favorite Food: Anything from the far East.
Travel Destination: Heading to Maine as we speak. Love that part of the world, especially in the fall.
Baseball – Detroit Tigers
College football – University of Tennessee
Photos: Joshua Black Wilkins