John Paul White
Before he was one half of The Civil Wars, John Paul White was a singer-songwriter, though not the tempered-in-the-fire singer-songwriter he is today. After earning a quick burst of fame and a trophy case full of awards, the aptly named Civil Wars infamously imploded in 2013 and a different version of White emerged — one that’s seen what the bright lights can do if an artist isn’t able to protect himself from the glare. The demise of his band left White alone at the microphone, with no onstage partner except that trusty guitar.
White licked his wounds and returned last year with Beulah, a new solo album that sees him older and wiser, an artist unafraid to go a little dark with his songwriting. White’s songs are often quiet and moody — it’s hard not to be when you’re writing tunes with names like “Make You Cry” and “Hope I Die” — but they’re also expertly composed, controlled, and peppered with sparks of hope and light. If White’s professional tribulations with the Civil Wars taught him anything, the lesson is that there’s a power in going it alone, stripping off any affectations, and letting the songs (and the artist) breathe, and although he’s performing with a backing band this year, that lesson shines through the music. John Paul White is finally breathing — and the sound that comes with each exhale proves that he’s exactly where he should be.