There’s no better time than the present for Scott Sean White to release his long-awaited debut album. Literally no better time.
On one hand, White’s album, Call It Even, comes after decades of music industry and performing experience. In the mid-90s, White joined a cover band playing rap and hip-hop music, which is how he made his living in music for many years. A trip to Nashville in the mid-2000s shifted his focus to country music and country storytelling, and since that trip, he’s slowly accumulated a catalog of tunes that is now set to see the light of day on April 23rd.
On the other hand, it’s the theme of this collection of tunes that makes Call It Even perfect for 2021. The unintentional theme of hope weaves its way through the album, which also touches on kindness and resiliency. Basically, everything we need to hear and be reminded of these days.
We chatted with White about his journey to country music, all about Call It Even, including the songs he’s released from it so far and what he hopes listeners take away from it, receiving praise from heavy-hitting songwriters and more!
Pro Country: You’ve been a full-time musician since the mid-90s, but you are now gearing up to release your debut solo album, Call It Even. Given that you’ve accrued so much industry experience, why did you feel it was the right time to release a collection of songs?
Scott Sean White: That’s a great question! I guess it all boils down to the fact that I was primarily a musician (keyboard player) in a big 10-piece party/cover band for the first big chunk of those years. And while I WAS writing back then, it was R&B and Hip-Hop, and I’m obviously not an artist in that genre. It wasn’t until 2005, while still making a living in that same band, that I started making trips to Nashville and, songwriting-wise, switched genres to focus entirely on learning how to write a country lyric, because that’s really where MY life experience was. So over the last 17 years while trying to write songs for famous people to record, I’ve collected a good number of songs that are very personal and meaningful to me, and it finally came time to make an album with some of those. Then COVID shut the world down and gave me time to actually record the album 🙂
PC: You played in a cover band for many years that played mainly R&B and hip-hop music, and you even said you didn’t like country music for a time. What was it about the genre and the songs that make it up that converted you?
SSW: Part of it was just “growing up.” I had such a crazy upbringing, and sometimes that stuff (trauma I guess you could call some of it) takes a while to process and work through. So in my early thirties, as I really started dealing with that, I started writing songs that were definitely more country-leaning, because the stories that I had to tell were from growing up in the sticks in Kerrville, TX. And I couldn’t tell those stories in R&B/Hip-Hop. I still LOVE R&B and Hip-Hop, but it’s for the fun and the grooves and the production more so than the lyric. Country music is where the deepest part of my heart is because that’s the REAL life I come from, and the lyric is king. The stories are king. THAT’S what really moves me.
PC: Given that you have had such a long tenure in the music industry, what emotions are you feeling as you’re preparing to release Call It Even?
SSW: Uncomfortable would be the first word that comes to mind [laughs], but in the BEST way. What I mean is that this whole “artist” thing is WAY out of my comfort zone. I’m a songwriter first and foremost, and that’s where my focus has been for so long. But whenever you’re out of your comfort zone, THAT’S where you start growing and learning and living, so I’ll take it! Excited is obviously another emotion. I’m excited to get these songs out into the world where hopefully they can speak to people and help people in some of the same ways they’ve done for me.
PC: What went into the decision to release “Dad’s Garage & Mama’s Kitchen” as the lead single from Call It Even?
SSW: That was a combination of my own feelings about the songs on the record and my “team’s” thoughts about it. My awesome publicist, Maria Ivey at IVPR, gave me a list of what songs sounded like singles to her, and I didn’t disagree with any of them. So then it was a matter of thinking about the release order, and since I had been opening almost every live show with “Dad’s Garage and Mama’s Kitchen” to “set the tone” for the evening, it just made sense to release that one first.
PC: “Humankind” is such a touching song that is incredibly relevant in the times we are living in. Can you talk about the inspiration behind the song?
SSW: My co-writer, Helene Cronin, saw the hashtag #Humankind on the internet one day and had an idea about how to write it as a song, and I’m so glad she chose to write it with me! That first day working on the song, as we were figuring out the best way to write the idea, we talked about people being kind to each other. We talked about her oldest daughter for a little bit because she was a hospice caregiver for about seven years and that’s a hard job that requires a special heart and talent. So that’s where the first verse came from. Then we also talked about bullying a little bit because, as I like to say at shows, I was not always 6’4” and 235 🙂 So that ended up being the second verse. And we also talked about my brother Joey a lot that day. Joey had Down Syndrome and passed away back in February of 2016. He had lived with me and my family for most of my adult life, and anyone who has or has been around Down Syndrome kids knows that they are the BEST at kindness and passing on joy. Just the best. So while Joey didn’t end up LITERALLY in the lyric, he’s definitely in the song. And that’s why the video starts with him. Also, just a small note, the last image in the video is a photo of his hand and mine when he was in the hospital late in his life.
PC: “Crazy Til It Works” is a song of hope and resiliency, and Cowboys & Indians pointed out that hope is a common theme on Call It Even. Was that something that was done intentionally or something that came together naturally as the songs came together?
SSW: That’s another great question. I didn’t really think about that until some folks like you and C&I pointed it out. It really got me to thinking. The answer is that it came together naturally long before this album really, because it came together song by song by song over the years. If you’re doing this songwriting thing right, the first rule is to write what you know. And if you get out of the way and just let it pour out of you the way it wants to, you have songs that are just a reflection of who you are and what you’ve lived. What I KNOW is hope. What I KNOW is longshots working out that have no business working out. Crazy stories that would be laughably unbelievable if they weren’t true [laughs]. THAT’S my life. So I also know “thankful,” and I hope that people hear that too when they hear this record.
PC: Call It Even is set for release on April 23. What can listeners expect to hear on the album? What do you hope they take away from it?
SSW: Well, whether they expect it or not, they’ll get to know me a little, that’s for sure. The title track IS my true story, my childhood, with nothing held back. The alcoholic home I grew up in was a violent home, and my mom ended up pretty much drinking herself to death. I could’ve watered it down maybe, been a little vague, but I decided to just lay it out. And I’m glad I did. It’s a song about forgiveness and coming to grips with the fact that most of the villains in our stories aren’t completely evil, and most of the heroes are not saints.
As the album goes on, you’ll hear my wife and I’s story, without ever really hearing it [laughs]. You’ll hear about family. You’ll hear some stories that come from my co-writer’s lives. You’ll hear songs that made me feel something when I wrote them, and hopefully they’ll make you feel something too. You’ll hear Jesus in there a good bit, as well as “crazy” in there a good bit. And I hope folks listen to the record and think about the stuff that really matters. I hope they hear some stuff that helps them, heals them like some of it helped and healed me.
PC: You’ve received praise from heavy hitting songwriters, including Jack Ingram, Tom Douglas, Tony Arata and Doug Johnson. What does their support and having them in your corner mean to you as a songwriter?
SSW: You know, I don’t even have words for that. It’s unbelievable and I am super grateful. It’s also validating and so encouraging of all the work that I’ve put in to learning this craft so far, and at the same time, coming from THEM, a reminder of all the work I STILL HAVE to do. But that’s perfectly fine with me because I LOVE the work.
PC: For the last year and a half, live performances have largely been cancelled. What have you been able to do to stay busy and creative? What was the adjustment like for you?
SSW: Well, the biggest thing that kept me busy was making this album. I always wondered when in the hell I was going to have the time to record this album I had been talking about, and then COVID-19 shut the whole world down. Bingo! [laughs]
PC: Along with releasing Call It Even, what are your plans for the rest of 2021?
SSW: Ready for the world to fully open up again and get out there playing shows and supporting this album!! And getting back to a regular writing schedule. When you take COVID-19, plus all the work that has gone into making this album and putting it out, I haven’t been writing quite as much, so I’m ready to get back to that “grind,” which is not a “grind” at all for me. It’s my favorite part of the whole process. I’m excited!
*All images by Katie Kessel, except where noted*
*Scott Sean White’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*