“I think on some level I’ve been surprised by the lack of acknowledgement about the change in sound. I thought people would be upset that it wasn’t another bluegrass record!” jokes singer/songwriter Bella White of her sophomore LP, Among Other Things, which drops this Friday (4/21) on Rounder Records (Ruston Kelly, Caroline Spence, Sierra Ferrell, Mipso, Samantha Fish). The album follows up the 22-year-old artist’s debut, Just Like Leaving (released independently in 2020, before being rereleased by Rounder in 2021), which was comprised of songs White had written seemingly ages ago, in her teens.
“With Just Like Leaving, I wrote all those songs years ago now, so my new songs are really different, so I’m curious how it will be received,” Bella White told me in an August 2021 chat meant to preview a headlining date at MilkBoy, which was cancelled due COVID concerns at the venue. Many of the songs she was referring to would go on to be songs on Among Other Things, so during our phone chat earlier this week I ask her how she feels like the two collections compare, and she tells me that, for her, they basically feel worlds apart: “I feel like in some ways they’re wildly different records. My first album was like a string band, a classic bluegrass or country sound, and for this one we stepped outside of the box in a lot of ways I’m really excited about.”
Among Other Things was produced by Jonathan Wilson, known for his production work with Dawes, Father John Misty, and Angel Olsen, in addition to being a musician in his own right. “He’s so creative and he’s always listening. He facilitated the songs coming to life,” White tells me of getting to work with the producer. Wilson also played drums and guitar on the album, but White tells me that the most impressive thing about working with him was that, for a collection of songs revolving largely around heartache and existential turmoil, he was actually able to create a shockingly pleasant experience in the studio: “Creating it felt really fun and playful and light!”
In addition to Wilson’s studio expertise, White also notes that his connections in the industry proved to be very fruitful: “Everyone he called was the best!” The album features contributions from Big Thief guitarist Buck Meek, Americana singer/songwriter Erin Rae, and Drew Erickson, a multi-instrumentalist and string arranger known for his work with Weyes Blood and Lana Del Rey, in addition to White’s longtime bandmate Patrick M’Gonigle. “It was super awesome,” White says of getting to work with so many other accomplished musicians, noting that they got especially lucky with Erin Rae, who was just passing through Los Angeles (where they were working) on tour when she recorded her parts: “I’m a big fan of hers, and I think she’s incredibly inspiring. Having her voice on the record felt so magical.”
Later this month Bella White will begin touring Among Other Things, which she tells me will probably continue into the foreseeable future: “That’ll probably eat up my year and I’m not mad about that.” Her dates will begin on April 28th at Stagecoach, the “country Coachella,” before she kicks off a headlining tour at The Loft at our very own City Winery, a listening room that’s a pretty far cry from her cancelled 2021 stop at MilkBoy, a classic barroom, despite being only two blocks apart. When I ask if she has a preference for her live settings, she admits, “It’s so dependent on what the band is and how we’re presenting that day. When we have a six-piece band, it’s great to play a club, but I love to play solo in a theater or listening room. You feel like you’re really connecting with the crowd.” For her stop in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, she tells me it will certainly be an intimate version of her show: “It’s gonna be a trio, so fans of the old record will be happy. It’ll be fiddle, bass, and me!”
Amongst her upcoming dates, which will have her playing the US and Europe, are a plethora of festivals (in addition to Stagecoach), including Sleeping In The Woods Songwriter Festival in Monticello, KY; Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado; and Rotterdam Bluegrass Festival in the Netherlands. However, she tells me that there are two festivals for which she’s especially excited: “I’m super excited for Newport Folk Fest. That’s such a bucket list thing to play. And then Black Deer Festival in the UK, which has Lucinda Williams and Bonnie Raitt playing, and those are two of my queens!”
*Get your tickets here.