Emily Jane White
Emily Jane White
There’s a rare confidence to Emily Jane White’s songwriting: it’s at once generous and tough-minded, reflective and unsentimental. Her work shares some elements with folk music, but the term does not do justice to her ambitious songwriting and robust arrangements. White possesses a singular voice inspired by the raveled threads of the uncanny in American culture, including depression-era blues and classic works of gothic literature such as Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.
Drawing upon finger-picked folk, traditional country, classical music and rock, White creates an expansive space for her intuitive lyrics and elegiac vocals. The spare skeletons of the songs are fleshed out with subdued electric guitar thrums, diaphanous organ, ethereal pedal steel guitar, lush strings, and White’s dusky alto with its signature catch. Her indelible sound has earned White a devoted European following, prompting her to regularly tour France, Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, Austria and the Netherlands in recent years.
This sensibility betrays White’s provenance. Raised in Fort Bragg, California, a seaside town nestled in the misty, secluded woodland of the Mendocino Coast, it could be said that optimistic melancholy and isolation don’t only suffuse White’s songwriting, but are in her bones. Describing the aesthetic of her sound as “melancholy, pensive, dark and sad”, it is the culmination of a lifetime steeped in music. “I've been playing music since I was 5,” she recalls. “I began songwriting in my early 20's, and released my first solo album Dark Undercoat when I was 26.”
“My singing and enunciation have become more refined and nuanced,” she muses. “I've become a more solid performer all around. My proudest moments were playing on television France 2 where Salman Rushdie was also a guest, and the French show "Ca donne envie" where Oliver Stone was the guest.”