John Paul White was one half of the four-time Grammy winning duo The Civil Wars. Since finishing with that band, he has founded a record label, built a studio and collaborated with artists including Jason Isbell, Roseanne Cash and Emmylou Harris.
When he paused long enough to write some songs, his new solo recording Beulah was born.
"When these songs started popping into my head it really surprised me because I did not grow up wanting to be a songwriter. I just wanted to sing," White said. But the songs came to him.
"They just kept looping round and round. I just had to get them out of my head," he said.
"Hope I Die" features dreamy verses and was inspired by an Ernest Hemingway quote about his romance with his first wife Hadley. The dissonance of "Black Leaf" came from a lucky accident when he missed a string he meant to strum.
Meanwhile, "The Martyr" is the first single from this album, and it really rocks.
The gloomy track "What's So" warns the listener not to "get above your raisin'." That's just what White admitted he's done. The Grammy-winner is a long way from the chicken farm on the Tennessee-Alabama border where he was raised by a blue collar auto worker.
The Civil Wars' success has allowed him to pursue a career as a music industry entrepreneur. White now owns a recording studio and launched Single Lock Records with Ben Tanner of The Alabama Shakes and and Will Trapp.
"It's for fools, really," said White of his investment. "Two of the parts of our business that you have the hardest time making any money, that's the two things that I signed up for."
White says he knows he's living a dream few people realize.
Beulah is out now.