Though she was born and bred in Virginia to a native Virginian family, Amelia White cut her musical teeth as a young adult in Boston. “I could claim a southern musical pedigree if I wanted, my Grandpa played banjo on the porch every night, but in reality my roots came from sneaking down to the basement to listen to my older brother’s records while Mom thought I was doing homework,” laughs Amelia. “The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters, and early Elton John were my favs, and I was completely obsessed. I loved the songs where I couldn’t figure out exactly what it meant for a while, and slowly a mystery was revealed; it blew my mind.“
And as the muse was awakened the story begins. She begged her brother to teach her guitar, proceeding to play it so much and so naturally that he sold her his 1968 Martin D-18 for 20 bucks of allowance money. It’s still Amelia’s main guitar to this day. The writing of songs followed and it was a steady stream that led her to her first money making gigs in the subways of Boston, and into studios and venues around the country and world. “I’ve pretty much been writing songs and playing them for people ever since I can remember, it comes naturally to me, and I imagine I will do it until the day I die.”
It's no surprise that the title track of BEAUTIFUL and WILD, her fifth studio album, was written for another soul equally as driven by music, as he lay dying an untimely death in spring of 2009. Amelia met Duane Jarvis, the spirited guitarist best known for his co-write with Lucinda Williams “Still I Long For Your Kiss” when she first moved to East Nashville in 2001. “He became a mentor and good friend,” says White. “We wrote together, he backed me up at times, and even when he was out on the road playing with everyone from Frank Black to John Prine, I could always call him if I felt down or discouraged about the business.”
The album is full of those kinds of tales where souls cross into the next world, and connections with saints and demons from realms beyond the physical are made. "Sidewalks" was penned during her visits one hot summer to Baptist Hospital, as a close family member suffered another untimely death. Amelia reflects, "When people you love pass away too early and too fast, it leaves you with a hole but also an obligation to live your life as best you can.”
BEAUTIFUL and WILD also explores star-crossed, mismatched love. “I went through a bad break-up, and in Nashville when that happens everyone calls you up to write,” she laughs before turning serious. “I felt myself open to chaotic, fleeting love, the kind that can really sting. I found myself drawn to friends going through the same thing.”
In “Madeline” the love-struck narrator admits that, “the sidewalks of my mind are not the pretty kind, you should cross the street and let me be,” to his crush on a young innocent beauty. “Saint Christopher” finds the character so lost after loosing love that she is heading down the wrong road, and has to call on the patron saint of travelers. The album ends with “Rider Ghost,” an emotional prayer sung through almost clenched teeth. “I wrote rider ghost after trying to give up music, cause I felt so dark about the difficulty of getting it out into the cold hard world.” The passion in the vocals is visceral, and it is this kind of raw emotion that Amelia White brings to her audience.
BEAUTIFUL and WILD was produced by Marco Giovino (Band Of Joy) in his newly minted studio, Dagotown Recorders, in East Nashville. Marco had drummed with White regionally for six years, and on his time off from touring and recording with Band of Joy, Norah Jones, and Rodney Crowell he offered to produce an album for her. They hunkered down in the home studio in Dec. 2010 when their favorite group of players were off the road and available to add their magic and enjoy Marco’s infamous snack spread.
The album has influences of The Beatles and Stones, and Neil Young, (perhaps a nod back to Amelia’s early musical discoveries), but it also has a sweet soft side reminiscent of early James Taylor with a hint of Virginia twang. The lyrics are more poetic than narrative, another nod back to her early influences. In the end it is distinctly Amelia White with her sinewy emotional voice and striking melodies that will stick long after the record has ended, beckoning one to come back again and again to the sounds of her East Nashville-inspired “Saxophone Trains.”
Alternate Root calls Amelia a “Nashville Treasure.” She lives and writes with others in town, but is no “Nashville hat act.” In a recent interview she describes herself as “Considerably more Neil Young than Taylor Swift.” Maybe it is that left of center quality that draws other writers such as Lori McKenna, Tony Furtado, Tom Kimmel, and Bill Lloyd to collaborate with her. Anne McCue cut her song “Motorcycle Dream” on her recent album BROKEN PROMISE LAND.
Amelia’s discography begins in 1999 with COMES and GOES produced by Tucker Martine (Laura Viers), followed by BLUE SOUVENIRS (2001), which was recorded at the legendary Fort Apache Studio B and is produced by Brian Brown (Juliana Hatfield). Both albums started a strong current, mostly by word of mouth. Blue Souvenirs found a spot on NPR’s “All Songs Considered,” and Amelia began the relentless touring through both the States and Europe.
After moving to Nashville, she recorded BLACK DOVES with Neilson Hubbard (Kim Richey). This album exposed her further in the Americana/AAA/ Roots world after getting picked up and promoted heavily by Funzalo Records. She appeared on E-TOWN, got steady Non-com radio play and songs got placed in several T.V. shows including a recent spot on FX’s Justified. Critics loved the album, and the Song ”Black Doves was the subject of an entire blog post by Peter Blackstock in No Depression.