Irish singer Andy White’s first single came out in 1985, and his first album came out in 1986. More than ten albums later, White is touring Canada as part of the Shelter Valley Folk Festival, a series of concerts in Ontario. This Saturday, he will be playing at London Music Hall with Stephen Fearing, a Canadian singer-songwriter.
White describes his music as “old fashioned punk with an acoustic guitar.”
Growing up in Belfast, Ireland, White’s early music was heavily influenced by the tense social atmosphere surrounding him.
“There was a civil disturbance for years. I grew up in this crazy place where you couldn’t go downtown,” White says. “There were bombings all the time—it was really chaotic.”
In the midst of this violence, White’s early songs took on political undertones.
“My first single, which was called “Religious Persuasion,” was a protest song. It became a bit of a hit in England—and [my career] started from there.”
Despite the original success White found in Belfast, he decided to leave his home in order to study—and to escape. His pursuit of further education took him to Cambridge University, where he studied English literature. White’s academic studies are what originated his career in songwriting.
He explains his natural progression from English to music. “When I started studying English, I started writing. I started doing poetry gigs before I started making music. Then, I wanted to write my own songs.”
Now, at age 50, White still continues to make new music—and tries not to bore his listeners. In order to do this, White tries to have a new vision for each of his albums.
“In the U.K., you’ve got to have a different approach to each album,” he elaborates. “Radiohead and Coldplay—each record they make—you know it’s them. But each album is different. I’ve been doing a similar thing over the years. Each album has to have a different story so that there’s something fresh about it.”
White additionally tries to collaborate with other artists to keep his music refreshing. However, the Irish musician also acknowledges ancillary benefits of working with others. When asked what the best part of working with his friend Stephen Fearing was, White replies, “his toaster. It’s the most expensive toaster I’ve ever seen. It’s really posh and expensive.”
On a slightly more serious note, White calls Stephen Fearing “one of his best mates,” and applauds Fearing’s attention to musical detail.
“Stephen Fearing won’t rest until every word [in a song] is right.”
White isn’t so different from his friend Fearing, as he outlines the thought he puts into songwriting. However, he also says that a musician should learn to trust his instinct and intuition.
“Play. Don’t think about it,” White advises future musicians. “Just definitely play [music] for the sake of playing. Don’t worry about a career or anything like that.”
“Get a book, as well,” he adds. “Tell yourself that it’s like your teenage diary. Always write down stuff so you can read your ideas. Just express yourself.”
Andy White will play London Music Hall this Saturday, September 15. Doors open at 8 p.m., and tickets are $11.50.