Quick Q and A with Don White

Don White is something else.  He writes some of the most poignant songs you’ll ever have the privilege to hear and he also tells some of the most hysterically, rib-splitting stories you’ll hear in your entire life.  He has given so very much to the music community over the years.  He’s played countless shows in large auditoriums and small coffeehouses.  He’s allowed his audiences to forget their troubles and be thoroughly entertained by his memorable stories of his own everyday life.  His authenticity is what ingratiates him to his audience.  They all love him because he is an Everyman, someone we can all identify with.  However, Don is an Extraordinary Everyman.  To see him live is a treat.  Highly recommended.

 To learn more about Don White, go to his website.

 Don and his good friend, Christine Lavin, will be appearing at the me&thee in Marblehead, MA on Friday, November 2.

 ImageTell us about your latest CD, Winning Streak.  In your own words, it’s been a while since you released a CD but you have released a DVD and a book in the interim.

It took a while for me to get back into songwriting after I finished writing my book. Songs seemed kind of small and confined after having years of being able to take as long as I wanted to express an idea in prose without rhyme, meter etc. Eventually I was able to get back into the process of distilling an idea down to its essence again and that’s when the songs on Winning Streak began coming to life. 

 One of the songs you sing on this CD, “Good Morning Beautiful” was written by Hayley Reardon when she was twelve.  What is it about this particular song that resonated with you?

 I have been Hayley’s performance coach since she was 12 years old. Her songwriting gift is extraordinary but in getting to know her I am most impressed with her humanity and her natural ability to gracefully navigate all the challenges that come when the world realizes that your gifts are worth money. I hope that someday she will write a book so that other talented young people can learn how to develop their natural abilities without compromising their integrity.

“Good Morning Beautiful” kept rolling around in my mind while my Dad was in an intensive care unit for five weeks before he died. He was in an induced coma and I would just sit there and think about waking him up and taking him away from there.

This, of course, had nothing to do with what Ms. Reardon was thinking about when she wrote the song but as her coach I have advised her against explaining and demystifying one’s lyrics and to let the listener take from the song anything they want.

Good morning Beautiful
Are you ready to go?
Good morning Beautiful
I can feel it you know

The sun is shining
Let’s run away
Everybody’s got something to say
I just want to laugh with you today

You’re the only one who ever knows what to say.

 One of the bits on the CD “My Wife Hates Baseball” is a popular one.  After the horrible season that your beloved Red Sox had this year, are you thinking differently about America’s favorite pastime?

Not real happy with my team this year but I still dearly love the game. 

 Your book “Memoirs of a C Student” demonstrates that you are not just a gifted songwriter and storyteller but you’re a very accomplished writer. A thought just crossed my mind—have you heard from any of your old teachers?  Are they aware that their C Student is a published author now?

Funny you should ask. I had an English Teacher in the 10th grade: Mr. Tomashefsky. The class was creative writing and when the class ended he gave me an A with a #2 beside the grade which at the time meant that the student needed to put more effort into the work. I thought it was a typo so I asked him about it and he said, “You were born to do this. You could have gotten an A in this class without even showing up.” Then he said that “it was my duty to the world to continue to write”

A year after I wrote my book I sent him a copy with a letter telling him how much his words had meant to me at a time in my life when I had no idea how my life would unfold or whether I would ever be able to contribute something meaningful to the world. I also told him that this was a wonderful example of how important it is to be a good teacher and how the things that good teachers say and do can have a dramatic effect in the lives of their students decades later.

I never heard back from him but I ran into his landord at a concert and he told me that Mr. Tom showed the letter to everyone who visited him.

Alright, now here’s the part of the story that gets hard to believe but it is absolutely true.

A teacher who taught at the same school as Mr. Tom told me this Story. They were having a retirement party for three or four teachers that had just retired, Mr. Tom being one of them. She was going to read my letter as part of his introduction. But he died the day before the party. So, instead of telling people the news about his death she said that he wasn’t able to attend due to health issues and she read my letter to his friends, family and fellow teachers. The audience didn’t know till later that he had already died and that my letter to him was something of a secret memorial.

 You offer “tutoring” for aspiring performers–giving them constructive criticism and tips on how to further their careers.  Do you find this type of teaching to be a rewarding experience?

Yes. I teach comedy and performance skills and I enjoy it tremendously. I’m a grandfather three times over now. I am in a place in my life where I have what I want as far as my performing career is concerned so the nurturing of other people’s dreams is what excites me now.

 You’ve been doing quite a number of shows with Christine Lavin recently.  If you had to describe Christine in three words, what would those words be?

 I need at least a paragraph to describe Ms. Lavin.

 

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