Singer and songwriter, Brooke White first captured the hearts of music lovers with her appearance on Season 7 of American Idol thanks to her signature '70s golden era vibes. But after enchanting audiences with an exceptional breezy folk-pop sound, the Arizona native is embracing her love for country music on her forthcoming fifth studio album, Calico — which most uniquely stands for "California country."
Extending a warm invite to country fans of a style blending Nashville and Laurel Canyon, White tells PopCulture.com in an exclusive interview that her upcoming record might have a "very pop" feel, but it isn't entirely a new direction for her as she's managed throughout her career to blur the lines with her sound.
"It's been a long time coming," White told PopCulture.com of the record set to release this October. "It's the most modern thing I've ever made. There's beats. It's country, but there's definitely a hybrid of really interesting elements."
White adds that the 12 original tracks, including the first single and summer bop, "Calico" were written primarily with guitar and veer away from her familiar piano sound. Though she reveals the track, "Be Good" was an exception and includes parts.
"There are a couple really interesting songs, like "Weigh Me Down," "Pioneer" and "Calico," which is a story song. I just feel like it is a really, dare I say, dance-y at times, record," she said. "There are a couple disco-y type songs, which follow the lead of High Hopes & Heartbreak."
The mother-of-two adds that tracks off the 2009 record — fresh from her fifth-place finish on Idol — were full of country songs, between "Little Bird" to "When We Were One." It was at this point, White decided to "fully embrace" that country vibe and hit the "pedal steel on every song." However, it was with Calico that White went full steam ahead, touting it the "most fun record" she has made to date following her 2014 charity studio album, Never Grow Up: Lullabies and Happy Songs.
"This is the first time I haven't suppressed my country tone, which I've had producers in the past say, 'Hey, let's do another take this time, but a little less country,'" she said. "This time, it was just like, let it rip. Let that country tone out."
And she certainly does with the first single off Calico of the same name, which embodies every stomping groove and sunny lyric of a fun, country ditty, punctuated by handclaps and a banjo solo soaring on a summer breeze.
White admits the sounds of her new record are pretty effortless to her as it all "just kind of comes out." It helps that the 36-year-old is an encyclopedia of music, constantly opening her ears to sounds from just about every era as she is a major music fan with a lot of influences.
"That's really natural to my Arizona roots," she said. "I grew up with an equal amount of country as I did to Carole King, Fleetwood Mac and James Taylor. Those influences, put in today's musical environment would also read a lot more on the country side."
She adds that of all those influences that really settled in with her sound, she is "thrilled" to create a "really modern" sound unique to her personality — one she expresses is "very, very natural in its feeling."
"I love my throwback stuff, but I'm psyched about stepping into 2019 with something really fresh that I feel can compete with that, in a way that still feels genuine to who I am," White enthused. "At this point in my life, I don't want to do something that doesn't feel true."
White adds she knew she wanted to make this record ever since her not-so-lucky attempts in Nashville over the years, which she reveals didn't go as planned since her time on the Fox reality competition.
But it was during the Christmas of 2017 that things took a turn for White when it came to her country music aspirations as she soon found herself collaborating once again with songwriters, Eric Straube and Chris Squalls — both of whom she worked with previously on her collaboration with duo, Jack & White.
"When I got there, they just said, 'Hey, we want to make a record with you,'" White told PopCulture.com. "It was perfect timing, you know? I had to put it in my prayers, and I was just really trying to figure out, how do I do this? We started writing that day. On that first day, we wrote a song called, 'Movies,' which is the last track on the entire record."
White confesses it was at that time she never mentioned to the two that it was a country record she was hoping to make.
"They were open to it, but had never done it before," she said, adding how both have had definite exposure to country music throughout their respective careers with Straube in particular really being into old country. "It was just really fun to bring this all together. I knew I wanted to do it. It was something that I'd been trying to do and hope that I would, and I did it."
"One of the reasons I love California so much and that brought me here, was this feeling that you could come here and you could create anything," she said. "There aren't any rules here. Will it work? Will it not? It doesn't really matter, because it's not about that. It's actually about coming here, creating and being a part of something."
In addition to the sincerity California creates with its creative atmosphere, White credits the community for its "open arms feeling" that she absolutely admires.
"I just love so much about being in L.A., and why I feel like this record works so well," White said of California's influence on her sound. "That line, 'Where there ain't no rules and anything goes,' really came straight out of the studio. We were working on this song called 'Boots,' a very kind of non-traditional country song."
She adds making country music in California "means whatever we want it to mean," stating that the genre is its own ecosystem that is evolving into new sounds with recent tracks like, Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" or Cole Swindell's "Get Up" that challenge the country status and norm.
"[It] shows that there's room for all of us here," White said of the genre's progression. "The song, 'Calico' is about inclusion, that we can all get together down in Calico."
White goes on to say that while it is true to her personality and musical style, it's fresh and still has its roots.
"It's kind of a mix," she said. "It's a real nice hybrid of all the things that really matter to me."0comments
The single "Calico" is out now on iTunes and her forthcoming album of the same name is set to release Oct. 4, 2019. For more on Brooke White, visit her official website and follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Stay tuned to PopCulture.com for more with White as she talks about motherhood's impact on her music, female representation in the country genre and what she really thinks about the American Idol reboot.