Nicki White is a mesmerizing singer and guitarist whose style traverses R&B, country, blues and folk. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, White released her debut EP, The Good Side of You, in late 2018 and has been busy ever since refining herself as a performer and songwriter. In this interview White shares her experiences recording at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, her creative process, and her book, music and movie recommendations.
Please introduce yourself and describe your music for new listeners.
I am Nicki White from Kansas City, MO, born and raised. My music is bluesy, R&B, funky, country and folk. I don't really like putting my music into genres but when I have to that is what I sum it up with. If you like any or all of The Rolling Stones, Grace Potter, Bonnie Raitt, Prince and Miranda Lambert you will like my music!
Your debut EP from last year, The Good Side of You, was recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama. What was this process like for you? What did you learn that you’ll take to future projects?
To be clear, My EP 'The Good Side of You' was recorded at The Nutthouse in Muscle Shoals which won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album of the Year with The Steeldrivers' album Muscle Shoals Recordings. It was an experience I will never forget. I hired top notch session musicians who live in The Shoals and have played with Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson to name a few, in the past and have a golden ear and heart for music. And two of my songs, "Woke Up This Am" and "Dark Ruby Red' were recorded in Olathe, KS, at Meridian Sounds.
We recorded the other five songs in Alabama in less than two days. They somehow just knew what I wanted the sound to be like without me having to explain it to them. I got to call the shots as producer with Jimmy Nutt (head engineer) and he'd also very politely lean in with his suggestions. In my opinion, this is how all studios should treat an artist. I asked Jimmy at some point what his advice was on receiving a Grammy and he said "just keep working hard and it will pay off."
Describe your writing process. Are you a heavy editor of your work, or is there a more spontaneous approach?
My writing processes vary! Mostly, I use writing as a therapy during rough moments in my life. Other songs have stemmed from lyrics/melodies that zap into my head out of dreams or the sky. Sometimes, I think of a concept and form something from it. I've also put a drum machine on and gone from there. I started writing "Dark Ruby Red" as a poem in a laundromat and finished writing it on my back porch watching a storm roll in. Lastly, I will just simply sit down with my guitar or drive around with my music turned down and find whatever comes up!
What was the hardest song to get “right” for the EP?
I would say "To Get To You." I actually recorded two versions of that one. I wanted it to feel easy, yet funky and groovy and harmonies aren't really my specialty but I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.
Are you or have you been a library user? If so, how have libraries helped your creativity?
When I was attending college, I loved studying in libraries. I also like to take my son there on rainy days. I've never really used them for creativity but now I might just do so!
Nicki White's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
1. Purple Rain by Prince
2. Muscle Shoals (DVD)
3. Wide Open Spaces by Dixie Chicks
4. Frank by Amy Winehouse
5. The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
6. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
7. Black Elk Speaks by Black Elk
8. Every Kingdom by Ben Howard
9. Slipstream by Bonnie Raitt
10. Tenacious D by Tenacious D