Jim White On Never Working a Day Job and a Musician’s Eternal Struggle

December 23, 2014

Tell us about your tour vehicle.

I seldom tour but when I do it’s always in some improvised vehicle.  I did an entire solo tour once in a rickety old Geo Metro with all the seats but the driver’s seat removed.  I got great gas mileage but was ridiculed by poor children, both white and black.  I once did a tour in a van with no windshield wipers.  And it rained the whole tour.  I once did a tour in a van that the electrical system failed so we had no blinkers, no headlights, brake lights, nothing.  We went two days like that then were saved by a mafia related mechanic who we were steered to by a shifty venue owner.

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

This is my eternal struggle.  Subway often is the only alternative in a hurry.  I Google locations for Whole Foods and eat there as often as possible.

How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

I never replace my strings unless they break.  They seldom break so my upkeep costs are low.

Where do you rehearse?

I rehearse in my house, as most of my shows are solo.  If I’m taking a band we rehearse wherever we can; apartments, basements, back of the van (if we have a van).   I once loaded my gear into the wrong house in the middle of the night.  After plopping a succession of bulky items in the living room of the apartment I thought we were staying in, we observed some people asleep in the bedrooms of the apartment and realized we’d gone in the wrong place.  With great stealth we then removed our amps, guitars, suitcases, and merch boxes from these strangers living room.  The place we was supposed to be staying in was next door.  The key opened both locks.  Later I wondered if that had ever happened at my house and I slept through it, as these folks did.

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

That was so long ago.   Richard Nixon was president and the words cell and phone and not yet been super glued together.  In fact this was before super glue was invented.

Describe your first gig.

I played in an extremely conservative evangelical college near the Alabama state line.  I sang a song about a whore and another about a man whose ice cream cone melts in his pocket.  I was relieved when they applauded but years later I realized their attractions to my songs was deeply unwholesome.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

Never had a day job.  Worked night shifts all my life.  Last one was a cab driver in NYC for 12 years.  That certainly wasn’t my favorite job.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

It’s wobbled, flat lined, and now is slowly, incrementally dissipating.  5-10 years from now I’ll likely be in another minimum wage line of work.   That’s my style.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

I’m incapable of writing a pop song.  No matter how hard I try, and I’ve tried really hard, they all come out weird.


Raised in Pensacola, Florida, a town crushed between the church and heroin, Jim’s songs reach deep into the underbelly of the South. One time Pentacostal, fashion model, New York taxi driver, drifter, pro-surfer, photographer, film-maker, his music is the conduit for all the stories he collected along the way. His previous albums ‘Wrong-Eyed Jesus’ [1997], ‘No Such Place’ [2001] and ‘Drill a Hole in That Substrate…’ [2004] were acclaimed as masterpieces of ‘outer space alt.country’ and established Jim as a phenomenal maverick talent. Jim also starred in the BBC4 film ‘Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus’, an award-winning road-movie exploring Southern culture through its music and stories. Now living in an old farmhouse in the backwoods of Georgia, Jim White may have finally reached a place called home, but his other search, for what he calls ‘the gold tooth in God’s crooked smile’ continues in this new set of backyard tales.

He will be releasing Take It Like a Man, a collaboration with the Packway Handle Band, in January 2015.  You can find him online and on the road.