It’s been 13 years since Lari White released her last studio album, Green Eyed Soul, in 2004. Busy raising and homeschooling three children, writing songs and producing other projects—including Toby Keith’s White Trash With Money—the Florida native felt like the time was right to put out some new music.
Twenty five years after the start of her career and following a successful Kickstarter campaign to help bring the project to fruition, Lari is back with the release of her double-disc EP, Old Friends, New Loves—a compilation of songs, new and old, from throughout her career.
Recorded at her home studio—dubbed The Holler—the two-disc set features Lari’s soulful vocals picking up right where she left off 13 years ago.
The eight songs on Disc A, Old Friends, are re-recorded reinventions of Lari’s past tunes, including “That’s My Baby,” “Now I Know” and “Lead Me Not.” Old friends Suzy Bogguss and Lee Roy Parnell add their talents on “Wishes” and “Lead Me Not,” respectively.
The seven tunes on Disc B, New Loves, are Lari’s favorite songs that she has penned since her last album. Charlie Worsham, who Lari considers her newest old friend, was tapped to play mandolin on the cut “In God’s Hands.”
Nash Country Daily sat down with the singer/songwriter to talk about the long awaited album, Old Friends, New Loves, and exploring different styles of music.
NCD: This is your first new music in approximately 13 years. Why did you decide now is the time?
Lari White: “You know life. Life happens. I’ve got three kids that I have home-schooled, and I was talking to someone yesterday about how much creative energy it takes to raise kids. I just really, until recently, didn’t feel like I had the time and space to take away from my family. I mean, I’ve been writing songs. I’ve been kind of accumulating songs, and I’ve been working on other people’s records. Fortunately, we have a beautiful studio—The Holler—out at our place, so I’ve produced other artists records and I’ve written songs for other artists, but you know, making your own record, that’s a different animal— it’s like another child. You have to give it lots of attention and you have to go out on the road and let people know about it, and play and promote. My youngest child is 13 and she’s only got one more year of home-schooling before she goes into high school. I don’t know, it felt like that door was opening again in a natural way.”
Tell me about the concept you came up with for Old Friends, New Loves.
Lari: “The way I perform now is just me and a keyboard, or maybe me and a guitar player playing. It’s very intimate. It’s very personal on acoustic. The songs have evolved. I was glad to have the opportunity to kind of present them in their new form, their latest incarnation. That’s what Old Friends was about. It was about those old friends, those old songs that have been my friends for my whole career and bringing in old friends from the music business—fellow artists and songwriters —to come in and be a part of that recording. That’s why Suzy Bogguss came in to sing in on ‘Wishes,’ and Lee Roy Parnell and Delbert McClinton came in to be a part of ‘Lead Me Not.’ The Old Friends part of the project was very much about celebrating the people and the songs that have given me a career in music. But, of course for the last 10 years, I’ve been writing songs that haven’t been recorded or released anywhere. Those are the New Loves. These are some of the new songs that I’ve written and some new styles of music that I’ve explored just on my own in the last 10 years. A little bit of jazz. A little bit of more acoustic rock. There’s a song called ‘Moonshine’ that’s more of like a Fleetwood Mac in Nashville kind of song. It’s kind of an eclectic mix of just the new songs that I’ve written and the various styles of music that I’ve been exploring and kind of playing in the last 10 years.”
You’ve written a lot of songs over the past decade. How did you narrow it down to just seven new ones?
Lari: “That’s a good question. It’s funny, I have played the occasional show here and there over the last 10 years, just going out with my keyboard or playing some songwriters festivals, or I’ve actually done a few house concerts here and there. Which, are really intimate and personal. When you play songs out live, you really get an immediate visceral impression of how the song connects—whether people resonate and relate to that song and which songs people come up and talk to you about after the show. It’s really interesting, they have a life of their own, and I would say most of the songs for the New Loves are songs that people have really loved and responded to when I play out live.”
Do you have a favorite song on the New Loves disc?
Lari: “That’s like picking a favorite child. Kind of hard. I really like ‘Champagne.’ It’s such a departure from anything else that I’ve recorded. I really became a fan of American Songbook—Cole Porter, [George] Gershwin— that style of songwriting and records while I was in New York doing the Johnny Cash musical—Ring of Fire. I kind of tapped into a whole other universe of music and songs in New York. ‘Champagne’ came out of that experience, very much so. I also really love ‘Moonshine.” I’m sending out prayers that some hot young country artist will cut ‘Moonshine.’ I think that could be a great country record, right now.”
“Down So Low” is the only song on the New Loves disc that you didn’t write.
Lari: “That’s right, and that is just because I’m a huge [songwriter] Tracy Nelson fan. I’m a huge fan of that song. I learned that song from Linda Ronstadt, then it was many years later before I came to know Tracy Nelson as the writer and the original artist, and man, talk about a soulful woman. She’s based here in Nashville, and I’ve gotten the privilege of seeing her sing a couple of times. I just think she’s phenomenal. I’ve always loved that song and always felt it was really challenging. It would be a real challenge to tackle and it felt like the time to do it.”
On the Old Friends disc, you re-recorded your old hits in a very different way. Why did you want to arrange them that way?
Lari: “I was actually in the process of recording more faithful to the original versions of my old hits because they weren’t available anywhere. When I first started this project—this was a couple of years ago—my country albums from the ’90s that included, “Lead Me Not,” “That’s My Baby” and “Now I Know,” were not available. The record labels did not have them available on iTunes or Amazon or anywhere—they were out of print. I had a lot of fans reaching out saying, ‘Hey, I gave my copy of your album to my cousin 10 years ago and I really miss it. I cannot find it.’ I actually started recording my hits again, so that I could give my fans new versions of those songs that they loved. It was kind of in the middle of recording Old Friends when the record label released all of my old records again. Now you can get my whole catalog on iTunes and Amazon, which is wonderful because those original recordings were the way people fell in love to them. That kind of freed me up to breathe new life into these songs, which of course they all mean something a little different to me 25 years later.
Old Friends, New Loves Track Listing:
Disc A / Old Friends
1. “Wishes” feat. Suzy Bogguss
2. “That’s My Baby”
3. “Lead Me Not” – Delbert McClinton on background vocals
Lee Roy Parnell on slide guitar
4. “Now I Know”
5. “That’s How You Know”
6. “If You Only Knew”
7. “Eden Before The Fall”
Disc B / New Loves
1. “Who’s To Blame”
2. “Kisses and Wine”
3. “Maybe It’s Love”
5. “In God’s Hands” – Charlie Worsham on Mandolin
6. “Down So Low”
“I actually retooled and reconceived Old Friends in the middle of the process because I know as a fan of music, as a fan of records and the songs—the records that helped define my life and my experiences when I was growing up, the particular arrangement and instrumentation, the amount of reverb on the vocals, all of that is part of that original experience of why I fell in love with the song. It wasn’t just the song, it was the record that I fell in love with. As a producer, I really understand the power of that experience. The recording of a song, when that recording becomes a part of your life, it lives some place really special in your mind and in your heart. It’s almost impossible to recreate that faithfully—without losing something. When the original recordings became available again, I was so happy because I worked with some wonderful producers, like Rodney Crowell, and Garth Fundis, and I was happy not to feel the obligation to recreate those recordings. It let me just reinterpret them and kind of reveal what they’ve come to mean in my life now. People still can get the original recordings, but now they have this kind of 25 years later alternate experience that they can tap into as well.”
Your husband, Chuck Cannon, is all over this album. What was his role in it and what did he bring to the project?
Lari: “My goodness. Well, definitely a therapist and coach, you know? It’s great to have someone that you trust musically—to give you really personal feedback.’That’s My Baby,’ I actually started out with a slightly different recording of ‘That’s My Baby,’ because I was trying to recreate the original. When I didn’t have to do that anymore, it opened up all the doors and windows to explore the new incarnation of it, but I had a little bit of a hard time letting go of the originals. Chuck was wonderful in just talking to me and exploring ideas with me to get me to go, ‘Oh, this is what it is now. This is what it can be now.’ Of course, to be able to record that with him, because I wrote it about him, and I wrote it with him, just made it that much more meaningful.”
It’s been 25 years since you signed your first record deal with RCA. How do you think you’ve changed musically, over that time?
Lari: I would say—well I hope that I’ve learned. I love music and I love listening to music. I love exploring different styles of music, so I definitely have a richer pallet to draw from. I have more knowledge about music and more variety in what I listen to and what I love. I think, too, the more you live the more you’re able to give as a singer, and more of yourself. You’re able to give and offer for people to relate to, and identify with.”
What’s next for Lari White?
Lari: “I would really love to make another album. The whole Kickstarter experience was so positive. I would really like to make just a singer/songwriter record that’s very soulful, like old school kind of bare bones rhythm section. Maybe a couple tracks with horns. Just some good soulful songs. I really hope that fans come to my website and jump on my email list, so that I can reach out to them directly, and they can order the collector’s edition copy. Something that I’ve really learned in 10 years, with what’s happened in the shift of how music is heard, is how important it is to be connected to my fans, directly. I mean, social media is great and I have kind of a love/hate relationship with it. It’s not really something that the fans or I control. It’s like you put stuff up and it might get seen or it might not get seen. It just doesn’t belong to you. So, I’m really hoping that my fans will connect with me through my website. I send out free songs from time to time, and I just send out a little blog or email if I’m coming to someones neck of the woods, as I get back out on the road in the fall.”