June 20th, 2006
Interviewed by Harvey Cline
Just a week away from the release of his new disc entitled Playin’ Favorites,
guitarist Peter White sat down with SmoothViews once again to
give a behind-the-scenes look at the release as well as insight
into the summer tour.
SmoothViews (SV): Hi Peter and
welcome to SmoothViews once again. You’re a week away
from the release of your new disc entitled Playin’ Favorites which
comes out on June 27th.
Peter White (PW): I’ll still be in England,
visiting my mum. I was there in April and did some shows and
I thought it would be nice to visit again when I can take things
easy. I don't even intend to take my guitar this
time! I want to take every opportunity I can to visit my mom
in England as she’s not traveling so much anymore. So
what I’m doing that I thought would be clever is when
I do a show on the east coast, just fly to England from there
SV: Tell us a little bit about the new disc.
PW: About a year ago after I found an old tape from 1994. That
was the year I released an album called Reflections which
was a compilation of cover songs from the 70s. On that
tape were a number of songs which I had never finished, and I
just thought “wow”, on that tape that I had unearthed
after so many years were the makings of another CD in the style
of Reflections. So it’s sort of like Reflections Part Two.
I started it on my own and later I asked Paul
Brown to help finish it. Paul is my long-time friend and producer-
he produced three of my albums in the past and on this album
he brought in a whole new dimension. It turned out much better
with his involvement. For example he brought in Bob James,
Jeffery Osborne, and Boney James as
guest artists while I was away on tour, and I only found out
about it when I got back! Of course I was very happy to have
them on the CD. I was also recording some of my friends
on tour. I recorded Richard Elliot backstage at a show we did
in Ohio. Rick Braun I recorded backstage at a show we did on
Long Island. We finished that in my hotel room in Milwaukee.
This is all
on my laptop computer. All I had was a laptop computer and a
microphone- It shows you what you can do nowadays. When I turned
over the album to Paul, (I was still on tour) he would add all
of these fantastic guest artists without my knowledge. It was
a great surprise for me to come home from the tour and find out
that we have Bob James or Jeffrey Osborne on one of these songs.
That was a wonderful thing.
SV: Were there any of the songs that you had to leave off?
PW: Yeah, there were a lot of songs that I left off. “I
Can See Clearly Now” was a song that I’ve been playing in my show.
I thought it would be fun to record that. In the end we decided to leave it
off because it didn’t quite work. I think with any album, Harvey, there
are always a lot
of songs that don’t end up on the album. And it's possible
that no one will ever hear them. Possibly they will get
used as bonus tracks at one point or they might get re-released
or I might use them to finish another album down the line.
SV: How did you approach each one? Was each one different because
you had recorded some in the past and had new ones coming up?
PW: You know, it’s all different. I didn’t have
any preconceived ideas about how I was going to do it. We’re musicians,
Harvey; we just make it up as we go along. It’s whatever feels good at
the time. You don’t set out and say, “Aw, I’m going to make
this track different from that track.” It’s just the way it comes
out. One of my goals was to make the arrangements different from the originals.
The goal was to play these songs as if they were my songs; as though I had
written them or I had conceived them. The way they came out, I’m taking
the melody but I’m not taking the arrangement of the original. It’s
hard to explain if you’re not a musician. You take the melody of the
song- the essence of the song and make your own rhythm around it and it comes
out being very personal, an image of yourself. That’s what I tried
to achieve. It’s no question that all of these are hit songs.
Can I make them my own? Can I infuse them with my own personality? That
was the test for each song, I think.
SV: Considering this is called Playin’ Favorites, do you
have a favorite on the disc?
PW: “One On One” is one of my favorites and that
barely made the album. If you notice, it’s the last track on the album.
I was going to leave it off. The record company only wanted 10 songs. It was
my favorite, but not particularly anyone else’s favorite, and I’m
glad we left it on the album. I love Rick Braun’s playing on this song.
I recorded all of Rick Braun’s playing either backstage or
in a hotel room while we were on tour.
SV: I noticed that the first single is called “What Does
It Take To Win Your Love.” Tell us about that one and who’s
the great sax player on there?
PW: Well, that’s Sam Riney who is a great sax player. He
played on my Reflections CD back in ‘94.
What I did was take all the great saxophonists who appeared on
that album, and had them appear again on this album. Richard
Elliot, Boney James, and Sam Riney all appeared on Reflections in
1994, so we brought them all back to be on this album. So I really
think this album is a follow-up to Reflections.
SV: One of my favorites is your take on Grover Washington’s
Mr. Magic. How did that transpire and who did you have on that one?
PW: This is one of the songs I started 12 years ago for the Reflections CD
but I never finished. I worked up an arrangement based on what I did back then,
and played it to Paul Brown. He said, “I think I can do something
a little different with this.” I said "Knock yourself out",
so he took the arrangement and completely changed it. He kept my guitar work,
the horn parts, and some of the keyboard parts, but replaced everything else-
the drums, the bass, and the electric guitar. He had Bob James come in to play
the electric piano, which really made it. When I heard the track after it was
finished I hardly recognized it, but it turned out fantastic. Thanks to Paul-
what he came up with was better than what I originally came up with. It’s
very funky, very different, and I loved the Bob James touch there. I always
wanted to work with Bob James, and here we are.
SV: I notice you get the accordion out on “Crazy Love.”
PW: I always have to break out the accordion. It’s one
of my favorite instruments. I think people are surprised when they hear that
I play the accordion. That’s one thing I really love to do is surprise
people. I play the accordion on most of my albums. I’ve played the accordion
albums, and on 3rd Force albums. I’ve played the accordion
on Al Stewart albums, as well as guitar and keyboards. I call
it my secret weapon. No one expects a guitar player to
pull out an accordion and start playing.
SV: Let’s talk about the tour a little bit. Last year it
was with Jazz Attack, featuring Rick Braun, Jonathan Butler, and Richard Elliot.
This year you’re with the Guitars and Saxes tour featuring Gerald Albright,
Richard Elliot, and Jeff Golub. How’s that going?
PW: We’re doing very well. We’re having a lot
of fun on the tour. It’s a bit like the Jazz Attack tour last year in
that we mix the show up, because Guitars and Saxes has always been four separate
performances. Since we enjoyed the format of Jazz Attack so much, we decided
to do Guitars and Saxes the same way. So it's a continuous revolving door of
artists coming and going with all different combinations. For instance
Richard will join me on stage for a song and then immediately after I will
back him up on one of his songs.
SV: How many new songs are you incorporating into the show?
PW: I’m playing a medley of “Mr. Magic” into “What
Does It Take.” “What Does It Take” was actually Paul Brown’s
idea. It’s now getting a lot of radio play so once again I have
to thank Paul. I had thought about recording this song for a long time, but
I never got around to it. It’s the one song where I kept the style of
the original. Usually I would try to stay away from copying the
original recording, but on this song there was really no other
way to do it.
SV: Speaking of tours, will there be a Christmas tour this year?
PW: Yeah, we’re working on a Christmas tour. It will
be Rick Braun, Mindi Abair, and me again. I don’t have any specific dates
right now, but I know we’re going to be pretty busy. I think this year
we’re going to start just before Thanksgiving in Phoenix. We always waited
until after Thanksgiving, but this year we’re going to start early, as
there are only so many days before Christmas and we want to get as many shows
as possible in. It’s a whole lot of fun playing with Rick and Mindi.
We introduced the song "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" last year in honor
of the troops and we hope to sing it again this year. Yes, we sing it in 3
part harmony- imagine that!
SV: I’m often hearing other artist’s discs and Peter
White is always a guest artist on their disc. How often are you a guest artist?
PW: I really don’t do it that much. It’s just
that very often, the song I'm playing on will get released as a single so it
seems like I’m on the radio all the time. I maybe will do a guest appearance
every few months. In fact, today I was recording with Brian Culbertson on his
Christmas album. All Christmas albums are recorded in the summer, by the way.
We recorded a song that is a duet between his piano and my acoustic guitar.
It's a nice arrangement of “Angels we have Heard on High.” Brian
is also doing a Christmas tour this year.
SV: What are you doing when you’re not on the road or recording?
PW: I’m doing interviews. (laughing) I’m updating
my website, and answering e-mails. I get many e-mails from all over the world.
I’m one of the few artists who put their e-mail address on their website.
People write to me all the time asking for free CD’s, sheet music, and
advice. It’s hard to keep up with it all. There are no free CDs- I have
to buy them from the record company like everyone else! I have a five year-old
daughter who keeps me busy. We sometimes go out on my push scooter. She stands
right in front of me on the scooter with her hands in the middle of
the handle bar and I'm behind her pushing away. It’s a
whole lot of fun.
SV: As I’ve seen you over the years, you’ve incorporated
more comedy into the show. Was that a conscious effort?
PW: I think it’s just funny to be on a stage in front
of an audience. To me, it’s hilarious. I look out there at all the people
and I’m like, “What are you looking at?” “Why
are you staring at me?” To me, there is just a natural humor to that
situation, which comes out in my personality. I think I have a lot more confidence
now than I did when I first started. I was always thinking of
special things to interest people and make them remember me. Then
one day I realized I should just go out there and be myself.
I’m at the point where I don’t feel like I have to
impress anybody and try to be something I’m not. To just
be myself is kind of liberating. All the years touring with Al
Stewart, by the way, didn’t help prepare me to become a
solo artist. All of a sudden it’s just you in the middle
of the stage with a microphone, playing your music, and people
are there to see you and not somebody else. It’s
quite a shock when you suddenly realize that, oh dear, if they
don’t like the show or the music, it’s because of
me, and I can’t blame it on anyone else. If they do like
the show, it’s also a reflection on me as a performer too.
I do enjoy what I’m doing, and people
really do respond to that. If you remember me from way back,
you can see how I've evolved as a performer.
SV: Rick Braun’s CD came out last year had a lot of cover
songs on it and Eric Marienthal had one and now yours. Do you think that smooth
jazz has gone into a “pop” time period?
PW: I think smooth jazz has long been a format for oldies,
some new songs and a lot of vocals. This was not the case when I made the Reflections CD
in ’94 so I was ahead of my time. I was told by many radio programmers
at that time that “we won’t play this CD, Peter, because we don’t
play cover songs.” So I don’t really think
I’ve followed the trends. I was ahead of my time for that
CD and with this CD I’m quite sure I’m behind the
times. As you pointed out everyone has recorded an album of cover
songs. I don't think it matters what songs you record. What's
important is that you bring in your own personality- and not
just copy the original. People just want to hear a good song.
No one ever complained to Frank Sinatra when he sang “I’ve
Got You Under My Skin” which many other people have recorded.
He did it in his own way, which many others subsequently copied.
A good song is a good song.
SV: Speaking of good songs, tell us what “Midnight in Manhattan” means
to you after all of these years.
PW: I was very lucky to have the chance to record that song
with Grover Washington. You know it wasn’t my idea. It was Paul Brown’s
idea. Once again Paul Brown steps up to the plate and shows me the way. He
said, “We should get Grover Washington on this song.” I said, “I'm
not going to call him- he's a legend!" So Paul called him and Grover Washington
played on that song and it was great. I’m really glad that I had the
opportunity to work with him.
SV: I’ve heard so many different people play along with you
over the years on that song.
PW: Oh yeah, and every different sax player has a different
approach to that song. Some tried to play it like Grover, and some just do
their own thing with it. It’s always interesting to hear.
SV: I remember at the Oasis Awards show a few years ago you played
along with several sax players.
PW: I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to pick four
of the best sax players who happen to be here tonight?” I think it was
Boney James, Richard Elliot, Dave Koz and Steve Cole. Grover had only
recently passed away so we all played the song together as a tribute to him.
It was an event surely to never be repeated.
SV: Except possibly on someone’s cruise ship! (laughing)
PW: There’s a lot of cruises these days. I’m doing
the cruise with Dave Koz in November and another one with Warren Hill and Wayman
Tisdale in January leaving out of Ft. Lauderdale. It’s a lot of fun.
It’s a week of being cut off from reality. All you know is what’s
on the cruise ship and you have very little contact with the outside world.
It is possible to email, but the whole point of the cruise experience is to
cut yourself off and enter this fantastic world where there’s lots of
great music, great scenery, all these islands you can visit, and great food.
SV: Peter, is there anything you’d like to tell all of your
fans this evening?
PW: I want to thank everybody who makes an effort to come out and
see me play. If you come to one of the shows you will always have a good time.
If you want to know where I’m playing, you can look on my website (www.peterwhite.com). Information
for the cruises is also there. My email is listed on there if you want to write
to me personally. And wish me luck with my new CD. Thank you very much.