Rock & Roots
8:47 am
Thu May 22, 2014

Jack White's 'Lazaretto': The All Songs Interview

Mary Ellen Matthews/Courtesy of the artist

Listen to Jack White on All Songs...

There's a stunning new album from on the way. Lazaretto, out June 10, is his second "solo" record, though the talented musicians who made up the male and female backing bands for Blunderbuss, his first album under his own name, have returned. This time around, the men and women are often part of the same band.

Jack White has been a passionate and gritty guitar player since he was a teenager, and with he excelled at making music that was bold and brash. But in his many projects, both as a musician and as the mind behind the Nashville label Third Man Records, he's demonstrated a love for a range of American styles, and found ways to bring music from the hills and from the distant past into the here and now. On Lazaretto, he puts those influences on full view: old-time fiddle, honky-tonk piano, wailing electronics and his own shimmering guitar.

When I spoke with Jack White last week, I was in Philadelphia and he was in Nashville, in rehearsals with his band to . We talked about the composition process behind the new album — including how he crushed writer's block with a little help from his 19-year-old self — as well as the nature of fate and coincidence, and why he rarely writes anything down. When he first sat down he told me his next stop was the studio, to record a B-side for an upcoming single.

You can , at the "Listen" link on this page, or read an edited version below.

When you first go into the studio to record a song, do you go in with other folks? Do you go in alone?

My band's in town. We're rehearsing to go play shows. But today we're taking a break and we're just going to record things today. Sometimes you just have to get caught up. When you start playing together and rehearsing, you come up with ideas, and then at some point you have to take a day [and say], "Huh, I want to record a few things because I keep thinking of new ideas now that we've been playing music all day long every day." You take a break and record. I think it's good for me to capture some of that stuff before I forget about it.

Yeah, I was going to say: Are you good at remembering? How do you remember?

Best thing for me to do is to play it on a different instrument. If I'm writing something on a guitar, and [I think], "Oh, I really like that," I'll go over and play it on the piano, and for some reason my brain will remember that.

Oh, that's really interesting. It's sort of the equivalent of just writing it down, maybe — there's some muscle memory or something connected.

I've never been good at writing things down. I don't know, I just always lose the paper or I don't know what it is. I don't keep a book with me. I don't like to carry anything with me. I don't have a cell phone. I don't like to carry a wallet with me if I can help it. I just don't like having things in my hands like that.

What about the idea of "rough recording" all that you do and then going back? Is that just too much weight, too much baggage?

Well, the problem with my personality is that I'm the kind of guy, like if I took a roll of film and it got developed and came back, I would take out the two photos that are good and I throw away all the rest. I don't like bad photos being there when there's one good one that's so great. You know, you should take that one out and frame it, and throw the rest of them away so nobody else will find them. And of course, this is — don't ever do that in front of a female. They'll just come run, screaming, diving, "Why?!" Girls can't stand that for some reason, I don't know why. Guys are like, "Well, whatever, set them on fire. Who cares?"

I can think of a couple of pack rat guys.

In particular if it's photographs, though.

Oh, I see. A different connection, yeah. It's not just a matter of items.

Hoarding, yeah.

I've been really enjoying the record. I can tell you had fun making it. I hear it in the voice, I can hear it in the playing; it feels nicely inspired. I'm gonna play the first thing I heard on it; here's a little "High Ball Stepper."

Actually, I'm even going to stop it right away — because you must tell me what's going on, like the first 12 seconds of this song.

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