INTERVIEW: The White Buffalo

  1. Thank you for taking some time out of a busy schedule to talk with Vents Magazine, Jake. Before we get the proverbial ball rolling, how have you been during these pretty uncertain times?

I’m doing just fine. It’s no doubt been a strange and wild year. Getting through and trying to grow along the way. 

Congratulations on the release of your sixth studio album, The White Buffalo – On the Window’s Walk. The title of the album immediately jumps out when you see it. What is the story behind The White Buffalo, which is the pseudonym you as Jake Smith use for not only this particular album but also for as far back as 2002 for your Hogtied Like a Rodeo LP?

It’s not terribly interesting. A friend thought I was in need of a stage name and asked other friends to submit ideas. no one else did but one he came up with was The White Buffalo. I too wanted to attach my music to something bigger than just the idea of a singer songwriter. Something that could morph into many things. 

  1. On the Window’s Walk is your sixth studio album as White Buffalo. Can you talk to us a little bit about how this sixth time at bat may have differed artistically from the previous five?

We took a very different approach to recording this time. It’s the most organic thing I’ve done. I’ve always been chasing the live sound. We basically sat in the room together and recorded the bulk of the songs live, capturing all the performances at once. 

  1. Your producer on this new album is the legendary Shooter Jennings who also happens to be the son of country music royalty courtesy of onetime Buddy Holly protégé Waylon Jennings. What is Shooter like as a producer?

He was  amazing on so many levels. He really inspired and validated me during the song writing process. Took me out of a dark place and gave me and my ideas worth. In the studio he’s great with arrangements and building tracks out and recognizing when a take is right. He also played piano and all the keys on the record which is really featured.

  1. The cover art for On the Window’s Walk is astounding and really brings to mind those great Willie and Waylon LP overs from the 1970s and early 1980s. Was that intentional?

I wanted the cover to look like a painting in some seaside, port dive bar. We commissioned a painter, Jack Browning, with the concept and I think he really captured the idea and feel. 

  1. You offer a variety of formats for discerning fans of The White Buffalo to pick up On the Window’s Walk, with a May 29 cd release which follows on the heel of the April 17 streaming debut. As a hopeless caveman, I was happy to see cd and vinyl releases for the new album, but it seems as if physical media is becoming less and less of a concern for many artists, with the accent now being on downloads and streaming. What do you feel the future of music releases will look like, and is there still room for a variety of formats in both physical and online?

The future of physical will die out maybe with the exception of vinyl. Vinyl records have been the only format on the physical side to increase in the last years. You really can’t beat it as far as audio range and quality. The entire album has always been important to me. No filler. It should be an experience and records give you that journey. 

  1. There’s a striking song on the new album entitled River of Love and Loss. What is the story behind this gem?

It’s just an imagined love and loss story. Many songs aren’t really inspired by anything. Songs often just spill out of silence. This one stemmed from the finger picking style of the guitar which was new discovery for me. Set the mood for something haunting. 

  1. Do you have a favorite track on the new album that resounds for you?

‘Cursive’ is maybe my favorite song on the album. Song about technology and screens and their adverse effect on human connection. 

  1. This is your first album for Snakefarm Records. What is it about Snakefarm that you respond to as an artist and that makes you feel comfortable hanging your hat there?

They seem to appreciate real and honest music and share some of the same ethos about what music should be.

  1. You were all set to perform a UK tour last month. Will this be rescheduled?

We’ve now pushed that earlier tour twice now. It’s now Scheduled for Spring of 2021. I could’ve never imagined it would have been pushed so long. 

  1. Speaking of the UK, you have a fanatical following there. How does it feel to know that your music crosses boundary lines and speaks to all people on many different levels?

It feels great. I feel that the English and European fans are a little more open to the emotions and lyrics of the songs. It really blows my mind that people and countries that don’t even speak the same language can sing along to every song and feel every moment. 

  1. In lieu of the UK tour, you performed an interactive live-stream show courtesy of Cadenza TV. How did this gig go for you and do you feel that – even when we get a handle on the coronavirus – this may become a regular format for musicians and other artists to present themselves and their work?

It’s odd to play for no one But we felt like we had to do something during these times to bring people as close to that live experience as possible. It’s not the same interaction from stage to crowd and crowd to stage but it fills a space in this moment.  For me it’s just great to play with the guys. I think this format will continue to be valid even after this pandemic is under control and we get back to venues. There’s really only so many places you can go on the earth.

  1. Secret Origin Time: What sorts of music did you cut your teeth on while growing up and how have those early inspirations informed your own music?

I grew up on country music and got in to punk and hard-core in my teen years. I didn’t start playing guitar till I was 18 and 19 and started writing songs after learning a few chords. Hopefully I’ve created my own sound but there’s definitely elements of early country and the energy and aggression of punk in both style and in performance. 

  1. Your path has become intrinsically connected to a very beloved and respected television show, Sons of Anarchy. Did that show and their use of your music blow the doors wide open as far as garnering you a new fan base?

Absolutely. The global popularity of that show and the fact that they used so many of my compositions expanded my fan base like nothing else in my career. I’m forever grateful and feel very lucky. 

  1. Speaking of television and film: Do you have a favorite rock bio-pic or a fave film that deals with the music industry (such as Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous)?

I always loved me some La Bamba!!

  1. Can you drop any hints for future plans that you might have?

Everything is so uncertain now. Hard to have any plans. I am trying to stay productive doing more of my in the garage series as well as beginning to write some. If this continues I’d imagine we do more Livestreams. 

  1. Final (Silly) Question: You’re stranded on a deserted island. What one album do you have with you to while away the time while awaiting rescue?

And I just happen to have electricity and a record player. Question is suspect. Wilco’s, Sky Blue Sky!!

About Ryan Vandergriff

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