Fort St. James singer-songwriter Jerusha White will lead off a Regional Showcase at Artspace on Jan. 30

Jerusha White plays Cold Snap

Jerusha White of Fort St. James prepares for a performance at the Cold Snap Music Festival in Prince George.

Allan Wishart

Prince George Free Press

 

Three little words.

That’s one way Jerusha White writes songs.

“I’m probably the most backwards-writing songwriter around,” says the Fort St. James singer, who will be in a Coldsnap Regional Showcase at Artspace on Jan. 30. “I usually have the melody first, and then there are two ways I write.

“I either sit down and play the melody until I’m sick of it, and then the words come, or I’ll have three words in mind while I’m playing the melody and I’ll think of a way to work them into the song.”

Learning she sings mostly jazz or rhythm-and-blues is a bit of a surprise for someone so young, until you ask who she listened to growing up. The names spill out like a cascade.

“Celine Dion, Amy Winehouse, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin. Aretha Franklin was one of my favourites growing up. I listen to almost anything. I love rap, but I’d never do it on stage.

“I always go back to jazz and R&B.”

But those other styles peek through.

“When I was writing the songs for my album,” she says, “I think part of everything I listen to came through. There’s hints of a lot of genres.”

The album, set for release in April, is basically done, and manager Don Rudland says the people they had working with her on the album couldn’t have been better.

“The team we’re recording with is stellar. With a young artist like Jerusha, you have to help her on her way. They realized this, and they were always willing to put their two cents in on a song.”

White agrees.

“It’s so brilliant to watch someone who has no real idea where the song is going, so he experiments a bit and suddenly you realize how good it sounds and you think, ‘I wrote that’.”

They started working on the album in Vancouver, then moved to a studio in Edmonton.

“Don knows best when it comes to stuff like that,” White says. “I was like a kid walking through the zoo when we went to visit the different studios. They all looked so new and fascinating.”

When it comes to singing the songs, White feels her training in musical theatre (she performed in A Christmas Carol with Theatre North West) comes in handy.

“When you’re on stage, every song is like a little movie. You have to put yourself into the character for that song, then between songs, you do a mental costume change to become a new character.

“If the song is just words on paper, what is it? You have to feel it.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that she is deeply emotionally connected to all her songs.

“There are a lot of the songs I write that don’t really relate to my life experiences. I mean, I’m still pretty young, I don’t have a lot of life experiences yet.”

Sometimes, though, it’s different.

“Thee was one song that I did really relate to, and it was tough to do it in the studio. They guys in the band recognized right away that this one was different for me, and they were really supportive, helping me through it.”

Catch Jerusha White on Thursday, Jan. 30 at Artspace, when she starts the Regional Showcase at 7 p.m.