The last time Scott White performed in his former hometown of St. Joseph, he was playing loud, terrible rock music with no other purpose than to shatter eardrums.
Suffice to say, many things have changed for White during the past decade. So when he brings his singer-songwriter sensibilities to Foster’s Martini Bar at 9 p.m. March 23, it will have a bigger purpose.
Playing at places in the late ’90s like Cafe Acoustic, The Olive Branch and The Golf Cart Club, White laughs about the high school shenanigans he and his friends used to get up to as beginning musicians. For example, one of his band names was Yellow Brick Roadkill.
“It was bad. It was very Led Zeppelin, Who-esque influenced. I have some of the old recordings. They’re hysterical,” he says. “Everybody’s got to start somewhere. You’ve got to hone your skills, I suppose.”
Like his friends, White would return to his dorm room after the shows were over. It was there that he figured out there was more to music than being obnoxious.
“In high school, it was all electric guitars and just (playing) as loud as we could. In the dorm, I couldn’t do that. So I picked up an acoustic guitar and really started developing my, quote-unquote, style,” he says.
Now married and a father, White has two EPs under his belt. Saturday’s concert will celebrate the release of his latest, “In This City.” It’s a collection of songs ranging from brand-new stuff to a tune he wrote in those days back in his dorm, titled “12:43.”
“I wrote it a long, long time ago. I think I was 18. It was kind of like ‘I can actually pull this off.’ I actually told a story, and it was going from listening to certain types of music to more singer-songwriter-esque and ‘Oh man, I can really say something,’” he says.
Inspired by the writing of singers like Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, White says the song changed the way he looked at things and how he approached a song, with honestly being the anchor.
“For me, if I’m not knocking it out in an hour or two, getting a really good structure, it’s not going to get finished or it’s not very good,” he says.
“The first thing that comes to my head seems to be the most honest. If I sit down and try to rhyme, you know, I get ‘Oh, it’s hey and it’s a gray day.’ It seems really fake and forced.”
Those stories White wrote in song ended up adding to his tale, as it served as the catalyst for he and his wife to move to Nashville — with no jobs and $1,200 in their account — to follow a dream.
In the five years the couple has lived in the area, they have faced ups and downs. Management deals occur and eventually fall through, promises aren’t kept and people don’t always show up to shows.
“It’s lots of near-misses. It’s lots of promises. Unless you’re independently wealthy, it’s really hard to make all the contacts you need and do that,” White says.
With all of those disappointments, there’s no regrets for White.
“There’s always a point where it’s like ‘I have to try. I have to see if I can do this, and if I fail, at least I didn’t look back and ... have any regrets,” he says.
Being a singer-songwriter and not country singer, White says there’s always opportunities, like being pulled aside by Johnny Garcia, a former guitarist for Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, to be asked if he could produce White’s EP.
“In Nashville, if you can sing, write and play, you’re welcome. There’s a lot more here than just country,” he says.
Sitting in a room with Garcia and a Taylor Swift session drummer, White says the experience was one of his greatest educational lessons. Hearing secret stories from the road and learning studio tricks, he not only put set his EP in figurative stone, he was given a class in being a musician.
“I was always the worst musician in the room, which is an awesome place to be because you learn so much,” he says.
So when White hits Foster’s stage, he hopes for a better response than 13 years ago.
“I’m excited. Hopefully I’ve gotten better since high school. That’s one thing about Nashville — it does make you a lot better because everybody’s good,” he says.
Andrew Gaug can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPGaug.