Blanco White is the solo project of London based musician and songwriter Josh Edwards. He studied guitar in Cádiz (Spain), and later the Andean instrument the charango in Sucre (Bolivia); his sound brings together elements of Andalusian and Latin American music alongside the intimate songwriting.
After three EPs, he released his first full-lenght On The Other Side which is out via Yucatan Records. It has been recorded mostly in London and is self-produced by Josh, engineered by Dani Spragg and mixed by Air Studios’ Jake Jackson. Listen below and check our talk with him in wich you find more about the new album, his roots and travels, and details about the new songs.
Let’s start from the current situation. How are you living these strange times and what are the main concerns as an artist?
It’s a very strange time for sure, but the situation is out of our control so I’m trying to stay positive. I feel very fortunate to be able to write music and work from home wherever I am. I’m trying to expand my home recording setup and am grateful for that feeling of independence. But at the same time I’ve really missed hanging out and playing music with my band! Fingers crossed the situation keeps improving. Hope you’re well where you are.
“On The Other Side” is your first full-length. How was born the idea of the album and what was the path of the creative process?
The ideas behind the album really came together during a writing trip to Southern Spain near Tarifa. I drove down from London with all my gear for 3 months in the winter of 2018-19. The opening track ‘On The Other Side’ was the first song I completed after arriving and it felt like a real gateway song for me. It gave me a much clearer vision for how I wanted the rest of the album to sound, and a clearer sense of purpose. Before that moment I definitely felt as though I was searching for something. I hadn’t set out with a clear concept already decided on, so it was really the music that led the way.
You said which the track “Papillon” is a song inspired by Henri Charrière’s book of the same name. What did you like about that book?
I read Papillon because it had been a favourite of a friend of mine who very sadly passed away in 2018. It’s a remarkable book about a jailbreak. I couldn’t put it down. Looking back I think it’s an unusually visual book. I still feel able to explore all the places described in it, and so many moments in the story remain clear. I guess it’s a book that stays with you. The song begins by describing the brutal solitary confinement of the main character and the delirium he experiences. But as a whole it’s really about my friend, and how when I followed the main character through the story, I always found myself thinking of him.
Writing music, I Think, is the most helpful, healing break to reawaken the senses. Are you agree? What is the best part (and the worst, if there is one) of the writing process?
I think that’s true – I love writing music. The genesis of a good idea is always a wonderful moment. It sparks up your imagination, and the mood / arrangement of a song can take shape suddenly. There can be lots of visuals in those moments too. I think playing with those early ideas is always the most fun part of the creative process and it feels very free. Finishing things is much harder and sometimes you can be brought down to earth quite sharply if things don’t live up to the excitement or expectation of those early ideas. Those parts of the writing and recording process can be very tough, but that’s what makes finishing things so rewarding.
You released the official video of the track “Desert Days”. Very powerful, in my opinion. What is the idea behind the video and the track?
Desert Days is a song about feeling you’ve been trapped living in a place too long. It was inspired by the Jorge Luís Borges short story ‘The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths’. In the story the desert stands as the last labyrinth that is impossible to escape from even though there are no walls blocking your way. It’s suffocating paradoxically because of it’s vastness. Javier Lara directed the music video filming in the desert landscapes of Lanzarote. Here’s his description of the video and what he was aiming to achieve:
“Desert Days’ is a piece that is born from the feeling of a man trapped by earth and sky, on his way to freedom he begins to understand that his chances of escaping from there are nil. During his attempt to leave the island he suffers an outbreak of delirium (after days of sun and earth, his mind gives him a bath in an oasis of fresh and crystalline waters) this gives him the strength (and a clue) that he needs to escape. Finally, being aware that he is trapped, he surrenders and waits patiently for his end.”
“Mano a mano” is your first song in Spanish language. How was different write a song in a different language? And you also said which when you were a child “You missed school and went to Mexico, Costa Rica and Peru”. Tell us more about those trips and what impressed you the most.
Lyrics are something I tend to spend quite a long time working on and revising. A lot of my musical heroes are great lyricists and I really love language and literature more generally. With Mano a Mano I began the writing process in English, but nothing I came up with seemed to fit naturally with the melodies in the song. I tried using Spanish words instead and instantly had more success. In that sense it actually felt like an instinctive process, guided above all by the music. What was surprising to me however was that the lyrics came together quicker than any of the other songs on the album, which are all written in English. I think that may have been the case precisely because I don’t have full mastery of the Spanish language. I felt liberated from the more self-critical inner voice that’s present when writing in English.
I was 11 years old the first time I visited Latin America on the trip with my family that you mentioned. It was an incredible experience that I feel so fortunate to have had, and one that was hugely influential on me. I have clear memories of the places we visited and the kindness of people we met. That time gave me a deep fascination with the Spanish speaking world, and also blew open my horizons as a young child. I’ve wanted to travel as much as I can ever since. I think the immensity of the landscapes and witnessing the beauty of pre-Colombian historical sites were the things that struck me most.
You live in London and you studied guitar in Spain and charango in Bolivia. What are your most vivid memories of these places and how did they have a weight on your way to think music?
In Spain, seeing flamenco for the first time is something I will never forget. It was the very first night I arrived in Cádiz, and I was completely blown away by what I saw and heard. For me Spanish guitarists are the best in the world, and seeing that musicianship up close is really special. When it’s combined with a great singer and an audience that has grown up around the rhythms and poetry of flamenco, the results can be overwhelming. It completely blew open what I thought was possible in music.
In Bolivia I spent some of the happiest months of my life, and took lessons in the charango in Sucre with a wonderful teacher. For me Andean music captures the landscapes from where it comes from in an unusual way. It can be very evocative and visual. I remember watching one particular live performance on a football pitch at night in Sucre, celebrating El Día de la Pachamama. That was an incredibly moving evening, and the music was mesmerising. Andean music fascinates me in rhythmic terms, but it’s also the atmosphere and moods it creates that I find so captivating. I’ve always wanted to try and respond to that in my own way in the music.
When this situation will end, I think you’ll go on tour. What kind of shows we can expect from you and what do you like the most when you play live shows compared to the studio sessions?
On our last tour we travelled as a six-piece band, so we have a big set up and want the show to feel really expansive and atmospheric. My aim is to keep building on that, and to try and transport people in some way when they come to see us. It’s amazing for me to play alongside 5 other musicians like that. They are all incredible players and have taken the songs to new places. Sharing the stage with them is very special, and you also share that connection with an audience. That’s something that will always be absent in the studio. Hopefully we can get back on the road soon!
Ritual question. What are the best releases you recently appreciated?
Malena Zavala’s ‘La Yarará’ is an amazing record drawing on lots of Latin influences. The drum and percussion sound on that album is absolutely amazing, taking inspiration from the recording styles used by Buena Vista Social Club. That’s my favourite record at the moment.