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Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Jake White

Unlike some musicians, Jake White was not pushed into music — not by parents who made him practice the piano, not by teachers who saw potential.

He was pulled in by the sound of a guitar.

"I was about 14 and at a barbecue." White said. "I saw a friend playing a Hawaiian guitar, using a slack-key technique. I got so excited about that sound."

So White asked for a guitar for Christmas. "And I just started playing around. I'm largely self-taught."

He started listening to Eric Clapton, Nirvana, Metallica. "Then I saw Michael Hedges at Kingsbury Hall, and I was blown away by his style. It opened up a new world for me. I realized there is a whole lot more you can do with this instrument. I just had to figure it out."

White has studied some music theory, mostly he just experimented with various techniques. "What's different about my music is that I do a lot of tapping and percussive work. I come up over the top of the neck, which is all pretty rare on an acoustic guitar, and then I use different tunings for everything I do.

"Some of the things I do — well, you can tell that at some point in my life I had too much time on my hands to experiment."

White has been performing his music locally for quite awhile — everything from wedding gigs to corporate events to opening for local acts that come to town. He's been especially popular on what he calls the "university theater scene."

Then last fall he was approached by pianist Paul Cardall. "He thought it would be fun to do a CD of some of my original stuff, as well as some traditional hymns and Christian songs with my arrangements."

White already had a couple of tunes that he had arranged, but once he sat down to work on more, "I was amazed at how quickly they came. It was like they were waiting inside the guitar; they wanted to come out."

Arranging hymns for instrumentals is an interesting business, he said. "With vocals, you can repeat the melody because the words change, but with an instrumental arrangement, you don't just want the same thing over and over, so I added interludes and flavors and bridges that give the song a flow."

Another thing that is different about his arrangements, he says, is that they are for solo guitar. "A lot of guitarists will lay down a track and then record another track on top of it. I don't do that. I just play the guitar, even though it sometimes sounds like there's a whole band on stage. I can do bass, drums, snares, bongos. There are just a lot of fun sounds."

Cardall took the guitar tracks and added some piano and cello. "He really made them come alive."

The CD, titled "Sunday Morning," has recently been released on Cardall's Stone Angel Music label. White will also be giving a concert at Fort Douglas Saturday night.

This is not White's first CD. "I actually recorded one when I was 18. It sold a couple thousand copies, which was pretty good for its time. Then I moved toward songwriting. I wanted to balance out the instrumentals with vocals. The kind of music I liked to listen to had lyrics that really pulled me in, that touched me at a deeper level. That's what I wanted. I did a couple of other CDs like that."

But, as it has a way of doing, life stepped in. "I took a break from music." He went to school, married and had a child. "I moved my family to Seattle to do grad school in psychology." They came back to Utah, added another boy to the family, and he got "a real job," which "kept my passion on the back burner."

He did a few musical things every now and then. His "greatest hit" is probably a song called "Memory Lane," which he did for a CD in 2000. "I still have returned missionaries come up to tell me they listened to that every day on their missions."

Then the "Sunday Morning" opportunity came along, and he's loved it, he says. "We'll see how it turns out, but we've already got plans for a second CD in this genre." There are other possibilities, too. "I've also got some vocal tunes. And, I may get back to my 'wild side."'

He'd love to do something more with what he calls "The Machine," a two-necked guitar he designed and built as a high school woodshop project. "There are two-neck guitars out there, but not like this. I've never seen this kind." It's a fretless bass guitar combined with a six-string acoustic guitar, and he remembers carrying it down the halls at school and watching people's jaws drop as they saw it.

And what can be done with it is pretty cool, he says. "I had to figure out the tuning, which was a new medium for me at that time. I actually was surprised when I strung it up and found out it worked. I used to perform on it quite regularly."

Whatever the future holds, White says, music will have a part in it. "Music has always been a language for me that has resonated deeply. Even at a young age I was touched by tunes of a wide variety of styles and genres. And then I started making up my own tunes and melodies and compositions. It's just always been a big part of my life."

If you go

What: Jake White

Where: Fort Douglas Theater, University of Utah

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

How much: $8

Web: www.jakewhite.com

E-mail: [email protected]