Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley and other famous music legends look down upon Brandon White as he picks on his Les Paul guitar. There are other posters plastered on the wall as well, but not many. There’s only so much decorating that can be done to an in-home recording studio located in Fairhope, Ala.
Los Angeles would be a more ideal environment, but B-White (as he is called by friends) will just say, “Been there. Done that,” if you make the suggestion. He has the contract to prove it.
But earning that contract was no easy task.
After graduating from Fairhope High School in 2003, White vetoed college and moved to Nashville, Tenn., with his band, Triple 40 — a group comprised of White (guitar), Nick Carroll (bassist) and Kyle Carter (drummer). He spent the next four years of his life playing music and touring all over the southeast.
Toward the end of 2007 he realized he and his band had slipped into the scene every up-and-coming group tries so desperately to avoid – the cover band scene.
“I really felt like I was done with it,” White, 26, said, rattling off some guitar rift on his Les Paul. “Music. Guitar. All of it. I mean, who wants to be the lead guitarist of a cover band when they’re 30?”
This was the first time doubt had crept into White’s mind concerning music. Since he was a child, music was his passion. He received his first instrument, a drum set, at the age of eight, and shortly after his mother taught him to play piano while his father schooled him in guitar.These memories brought a smile to White’s face as he reminisced on the past.
But he wasn’t sure music was a realistic option for survival. “Washing my hands of music was the most realistic option,” White said. He applied to to the University of Alabama for following fall.
Just as the white flag was about to be waived, White’s close friend and bassist, Nick Carroll, secured Triple 40 one last gig – an audition with Michael Warren. The group nailed the audition, and became part of the Michael Warren Band.
Warren, a singler/songwriter, had already established a fan base using his original material, and was being actively pursued by major record labels. “Mike was already doing the original thing,” White said. “Something that we hadn’t been able to do because of the whole cover band rut. He was writing great songs that were getting like 3 – 4,000 listens a day on MySpace.”
The group had only been touring together for a few months when Warren got his big break, signing as a songwriter with Atlantic Records in ‘08. Despite being signed, he continued to tour, and submitted songs from the road and his studio located in Birmingham, Ala.
During this time, White White discovered the uncanny songwriting connection he and Warren shared. “We just write well together,” White said. “You really can’t explain it.” So when Warren’s record label urged him to move to L.A., it came as no surprise that he invited White to join.
Seated at his studio desk, those days seem like a distant memory.
Since the dark days, White has come a long way; inking a deal with Universal Records as a songwriter in 2009, working with some of the biggest names in music , including Toni Braxton and Harvey Mason Jr., and regaining his passion and love for music.
“We moved out to L.A. to get into the mix,” White said. “Everyone who’s doing anything, whether it’s music, acting or whatever is there. If you want to make connections and see the business, it’s the place to go.”
But White has no contract.
He was forced to find work. Well, forced might be a strong word considering he landed a job as a sound engineer for the illustrious Paramount studios. When White wasn’t working, he and Warren collaborated on a regular basis.
In no time it all, the two made “One Shot,” a song they sold to the English boy band, JLS. The song went No.1 on BBC Radio 1 and peaked at #21 on the European Hot 100 singles. White’s reputation as a songwriter, guitarist and sound engineer earned him a publishing contract with Universal Music Group in 2010.
JLS was just the beginning for White. Afterward, Warren pulled his friend into the Atlantic studio to play guitar on a couple of tracks for legendary R&B singer, Toni Braxton. White plays electric on “No Way” and “Don’t Leave,” which wasn’t released on the regular album.
“That was the most nervous I’ve ever been to play,” White said laughing. “I was in the studio in front of Atlantic’s President, Harvey Mason Jr. and Toni Braxton, and they were like, ‘Just play somethin’ real quick. It needs to be good.’”
Knees shaking, White picked out a nice riff on-the-spot. Halfway through, everyone told him to stop – it was what they were looking for. This became the main riff for “Don’t Leave.”
He’s also collaborated with some high-profile producers, such as Brian Kennedy (Rihanna, Jesse McCartney, Chris Brown) & Dapo (Justin Bieber, John Legend, Demi Lovato).
L.A. was great, but the cost of living for a struggling songwriter wasn’t. Rent alone was a financial drain, so White decided to move back to Fairhope.
Currently, White does all of his work from home. He told Fishbowl he writes, records and sends material to his Artist & Repertoire (A&R), via email, who then pitches his songs to the managers of various artists. His most recent cuts include Cody Simpson’s “Summertime” and Jaheim’s “Closer”.
“Sometimes I’ll hit up a producer, ‘cause they’re always makin’ tracks,” White said. “I’ll get the track, write a melody and some lyrics and send it out.”
Currently, there are about 500 tracks in White’s “bank of material” that he has created, either by himself, with Warren or other producers. According to White, his A&R knows them all.
“Let’s say she (White’s A&R) goes into a meeting with an artist’s manager,” White said. “Depending on who it is, she’ll have 10 or more of my songs for the manager to listen to, specific songs she feels are good fits for their client.”
Seated at his studio desk, White looks content. His days as the lead guitarist in a cover band are a footnote in his journey to becoming a songwriter for a major label. He has worked with some of biggest names in music. But more importantly, he kept the same passion and love for music that came with his first drum set as a child.
This article was originally published on Fishbowlrecords.net in fall 2011.