Jim White: Tiny Desk Concert Jim White grew up in a deeply Pentecostal community and fell in love with the white gospel music he heard. But from there, White took a surprising path to becoming a full-time musician.

Tiny Desk

Jim White

Jim White is a storyteller first, a musician second. When I first heard his music more than a decade ago, I felt compelled to call him up. His musical tales were so compelling, I thought he'd make a great storyteller for All Things Considered. White loved the idea, so I asked him for a four-minute tale — an appropriate length for a radio newsmagazine. He turned in a 13-minute story. I asked him to shorten it; he came back with 17 minutes. He never got on the air.

Jim White and I stayed in touch, and still correspond now and then. Ten years later, I still enjoy his music, his descriptions and love of detail. His tales have been much darker in the past, but these days, White says he's trying to be more optimistic. It's a kind of storytelling rooted in his own unusual history: He grew up in Florida in a deeply Pentecostal community and fell in love with the white gospel music he heard. But from there, he took a surprising path to become a full-time musician. He was a professional surfer, a boxer, a fashion model in Milan and a cab driver in New York City. When he finally picked up the guitar and wrote a handful of songs for a demo, the tape found its way to David Byrne's Luaka Bop label, which has been releasing White's music ever since. He just put out a new six-song EP titled A Funny Little Cross to Bear.

White's travels recently took him near Washington, D.C., so I invited him to play for one of our Tiny Desk Concerts. What we recorded turned out to be the longest of all the shows we've done at my desk. I expected no less.

Set List

  • "Jailbird"
  • "Turquoise House"
  • "Stranger Candy"
  • "Somewhere in the World"
  • "A Town Called Amen"

Credits

Cameras and production by Bob Boilen and Frannie Kelley

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Theodore performs a Tiny Desk Concert on March 27, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Theodore

The music of Theodore is dark and transformative, with the kind of spare elegance you can hear in Sigur Rós or Pink Floyd.

Gary Clark Jr. performs a Tiny Desk Concert on April 1, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Gary Clark Jr.

These three songs, from Clark's incendiary new album This Land, roar with the assurance and force of a showman at the top of his game.

Karine Polwart Trio performs a Tiny Desk Concert on March 22, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Karine Polwart Trio

Scottish singer, songwriter and essayist Karine Polwart seldom comes stateside, eschewing air travel to reduce her carbon footprint. But on a rare, recent visit, she stopped in D.C. for a Tiny Desk.

Georgia Anne Muldrow performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 26, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Georgia Anne Muldrow

The R&B singer from Los Angeles is all about showing and spreading love.

Courtney Marie Andrews performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 2, 2019 (NPR). NPR hide caption

toggle caption NPR

Courtney Marie Andrews

It was a day when sunlight drenched the office and the songs of heart from Courtney Marie Andrews felt right at home.

Weezer performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 27, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Weezer

Performing unplugged, the band forgoes its usual meticulousness in favor of a shaggy, entirely acoustic mix of new songs and '90s-era deep cuts.

Andrea Cruz performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 4, 2019 (Claire Harbage/NPR). Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Andrea Cruz

The singer from Puerto Rico is part of a movement on the island that emphasizes largely acoustic instruments and a folk-based approach to interpreting life before and after the hurricane of 2017.

&More performs a Tiny Desk Concert on March 4, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

&More (Chill Moody & Donn T)

Philadelphia Rapper Chill Moody and singer Donn T, along with their crew known as &More, were one of the standout entrants in last year's Tiny Desk Contest. They bring a message of hope and love.

Back To Top