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Don White

April 28 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm


There is no one-word description for what Don White does. He has survived and thrived
for twenty-five years, bringing his audiences to laughter and tears in his live
performances, studio recordings, and on the printed page. He is a storyteller-comedianauthor-troubadour-folk
singer-songwriter. He is a walking challenge to the phrase “file
under.” Best to just sort him under “Don White.”

Don’s approach to music is a weird, unique blend. If he just played folk music, it would
be a handy label. But he has invented his own genre with a mix of humor and powerful
songwriting. White’s arc as a writer and performer has taken him from his industrial
hometown of Lynn, Ma across the country as hitchhiker, through Boston’s comedy clubs
and coffeehouses, and onto the stage with greats like Christine Lavin, Arlo Guthrie, Taj
Mahal, Ritchie Havens, Patty Larkin, Bill Morrissey, Tom Rush, and Louden Wainright
III. At every point, White has been the ultimate observer, infusing his work with his
experiences as a husband, a father, a seeker, and a joker.


White’s career took a whole new direction when he started hosting a music open mic at
one of the country’s hottest comedy clubs, Catch A Rising Star in Harvard Square. “I was
still playing folks clubs, but I was living basically at Catch a Rising Star. They would do
nine shows in a week and I would go to every show and just watch and study. And then
when I was on the bill with people – I did a week with Jeff Dunham, I was down there
with Lewis Black.”

White now had the toolkit of both songwriter and club comedian – he was “comedian
funny,” not “folk funny,” he says. But he quickly realized that the comedy club
environment wouldn’t work for him. He wanted to take what he’d learned and bring it
into an environment where he could be serious, too. That meant the folk world, where his
abilities were unique. “I was bringing comedian sensibilities to a show, and then I had a
couple of songs like ‘I Know What Love Is’ so now they’re laughing their head off, and
now they’re crying, and that is my niche.”

Many songwriters use their real lives for inspiration, but few do it like White. He often
draws inspiration from his family, whether it’s a touching song about the circle of life or
an uproarious story about dealing with his daughter. “It’s what I’m comfortable doing.
It’s what I know. I’m always amazed by people who write songs about the Civil War in a
convincing way and were never there. I assume they were never there. Write about what
you know. I’ve been raising kids and being in a relationship since I was a kid myself. I
mean, I could try to write about other things, and I do, occasionally, but that’s what I
know best.”

In 2008, White released a compilation, The Best of Don White 1992-2008, and followed
that up with a live album with his old friend and touring partner, Christine Lavin, called
Live at the Ark: The Father’s Day Concert. He would finally get back to the studio after a
seven-year absence to release Winning Streak in 2011.

Unquestionably, White is an odd fit in any medium. The folk world doesn’t know what to
do with a guy this funny and sometimes sarcastic. The comedy world is suspicious of
sentimentality. The one place no one questions what he does is onstage, where he can
reach any audience. “I really don’t know anything else. But it comes with some
liabilities. A lot of people who are funny and play guitar really fall under ‘novelty act.’
And I don’t really care for that myself. Parodies and things like that. I don’t find it
entertaining. The serious folk world, they don’t embrace it. You have to find your

White has stayed involved in his community, often helping young musicians navigate the
local scene, and creating outlets for creative expression like the Speak Up! Spoken Word
Open Mic and Don White’s Sunday Night Open Mic at the Walnut Street Café in Lynn.
“Now I’m an elder statesman, and I wanted to take what I’ve learned and let other people
see how to do it. And create spaces and opportunities for other people to have this
interesting outlet.”

He continues to grow and evolve as a writer. In 2006, he entered a new medium with the
release of his autobiography, Memoirs of a C Student. The longer format allowed him to
go take the stories he tells onstage and draw them out, to give a more complete picture of
White as a performer and as a human being. “I think that writing the book is the most
freedom that I’ve had as a writer, as a creative artist.”

What’s the next stage? Only White knows for sure. “As a writer, I’m interested in all
kinds of things now. I have all these ideas now where I want to let the story tell the story,
instead of coming out and saying, ‘This is how I feel.’ I want to write that way now.”



April 28
8:00 pm - 10:00 pm


The Buttonwood Tree
(860) 347-4957


The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts & Cultural Center
605 Main Street
Middletown, 06457 United States
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