With a new album of songs written mostly during transitional moments of her life, Emily Jane White finds herself at a crossroad —shifting from regionally recognized musician to a buzz artist on a national level.
White, who opens for The Devil Makes Three Friday, just finished her first West Coast tour in support of her debut LP “Dark Overcoat,” which has earned a spot on Rolling Stone's annual hot list.
The magazine named her “hot chanteuse,” a label with which the San Francisco-based singer-songwriter isn't completely comfortable. The 26-year-old's earthy roots and feminist background are at odds with the models on the magazine's pages.
“I was appreciative and grateful for the article, but at the same time I have a very charged critique of sexist imagery,” White says. “I don't find it appealing or tasteful or at all affiliated with what I am about and what I do in the world. It's the same scenario — sex sells. I think it is boring and uncreative.”
But don't confuse White for an overly politicized folk singer; her music generates more comparisons to Cat Power than Joan Baez.
Many songs on “Dark Overcoat” outline personal experiences between 2003 and 2005, when she emerged from college to face personal conflicts and disappointments.
“This album is a compilation of a lot of songs from a particular time period of my life where I felt kind of melancholy,” White says. “I also was sensitive to my own darkness and other peoples' darkness and my relationship with others in that space.”
Around that time, White lived in Bordeaux, France, where she found and lost love.
“I think a lot of my songs are indirectly about him and my relationship with him and my relationship with myself,” White says. “It was the world that I inhabited for those two years, which was kind of a very dark place.”
Northern California's landscape, which surrounded White most of her life, also has shaped her outlook and sound. Raised in rural Mendocino County, White saw a split between a tourism-based economy and blue-collar workers trying to survive as the area's traditional lumber- and fisheries-based industries declined. She witnessed a similar environment while performing in musical collaborations and attending University of California, Santa Cruz.
“Santa Cruz had very beautiful nature, but it also has kind of a dark side,” she says. “There are some very rundown areas and a there is a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that people don't see.”
IF YOU GO
Emily Jane White
Where: The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Nov. 23
Contact: (415) 771-1421 www.theindependentsf.com