Hailing from Manhattan, New York, Xavier White sat down with us (virtually) to talk about his background, creativity, favorite music memories, and how he followed his intuition.
As Tapped Brooklyn’s first interview, I was excited to meet with Xavier to learn more about his creative processes and experiences that influenced his R&B and pop fusion sound. Through his lyrics, he offers perspective into his identity and the life he wants to live. His voice withstands incredible and smooth range above attractive and lively beats. I’ve been listening to a lot of his songs after the interview, which play a perfect backdrop for New York City life.
Tell us about your background.
I was born in upstate New York near Albany and raised by a single mother. I started getting into music and singing when I was 12 and I liked how it made people feel. I continued to sing in high school and afterwards, I decided to attend music school in California. But I wasn’t doing too well in California, and blew through most of my money. I returned to upstate New York to get my life together, and with a couple of dollars in my pocket, I luckily got signed to Phase One Network which is an indie record label.
While I was continuing to become more involved in music, I knew that I wasn’t the best out there. I knew that everyone had something so I kept pushing at it, all the time.
I love music from all genres and don’t limit myself to a specific sound. But, at the time, I was listening to a lot of rock and released my first EP, “Our Last Memories.” It flopped but it was an important experience to have, so I switched to R&B. I released the “Cancer vs. Gemini” EP in 2016 and “New York Times” single.
What was the meaning behind the title “Cancer vs. Gemini” for your EP?
In astrology, Cancer comes before Gemini, which causes the two to clash; I had a lot of fights with a Gemini. Overall, the EP is about energy, the good energy and the bad energy. While I am into astrology, I don’t base someone’s entire identity on their signs. Personally, I am a Cancer and Pisces moon sign, for the emotions.
When did you have the feeling of “I should be making my own music” and when did you write your first song?
I got a deal with B Martin and in 2011 we did a song together called “City Girls.” Later in 2012 we went on tour with Mac Miller. A label company liked us and hit us up and the rest is history. If I were to do things differently, I would have given myself more time and enjoyed the process. But you can’t change the past, just your future.
What is your experience as an upcoming black artist in New York and what are the difficulties you experience specifically due to your identity?
I wouldn’t say that coming up in the city as a black artist is hard per say, but it wasn’t easy. I definitely have to approach things in a certain way to get what I want or need from people in the positions that I am trying to work with. But, I have not explicitly been shunned or shut down from my skin color. Sometimes, I’ll have to change my perspective or attitude to get certain opportunities.
In essentially code-switching, how do you balance staying true to your values and art, but needing to adjust parts of yourself to reach more audiences or get more opportunities?
While things may not always align perfectly, I sometimes have to stretch myself to reach a broader audience, which ultimately helps my career. I want to make opportunities happen, but I also don’t want to sell my soul to do so. There is always a tradeoff that I have to make. My identity isn’t black or white, it falls somewhere in the middle. It’s a matter of constantly going back and forth and evaluating the tradeoff every time. It’s about doing what you can, when you can.
What parts of your background and experiences had the biggest effect on your music career?
My life overall impacts my music. It’s the duality of not only challenges but also the cool, fun moments and whatever I am going through. But, sometimes I write about experiences that I have never gone through but would like to. I have always envisioned myself immersed in a cool lifestyle, and I want to manifest that. Some of my songs talk about Range Rovers, and being on a yacht and swimming in the ocean. I picture myself doing all of those things. I have really big dreams for myself.
Can you talk about in detail how Corona has affected you?
Corona has affected my income sixfold. Performances are how artists make their money; all of the streaming revenue goes to the labels. Since the shows are getting cancelled, the whole industry is taking a hit right now.
How are you getting through this slow time in the industry?
I am getting through it by keeping my mind off of all the noise, and by making music. I’ve also been enjoying Tik Tok. The second video I posted received over 100,000 views and I have over 1,400 followers. In fact, I’m more active on Tik Tok than I am on Instagram. Tik Tok is really the new Instagram. It’s also a great way to attract prospective fans into my music channels.
I also watched “Tiger King” and that documentary was crazy! In a way, I think that “Tiger King” gives people hope. Even when times are tough, some people will stick to your plan. For me, I’ve always kept a good, positive attitude and great opportunities always come through. Keep working, it’s beautiful to see how things play out in the future.
How can people support you during this time?
People can support me by streaming my music. Right now, I am good on income. It could be better, but I’m safe right now. Streaming will help and also sharing any of my music that you like. As for my favorite platform, I like Spotify because I can see the streaming statistics.
Let’s talk about one of your top singles, “Love Questions.” Can you explain where the inspiration came from?
“Love Questions” is about deep rooted issues that affect relationships; I am a sensitive person. As an artist, relationships have always been an issue. In regards to being comfortable with rejection and practicing vulnerability, I’m an extrovert. But, with relationships and friendships, I can get very “cut-off-ish.” If I don’t have a good feeling about someone, I’ll immediately stop talking to them. It’s important to me that I don’t risk my mental health with people who don’t care. But, even if people care, I may just perceive it differently. I have no way to open up my heart sometimes.
Artists have to get their feelings out the way, to make something greater and grand and that’s what I am working on right now.
What role does intuition play in your music making process ?
Intuition plays a major role in the music that I put out. The response can vary, and although my intuition is very strong, it can sometimes fail me. However, for me, I have to keep it whether or not it’s working. There could be one song out of hundreds that will work out if I stick to it. Right now, my intuition is saying I’ll have many many big songs out there in the world, I just have to keep trying.
What’s a highlight that you experienced in your music career?
B Martin and I opened for Trey Songz in Miami and that was an incredible experience for me; MIMS and Tyga were also opening then. To this day, most of my fan base came from that show. I also opened for J. Cole at the University of Albany back in 2011. Even back then, he seemed like such a veteran; he was so cool. For that show, J. Cole was opening for Talib Tweli.
Who are your top music inspirations.
I love J. Cole and a lot of other female artists such as Sade and Chaka Khan. I also love Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Kanye. The list goes on, I can’t choose. I listen to a wide variety of music.
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