Considering that Jack White is releasing two albums in the span of three months, it is hardly surprising that he’s also rehearsing more than 100 songs for the accompanying tour.
The prolific musician, 46, unveils the harder-edged “Fear of the Dawn” on Friday, while the mellower “Entering Heaven Alive” arrives July 22. Both bow on his Third Man Records, White’s 13-year-old indie label located in Nashville, Detroit and now London, where the company recently opened a third outpost.
The two albums follow his 2019 release with The Raconteurs (“Help Us, Stranger”) and were birthed following White’s rare respite from songwriting during the first year of the pandemic.
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He’ll also return to the stage for his first major outing in four years when the cheekily titled Supply Chain Issues Tour kicks off Friday with a pair of sold-out shows in his Detroit hometown. The run includes a rotating cast of openers – The Kills, The Afghan Whigs and Chicano Batman among them – and rolls through the U.S. and Europe through August.
The former White Stripes frontman will be joined by musicians Dominic Davis (bass), Quincy McCrary (keyboards) and Daru Jones (drums) as he navigates which 15 or so songs to pluck from that 100-plus reservoir each night.
White talked with USA TODAY from Nashville, where he’s resided since 2005, about his artistic endeavors and why he might finally have to purchase a cell phone.
Question: When putting these two albums together, at what point did your brain start to divide them into the rock side and the acoustic side?
Jack White: These songs that were coming out of me didn’t flow with one another. The eclecticism wasn’t a bad thing; it was a benefit. I had taken 2020 off from writing because I wasn’t inspired. When playing live was taken off the table, it took a lot of the zest out of me. Most of these songs were written in 2021. So much time had gone by that my brain didn’t know what to do without making music.
Q: What is the meaning behind the two titles – “Fear of the Dawn” and “Entering Heaven Alive”?
White: With (“Fear…”), I read an article about eosophobia, an intense fear of the dawn. I still don’t if it’s a real thing, but I thought if it does exist, it was the most horrible thing you could ever have because it would come back to feeling helpless or not being in control of your own destiny and that ended up permeating a lot of songs. And “Entering Heaven Alive” seems like a bridge. I started finding some connecting pieces. I wanted these records to have their own lives and personalities.
Q: In the videos for “Fear of the Dawn” and “Love is Selfish,” your blue hair is quite prominent. Any reason behind the color?
White: I like the idea of people being able to pick up from any of my projects and instantly tell when it’s from. I saw that in the ‘90s with The White Stripes’ red, white and black. I’ve been doing (specific color themes) with my solo records for 10 years and it’s funny, people don’t notice. But it’s just a way of instantly differentiating between a White Stripes record and a solo record.
Q: Both albums are being released in various limited-edition forms – blue, white, posters and special album jackets. Is this your way of still trying to make the physical product special and also urging people to listen to the songs in the order intended?
White: The good news is the Olivias (Rodrigo) and Taylors (Swift) and Adeles have all embraced the idea of multiple variants of their albums. It’s so amazing that those pop singers did that because it helped cement a movement to another generation. These records are flying off the shelves. You can get them at Target and Walmart and that’s awesome. I’m on a mission now to say to the labels, enough time has passed and it’s time to build your own pressing plants again. It’s been 13 years since Third Man (Records) opened and it’s now a 10-month waiting list to get your records pressed. Guys like me shouldn’t have to shoulder this.
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Q: You recently put all of your art and design work under one umbrella online (Jack White Art & Design). Why now?
White: Many of my artist friends had come by over the years and said, nobody knows you do this - sculpture, furniture, directing videos - and you should tell people. I’ll get in conversations with people and I don’t have a phone I can pull out of my pocket to show them videos, so now I can point them to the site.
Q: You still don’t have a cell phone?
White: I never had a smartphone, but that time is about to come to a close. When I was trying to get COVID tests, I’d pull up to a place and needed a QR code and I couldn’t get the test. Now I can’t pick up my kids without calling first, so because of things like that my days are numbered.
Q: With the tour kickoff looming, what have you missed most about being on stage?
White: That creativity, the danger of working without a net, is what I thrive on for myself. Sometimes you think about touring and the lighting and the costumes and the photo shoots. But to play live, that’s why I love this. So, if I had to summarize what I missed … perspective.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jack White releases two Third Man albums, preps tour