Small gallant steps on a rooftop led Xavier White‘s rhythm as he sang over French Montana‘s “Unforgettable” in a recently posted Instagram video. Altitude wind cut out so the focus was entirely on the performance the camera was soliciting from Xavier. It was overcast with the sun showing its head through the clouds; the moody outfit being worn blended in tightly with the rooftop’s floor- an aesthetic Xavier would’ve proudly been promoting, being so in tune with a darker sounding R&B which he wants to appeal to “athletes and college students.”
Sat formidably in his chair in Midtown Manhattan, his once again dark outfit was spotted easily against the vivid, hallucinatory image of The Beatles in the background. The dap he gave was confident but invited itself to politeness as much as it did to gallantry. Sitting down with RESPECT., Xavier White discussed his admiration of Pink Floyd, what he thinks his average fan looks like, and his thoughts on melancholic music topping the charts.
What’s something you’re afraid of?
(looks aside) What am I afraid of. I would say… not being near my family. That’s what I’m afraid of.
My fear of death left when I jumped out of a plane at 18,000 feet in the air.
Yeah. That kind of took away that aspect of fear, but what I’m mostly afraid of now is not being somewhere near some family. I need to be around them for the energy, the good vibes, stuff like that.
How has that fear, then, changed some kind of lifestyle decision?
Made me just wanna work harder ‘cause at the end of the day I’m gonna wanna move my family to a nice house, closer to me where I’ll be established. So it motivates me to just keep grinding and do what I have to do, so then I could be successful a lot quicker, move them out of their living environment, and into a better place.
What do you think your average listener looks like?
Maybe 19… you’re a basketball player… you’re in college. Or maybe like a 22 year old senior football player.
I don’t know (laughs) I got so many different people. A lot of college kids to be honest. It’s real different music so it could be trill at night, or summertime vibes; there’s a lot of different feels and a lot of me going with the vibe. I’m still trying to keep it dark, still trying to keep it as transparent as possible with my listeners. A lot of what I’ve been getting at like through social media is there’s a lot of people who’re athletes, and girls, obviously, and there’s not really an age limit to it. It’s just tons of different people.
Lots from Brazil too. And lots with a Spanish background.
Just now you mentioned how you’re trying to keep it “dark.” Lots of popular songs in and out of the R&B genre have been tinted with a melancholic vibe- take “Summer” by Calvin Harris from awhile back. Why do you think people are drawn to a more moody sound?
I think it’s the vibe that’s going on in the world, you know? A lot of people are different and do different things. I’d say it’s 50/50- half the people in the world like to listen to that moody music, that dark vibe. The other half like the feel good, bright energy song. You can’t really pinpoint exactly what it is. There’s so many different people in the world and there’s plenty of different vibes to go along with it. Depends heavy on individual circumstances and the psychology of somebody, too.
What’s something you would be doing if you weren’t making music?
I’d probably would want to be an actor, or a producer. Something in the entertainment field. When I was kid I said I wanted to be an astronaut (laughs). I get that feeling of being an astronaut when I make good music. I get in that headspace when I play back a song, you know. I just let myself drift in my mind and I’m an astronaut then. So maybe I wasn’t too off when I was six (laughs).
You could argue then it’s not even about the occupation then, it’s just about the catharsis of the success. Whatever form or job it comes in.
You never know if something that you’re “throwing up” is the same thing that’s on one of your listener’s mind, too.
Yeah I mean just the other day I had someone come up to me and say “hey you helped me get over this big depression I had.” On Twitter someone retweeted me that, saying I helped them. I’m like hey man, that’s what it’s there for, you know? All it is is just an antidote for people’s depression, or for people’s moods, etc. Makes you feel good but it can also get you through a tough fight or something.
Who are some artists who you’re influenced by outside of your genre?
Pink Floyd. I love Pink Floyd. I listen to The Dark Side of the Moon maybe once a week. Just to settle my brain a little bit and go to sleep. I like listening to a lot of Green Day, and lot of Simple Plan. Stuff like that. Out of my genre that’s about it.
I think that’s important, listening to bands and stuff. A lot of people, you can tell, only listen to hip-hop and then make hip-hop. Same with any genre of music. Would experimentation with another genre of music be something you’re interested in?
Of course (laughs). That’s the whole point of music, right? To experiment.
Why are these people like this? What can I bring in from this genre to make them like this genre. That’s why pop music is so big because they brought in influences from riddim, to latin, to reggae, to rock… And it’s all just this big pot of experiments and it makes something phenomenal.
I was just thinking about how Ed Sheeran, a British/Irish songwriter, made “Shape of You” and topped the charts, and totally incorporates what you were just talking about.
(laughs) yeah. It all started in Africa though.
So I mention that mainstream sound, and this kinda goes back on other questions in the interview, but would you change up your style to a more accessible, easily digestible one, if it means more money racked up for the family and more exposure? How would you approach that?
I’d do it. It’s all for the fans. My favorite thing is singing, that’s my first thing. I used to sing cover songs back in the day, so I love singing and writing is my second favorite thing. So someone’s telling me to do something different I’d love to experiment with it, you know? I feel like all I am is a projection, a voice, for people. Just an emotion that people somehow identify with. I do it my fans and my family. So if someone tells me I have to switch my style I’ll do it, but I’ll still give my core fan base what they want to hear still. So they know I’m not completely converted to somebody that I’m not.
What about your music would you say is the most adventurous and the least adventurous?
I think it’s an adventure the whole time. Always trying different things that I’m not used to doing. I’ve never stepped back and said “Hm, I should try to appease somebody,” you know? I just did what I felt was right, and people just seem to gravitate toward it.
Below, watch Xavier give more thoughts on how he gets catharsis, telling people what they’re feeling, and the creative direction of his music. Video courtesy of Vocab Entertainment.