Masses appeal

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Alex White distinctly remembers the moment he realized he could take his music to the masses. About three years ago, the North Side native was playing guitar and singing for some friends at a party when epiphany struck.

"The room started out with maybe seven people in it, and by the end of the second song, the room was packed," White said during an interview at Rowe Boutique, where he performs monthly during Gallery Hop.

"When I looked out and saw who was in the room, it wasn't just people my age. It wasn't a particular group of people. It was a very broad range of people. There were old people, young people, black people, white people," White said. "In my head, it was like, 'When do you ever hear music that reaches a wide audience like that?'"

Crossing boundaries has been White's tendency since birth. He is in many ways a composite of his culture, a biracial kid who grew up on country and classic rock, only to later discover hip-hop and soul.

At Centennial High School, he was prom king and a football star but also sang in choir and appeared in plays. "I could play a mean game of chess," White said.

The singer-songwriter plays a laid-back blend of hip-hop, folk and pop that puts him in close company with the likes of Ben Harper, Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz. He sings, raps, scats and beatboxes atop "groove-oriented" story-songs, usually tales of romantic pursuits built around acoustic guitar. It's a style many attempt, but few pull off with flair.

White started out playing mostly covers, but as he found his footing, he began to put his own tunes front and center. His work as an athletic trainer took him to North Carolina and Australia, where he applied a similar training regimen to his music career. During his time away from Columbus, White played as many gigs as possible, honing his performance skills and learning to filter his natural charisma into his live show.

When he moved back to town last year, White got serious about playing out. He hit up Craigslist to assemble a band, recorded a demo (Tell Your Friends We Said Hi) to hand out at shows and began playing frequently in bars, coffee shops and boutiques. In his quest to appeal across demographic lines, he will play in any sort of venue for any kind of audience.

This Saturday, that means his monthly Gallery Hop gig, where he says he encounters everyone from 16-year-old skaters to 45-year-old art aficionados. It's all part of his quest to win over all of Columbus before taking on the rest of the world.

"You have to be the master of your own castle," he said.

What: Alex White

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, March 7

Where: Rowe Boutique, Short North