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Jack White Is Writing New Music in a Two-Bedroom Nashville Apartment

Jack White
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

Jack White‘s next record is coming together the old-fashioned way — which is to say he’s demoing his new songs on a cheap reel-to-reel recorder in a crummy apartment with no furniture.

White offered a window into his current creative process during a wide-ranging profile piece recently published by the New Yorker, taking the magazine into the two-bedroom walkup where he’s set up shop in the living room, shades drawn. Whether you love White’s music or find him overly affected, the scene described there will probably line up more or less exactly with your expectations.

Writing that White’s recording onto a machine “he bought when he was fourteen with money he made mowing lawns,” the piece runs down the apartment’s spartan contents — a coffee table, a cot, and walls decorated with an American flag and a few photos. “Two portraits of Asian women, one of them a Chinese soldier; another of a group of soldiers,” reads the art inventory. “A picture of [baseball legend] Ty Cobb, whom White admires and feels is misunderstood; and one of some dark-skinned men in loincloths with white skeletons painted on their bodies — Chimbu sing-sing dancers in New Guinea, I learned.”

The idiosyncratic setting seems fitting for a record that finds White working in mysterious ways. “I’m going to try to write songs where I can’t be heard by the next-door neighbor,” he explained. “And I want to write like Michael Jackson would write — instead of writing parts on the instruments or humming melodies, you think of them. To do everything in my head and to do it in silence and use only one room.”

None of which sounds like it’ll alter his defiantly lo-fi traditional aesthetic. Proudly pointing out his four-track setup, White underscored the importance of technical limitations on his work, adding, “With computers you can use three hundred and ten tracks if you want to, but it’s too much freedom.”

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