The White Buffalo

by Tommy Rage
November 2017

The White Buffalo

The White Buffalo

An L.A. cowboy with a bellowing baritone and a gift for musical storytelling brings his eloquent and emotional songs to Madison for his latest release. Known by his performing name: The White Buffalo, Jake Smith’s newest release Darkest Darks, Lightest Light, is truly one of his best (see the review by John Noyd).

Having been raised on both country music and punk rock, The White Buffalo is known for his brilliant acoustic performances and his praised soundtrack releases. The Sons of Anarchy> & Californication TV shows, along with the video game Halo Wars 2 have all featured The White Buffalo; which has led to nominations for NPR’s twelve artists to watch and Billboard’s Folk Chart: ‘Hot Shot Debut’.

Taking the name The White Buffalo, a suggestion from his friends which he drew out of a hat, Jake still takes pride on not being able to be classified. Bringing his new album along with some of his notable favorites to the High Noon Saloon on Sunday December 3rd (), I had a chance to chat with The White Buffalo about his new album & web series, his favorite room in his house and recording a song for a video game.   

Maximum Ink: You were raised with country and punk rock influences, which was more influential for you becoming a musician?
White Buffalo: It’s more of a general thing. I wouldn’t say any one directly influenced me, it was more of an ethos, kind of an idea that you can sing about anything and approach things in a very DIY kind of way.

MI: But you didn’t pick up the guitar until you were 19.
I got my first guitar when I was 19, and I wanted to be punk, but the songs weren’t punk. Maybe that’s because of my country roots, but just absorbing music helped form who I am.

MI: The new album Darkest Darks, Lightest Light has a mix of stripped-down folk and gritty heartland rock.  Has the attention from having your songs on TV shows and movies changed your sound or the way you approached this album?
No, not at all. I just write what comes out. This album is a little more rock forward, a little more swagger and has a little more balls. I think it’s because I didn’t write most of the album before we started recording. I didn’t have a bank of songs, I just had a few loose scripts. Maybe there was a sense of urgency due to the fact that I was writing it, and I hit a lucky and prolific spot where I wrote most of the album while we were recording it.

MI: The first single from Darkest Darks, Lightest Light is called “Avalon”. It’s about a man down on his luck. Did that come from any personal experience about being down on your luck? 
The more I play that song, the more I realize how partially-autobiographical it is.  It’s about a guy who is in desperation and making some bad life decisions.  There is hope in the song, but the hope is delusional. The hope is that something is going to change magically while continuing your lifestyle and life-choices. 

MI: Your songs are often character-driven stories, as well as your own life experiences.  While recording your web series you wore sunglasses as you knew that you were going to be playing an emotional song: “I Got You”.
Ya, that is what I draw on. I really try to push that in each song, whatever emotion is coming across, I try to portray it to make people feel it. I think a lot of my fan base, and people who enjoy my music, they feel something and relate to it. 

MI: You played the new single “Avalon” for your web-series In The Garage. Where did that idea come from to play an acoustic song in your garage? 
I do a lot of my creating in the garage, it’s just a natural and comfortable place for me to be; it’s my little sanctuary. I just started to do the series for fun and gives the fans something personal and maybe something about the songs or me just spitting rubbish.

MI: What’s it like to get a call about having one of your songs featured on a TV show: Sons of Anarchy and Californication TV shows, and the video game Halo Wars 2?
I never get too excited about that kind of thing, but it was cool.  It’s been huge, and the Sons Of Anarchy has been amazing for my career.  You never know when something like that is going to happen, so when something comes, it’s exciting.  The Halo Wars 2 trailer was already written, but they asked me to come in and sing on it.  That was an amazing surprise and it turned out very cool, I thought.

MI: When you first started out, you used to record your songs through your brother’s tape deck. You would make your family & friends cassettes for their birthdays and Christmas.  Do you still write songs for them or do they get a gift instead?   
They get Christmas gifts now. I don’t do the tape thing anymore, I’m actually recording the songs. Most of the stuff I write, I hope is worthy enough for the albums. 

MI: Tell the people here in Madison what they might see if they are thinking about checking out your show at the High Noon Saloon on Sunday December 3rd.
We are going to play a bunch of the songs from the new album, all work very well live. It’s gonna be a trio with a couple of acoustic songs with just me. I’m very excited to bring the rock and passion to the stage there in Madison. 

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White Buffalo
CD: Darkest Darks, Lightest Light Record Label: Unison Music
Purchase Darkest Darks, Lightest Light on Amazon
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