Swamp Fox set for a fresh run

Tony Joe White aka The Swamp Fox is bringning his sound to the TSB Showplace on March 20.
Tony Joe White aka The Swamp Fox is bringning his sound to the TSB Showplace on March 20.

Tony Joe White always planned on being a professional baseball player.

That was until his older brother brought home a blues record by Lightnin' Hopkins when White was 15 years old.

"I heard that and went, 'Oh man, so this is what it's all about'.

"This guy with his guitar and the foot stompin', man, I heard that and it turned me round.

"There was nothing ever entered my mind after that."

The baseball dream struck out for the man from Louisiana, and he soon began playing his guitar at high school dances and clubs.

White, the youngest of seven children - with five sisters and a brother - grew up on a cotton farm.

Speaking to the Taranaki Daily News from his studio in Franklin, outside Nashville, the 69-year-old singer-songwriter was more than happy to talk about his sound.

He said there was nothing more satisfying than creating a "swampy" song that made him feel good.

"I just love the realness of it and writing about what I know - and I know the swamp."

Which brings us to his nickname, "The Swamp Fox".

"I cut an album and on that was a song called Soul Francisco.

"It was kind of about the hippie days and all of a sudden it was a No 1 hit in Paris, France.

"The Swamp Fox came from the press in Paris, France and it kind of just stuck with me through the years."

White is no stranger to New Zealand, having played in the "big cities" several times.

However, he said that after a three-year break from the country he was ready to come back.

"I just always really loved the way the people treat me because it's kinda like my home of Louisiana.

"When you come out on the stage they make you feel like you're home.

"I'm looking forward to getting back down there and playing my new songs."

He said he remembered Wellington very well.

"Tina Turner and I played together in Wellington a few years back and the thing I remember most is a storm came and blew the stage off the universe at rehearsal.

"That's kinda wild old country down there - the wind blows different ways and man, it was really a night."

White said the New Zealand crowd would be treated to a sneak peek of the tunes off his new album, which is about his 15th or 16th album - he couldn't quite remember. "Most of the songs on the album are all rockin' and swampy and dancing type things.

"I've got one slow one on the album but the rest of them are sweaty and rockin' - a lot of guitar.

"I've been writing for the last year and it's gonna be going out just the way I wanted it to - just a sweaty album."

He's been in the game for more than 40 years, and in that time White said the highlights would be seeing his heroes singing his songs.

He's written for the likes of Tina Turner, Elvis Presley, and Joe Cocker.

"Usually if they were gettin' ready to sing one of my songs they'd phone me up and say, 'Bring your guitar and come to the session, we want you to play on it'.

"So all of a sudden here I am playing guitar with these beautiful people who were my heroes, so I was very lucky."

The keen fisherman, horseman, and golfer said it didn't matter how old he was, he didn't plan on stopping his music any time soon.

"I never think about the years or the age, I just think about the songs, and as long as I keep writin' and the songs keep comin' to me, I don't really think about nothing else."

Taranaki Daily News