You won’t catch James White wastin’ away in Margaritaville. He’s too busy writing songs and recording albums.
The 53-year-old Osprey resident, who goes by the stage name “Sunny Jim,” has more records to his name than most pop stars.
In fact, White, a Texas native, has been making music for so long his first album, “Postcards from Seven Mile Beach,” is out of print.
The title for his ninth album — the self-explanatory “KISS (Keep it Simple)” — was inspired by a note the singer taped to the door in his garage recording studio.
On the note he wrote: Keep it simple, stupid.
Rather than mix in synthesizer sounds with the usual catchy trop rock guitar riffs, White decided to go acoustic-only, playing snare or Congo drums sparingly on various tracks.
With “Keep it Simple” as his mantra, White produced the CD in five weeks, filling it with songs and stories inspired by friends and family — some true and some imagined, as indicated by the message on the inside of the CD case.
“It was me in front of the mic with a guitar,” says White, a prolific songwriter who launched his music career more than 30 years ago when he joined a nine-piece show band that covered songs from the 1960s and 1970s. “I’ve been writing songs since I was 12 years old, so I pay close attention to what moves me and how I can translate that into something that moves other people.”
White’s skills as a songwriter make him stand out among other beach ballad singers, especially in Southwest Florida. His lyrics are contagious, cheeky and often unapologetically optimistic.
When he sings about coconuts and palm trees, cabana boys and ocean breezes, you can’t help but picture yourself on a beach, sipping a fruity cocktail, unburdened and unwound.
“Trop-rock music is about the upside of life, really,” White says. “Yeah, it’s escapism, and I understand the power of blues music and all, but I’ve never understood why so many people want to dwell on the downside of life. I’d rather sing about the fun stuff.”
White may not be a household name like industry megastar Jimmy Buffett, but he shares many of the singer’s devoted “Parrothead” fan base, thanks to regular broadcasts on Buffett’s Radio Margaritaville on SIRIUS Satellite Radio.
White travels about two weekends a month, performing at private parties, concerts and fundraising events in cities all over the country. A father of 18-year-old twin daughters, he says the key to working as a musician is behaving professionally and maintaining a healthy work/family balance.
His advice to aspiring rockers: “Show up on time and deliver the goods. You’re there to provide the party, not be the party.”
DID YOU KNOW?
James White and his wife, Adela, got a shout-out in Jimmy Buffett’s 1999 autobiography, “A Pirate Looks at Fifty,” after the three became friends following a chance encounter 13 years ago, in the Grand Cayman Islands.
The story goes: White, who was working as the resident performer at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman, gave Buffett and his young son a ride from the airport to the hotel and later babysat the boy for Buffett when he went out to dinner with friends.
“It was really fortuitous,” White says. “Plus, it was nice to see the legendary Jimmy Buffett change a diaper.”
WHITE’S FAN FAVORITES
‘The Tropical Shirt Song’
“I wrote it about people who are non-descript during the week and during the weekend break out their tropical shirts and get wild.”
‘Skeletons on the Beach’
“It’s a true story about a woman whose husband suggests they honeymoon on an island where she has too many skeletons on the beach.”
“The lyrics are … well … basically I want to be your cabana boy.”
Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected]