John Paul White Talks About Muscle Shoals, His Mom's Pepper Steak, and More on Biscuits and Jam
About Biscuits & Jam: In the South, talking about food is personal. It's a way of sharing your history, your family, your culture, and yourself. Each week Sid Evans, Editor in Chief of Southern Living, will sit down with celebrity musicians to hear stories of how they grew up, what inspired them, and how they've been shaped by Southern culture. Sid will take us back to some of their most cherished memories and traditions, the family meals they still think about, and their favorite places to eat on the road.
Episode 11: August 11, 2020
John Paul White grew up on the Northern side of the Tennessee/Alabama border. As he began performing in bands in high school, he was soon making friendships with David Hood, Spooner Oldham, and other Muscle Shoals legends.
In 2011, John Paul's career exploded along with musical partner Joy Williams - together known as the Civil Wars - as they released their debut album Barton Hollow, winning two Grammys. Since the duo split up in 2014, John Paul has been busy with his own record label, Single Lock, and his most recent album, The Hurting Kind, came out last year. During our discussion, he spoke t"o me about how times were simpler but not necessarily better when he was growing up, and that exact feeling comes through on his song "The Good Old Days." In the lyrics, John Paul questions whether the benefit of getting things back to how they used to be is just wishful thinking.
On the Cook in the Family
"My mom was definitely the cook in the family. She was actually more of an artist with the way she cooked. There were no recipes or "tablespoon of this, teaspoon of that," which is what I need. My wife is the same way. I'm a great sous chef."
On Favorite Family Recipes
"My favorite has to be Mom's pepper steak. It was round steak that she would cut up in really thin strips and then add peppers, onions, and tomatoes. She would cook it all in the crockpot for most of the day. And then you put it over rice.
It's a very simple dish, but my mom always knew it was my favorite. And to this day, I bet if I asked her, she would be able to remember that."
On His Early Music Inspiration
"Merle Haggard for one, because I would venture to say it's my dad's favorite artist. Merle could do it all: he could out-write most, he could play his guitar.
The second would be Johnny Cash. You felt every word that came out of him, you believed every single thing, every emotion that he gave you. You believed it like it was his life story.
And Patsy Cline. She was the elegant side of it. She and Jim Reeves both showed me a more sophisticated side to where I came from and what I grew up around."
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