American Idol's Brooke White Paves Her Own Country Path

Brooke White's new album sparkles.EXPAND
Brooke White's new album sparkles.
Kat Borchart
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

Brooke White’s raspy voice and emotional performances landed her a spot in the Top Five before being eliminated from American Idol's seventh season. But that didn’t stop the Arizona native from paving her own path.

The story of White’s journey from piano girl to indie folk star is documented in her latest single, "Calico," which is short for California country, the new genre she may have created. The song's title shares a name with her new album, which comes out on Friday, October 4.

“My plan actually was to go to Nashville where ‘all the country gold is made,’” says White. “My daughter was in kindergarten and I had a 1-year-old and I was just like, ‘I can’t just up and go to Nashville. This isn’t happening.’”

While she was disappointed she wouldn’t get to make her dream come true in Nashville, White turned things around and made it work in California instead.

During her childhood, White didn’t see herself becoming a performer. It was her uncle, who pushed her to audition for the lead in her high school musical, who made her take the plunge.

“I was under the impression that I was not a good singer,” she says. “I thought that my voice was too low and too raspy. I always wanted to sound like The Little Mermaid. I wanted the voice of Ariel but instead, I got this low, raspy smoker voice, and I haven’t smoked a day in my life.”

California country star Brooke White.EXPAND
California country star Brooke White.
Kat Borchart

Calico marks a musical transition for White, because it’s the first time she was able to do things without someone telling her to “sing less country.”

White collaborated with songwriters Eric Straube and Chris Qualls, who she previously worked with as part of duo Jack and White. The duo never made a country record before, so they experimented until they found what she wanted.

“We’re not in a place where there’s certain expectations for what country music in California should sound like,” White says. “It doesn’t matter here and we get to do whatever we want. It gets to be a full-on just fun experiment.”

The album feels like a breath of fresh air for the singer. Even the cover, with White in her baby blue chaps and white hat with her arms stretched out toward the California palm trees, says she's finally arrived.

“It was painful for me, because I just didn’t believe in myself,” she says. “That lack of belief and confidence was something I had to battle through until way after American Idol. I think I’m finally starting to accept myself. I’m starting to accept my voice.”

Editor's note: In a previous version of this story, Chris Qualls' last name was misspelled. We deeply regret the error.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.