Bella White Walks Us Through Her Therapeutic “Among Other Things” LP Track by Track

The folk songwriter’s Jonathan Wilson–produced album is out now via Rounder Records.
Track by Track

Bella White Walks Us Through Her Therapeutic Among Other Things LP Track by Track

The folk songwriter’s Jonathan Wilson–produced album is out now via Rounder Records.

Words: Kim March

Photo: Bree Fish

April 21, 2023

Among Other Things, the latest collection of songs from Calgary-reared songwriter Bella White, is all about instinct. In addition to diverting from bluegrass, the genre she established herself within on her 2020 debut Just Like Leaving, these introspective country-folk ballads take an honest look at the sadness of everyday life through the lens of an individual with a positive outlook on life. “I’m a happy person, but I feel like it’s a way to kind of write in your journal and you decide you’re going to read your journal to a lot of people,” White tells us.

With this in mind, Among Other Things feels like White’s most overtly diaristic work, supplanting country music’s proclivities for storytelling with what she calls “feeling-telling.” Bolstered by production work from Jonathan Wilson and contributions from Erin Rae, Drew Erickson, and Big Thief’s Buck Meek, the result is something seemingly as therapeutic for its creator as it is enjoyable for its listeners, with heartbreak and meditations on mother-daughter relationships fueling some of White’s most heartfelt music to date.

With Among Other Things out today via Rounder Records, we had White take us through the project track by track, sharing how each of these 10 songs came together. Stream the record below, and read on for her words.

1. “The Way I Oughta Go”
One of the first songs we recorded was “The Way I Oughta Go,” and we recorded it at the same time as “Rhododendron.” I was definitely a little nervous, because I feel like anytime you’re working with someone new for the first time—or a whole new group of people, in this case—it’s kind of scary because you’re putting your baby in the hands of other people. Jonathan [Wilson] totally cradled the baby though and was very supportive, and there was so much chemistry and flow that the song just kind of came to life. Also, it was the first song I wrote out of that batch of songs, so it had a life of its own already. It was fascinating to see how Jonathan heard it and what his take was. I feel like it came to a really symbiotic place, and I love the way that it turned out.

2. “Flowers on My Bedside”
“Flowers on My Bedside” is definitely about getting dumped. I have a couple of songs on this record that are just tried and true “you got your heart broke” songs. I feel like “Flowers” was a song where I felt like writing it was a very healing process. I was in a low place and kind of grieving a relationship. I think being able to have that narrative in your hands and be able to take your power back is such a beautiful gift that songwriting offers you. I think that song was a very healing one to write. I left writing that song feeling very empowered.

3. “Dishes”
With “Dishes,” I tried to write a love song, I tried to write a happy song. About a third of the way into writing—or maybe earlier than that—the train left the station and it became another sad song. I only write sad songs, apparently. Maybe one day I’ll write a happy song. I’m a happy person, but I feel like it’s a way to kind of write in your journal and you decide you’re going to read your journal to a lot of people. “Dishes” definitely was attempting to write a kind of love song, and in classic Bella fashion it turned into another sad one. but I think “Dishes” is still a sweet song.

4. “Break My Heart”
“Break My Heart” is another “you got dumped” kind of song. I feel like it’s my pop song, that’s how I look at it. It’s kind of my big, anthemic…I don’t know if you can call your own song an anthem, but in this case I am and it feels like an anthem to me. This one was a really fun one because I was not expecting it to become such a rager. I feel like Jonathan was really down to give it some wings and see what happened, and I feel like it became this kind of big party. It’s like taking a sad thing and turning it into a really fun thing.

5. “Marilyn”
“Marilyn” is a very special song to me. I don’t usually write about other people’s experiences. I often write about my own experiences, whether that’s “this happened to me” or I’m writing about my feelings about something that I’m witnessing. “Marilyn” is more of a story. The first line of the song is “I overheard a man talking to his friends about some gal named Marilyn,” which is true—I did overhear a man, and he was saying some really nasty things about this person in his life, and it made me so angry. It made all of my maternal and/or feminist instincts just go crazy. I was so angry and upset that I felt like the only thing I could really do was channel that into something beautiful. 

“Marilyn” is almost hard to talk about because it’s such a special song to me, and it’s such a sensitive song to me, but the way that we brought it to life feels really special. I feel like it also has some wings, and it was really awesome to have Erin Rae sing on that one because she’s such a powerhouse and such an empowered woman. I was really glad to have another lady collaborate on that song with me.

6. “Numbers”
“Numbers” came to life on the day that I released my first record. I started writing it on the day that Just Like Leaving was released, so there’s kind of an interesting cyclical moment there. It was September, I was in Nashville, it was hot, I was very sweaty and I was having all of the classic thoughts you have when you put something out into the world. “Is this good enough?” or “Are people going to like this?”—just getting pretty existential. Then “Numbers” came to life from these feelings and it turned into a driving, more uplifting song. I feel like I’m in a car when I listen to it. The pedal steel has this summery feeling to it, and it’s another one of those songs where you’re writing about sensitive subject matter but it’s fun to listen to. To me that’s empowering—to take a heavy feeling or a heavy topic and make it lighter than it initially appears.

7. “Rhododendron”
“Rhododendron” was another one of the first songs that we recorded. We did two sessions, so we did one in December of 2021 and the other in May of 2022, and “The Way I Oughta Go” and “Rhododendron” were done first. “Rhododendron” was really special to bring to life because I’d been making bluegrass music before this. I love bluegrass, and I’ll always be a member of that community, but this felt like such a new experience to hear a song of mine take this new form. It’s another song that talks about my relationship with womanhood and motherhood and being a daughter. I wrote it on Mother’s Day, and I was staying at my mom’s house (who looks after my cat when I’m touring). Then we saw a mother robin taking care of its children, and it just felt like there were a lot of aspects of mothering going on around me, and it made me feel really wistful and really think about the relationship between mothers and daughters and what it means to be a caretaker.

8. “Worth My While”
I wrote “Worth My While” when I was just trying to write a country song. Paying homage to all of the greats in country music is something that I want to do on every record I make, because that music really influenced how I sing and how I write songs. I love how they get their point across in classic country music. It’s very “I’m sad, you made me sad, and this is why I’m sad, and I’m going to tell you all about it.” When writing “Worth My While,” believe it or not, I was feeling a little sad and a little spiteful, and the song kind of came out all at once. It was very quick, and I feel like when I brought it into the studio we just recorded it as straight up as we possibly could. We added some fun percussion to kind of give it a vibe. I think it came together in a very classic way, too, which is what I wanted to hear.

9. “The Best of Me”
“The Best of Me” I wrote about a week before I went into the studio. I was in need of more songs just to have some variety, and this track felt very special. We had just put down our family dog, which was devastating to me because I’m such an animal person, and I was having all kinds of these deeply existential thoughts about what it means to be alive, and my life, and where I’m living, and all these things that we can go down rabbit holes thinking about. “The Best of Me” felt like contemplation in some ways. It wasn’t so much a song as much as it was me putting my thoughts on paper, and then it just came together really nicely. Writing this track really felt like therapy to me.

10. “Among Other Things”
“Among Other Things” is the only song I wrote in the studio—the only song I’ve ever written in the studio. I’m normally a plan-ahead kind of girl. I was feeling so much, because making an album is such an emotional experience for me. You’re putting yourself out there, and you’re sharing your work with other people, and you’re collaborating, and it’s really easy to get in your head in some ways. It’s also a super fun experience, and you’re thinking about your future in a way, too. I wrote “Among Other Things” on the fourth day in the studio, and it’s another song that’s kind of contemplative. I feel like there’s two types of songwriting: there’s storytelling and there’s feeling-telling, and I feel like with this song I was just sharing my feelings. I chose this song to be the title track because I feel like this whole album has a lot of newness compared to what I’ve done historically, and how I want my music to be interpreted now is different than anything I’ve done before. This made me feel like “Among Other Things” was a fitting title for the album and for this song.