Creation Widened in Man's View: An Interview with Blanco White

Photo courtesy of Sequoia Ziff
José María Blanco White, a Spanish theologian and poet, was born in Spain and after being ordained in 1800, fled to England because of his religious doubts. Although a flawed character, his writings have made their way into many anthologies and into the musical process of one Josh Edwards.

“I thought that duality and ambiguity captured some of what I was trying to do in the music by combining influences from both the English and Spanish speaking worlds,” Edwards said. “It felt like the name would give me more freedom and a greater sense of purpose to pursue that initial vision that I first started out with.”

Before taking on the moniker of Blanco White, Edwards first picked up the nylon-stringed guitar as a child before really getting passionate about it as a teenager. As he was studying Spanish as part of his university degree, he spent months in Cádiz in southern Spain learning their tradition of the guitar and Flamenco music. He also studied in Bolivia, learning the charango from a teacher at the local music school.

This specific type of music was actually introduced to him during childhood by his grandmother and he knew that he wanted to incorporate those sounds into his own music. Once he finally began writing with those instruments, everything fell into place.

“I think it was those childhood memories and an early connection with Andean music that made me want to seek out the charango and begin experimenting with it, even if I wasn’t sure what form that experimentation would take,” he said.

His first two EPs, The Wind Rose and Colder Heavens, were a great way to explore those sounds. He was able to take risks not only to learn more about those different types of music but about him as a musician. As he began recording his latest EP, Nocturne, he was able to bring a whole new knowledge of instrumentation and production to the table.

“In the first EP I wanted to see how far I could push and layer arrangements whilst retaining a sense of space in the recordings,” he said. “That process has definitely made me think about arrangement in more logical terms, and think more carefully about the specific function of a given part, whether its rhythmic, textural or melodic. I now also tend to record complete demos with much fuller arrangements; I think it’s important to leave some room for new parts and creativity in the final recording process, but to have a very clear reference and vibe early on I think positively influences your initial recording decisions for an individual song. There have been times where in hindsight I’ve realised we could have recorded in a more intelligent way, but that’s all part of the learning process.”

Josh Edwards saw an opportunity to bring elements of Andalusian and Latin American music back home with him after studying abroad, and has since used those elements to create a unique sound of his own. Much like his idol, José María Blanco White, his writings are how he continues to evolve as a musician.