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Gainesville musician makes his mark with debut album: ‘Men as Trees Walking’

Ben White releases his debut album on Aug. 25.

<p>Musician Ben White poses with his guitar in his home in Gainesville, Fla., on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. </p>

Musician Ben White poses with his guitar in his home in Gainesville, Fla., on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023.

Chanting biblical Psalms and hymns in the choirs and quartets of his family church, one pastor’s kid began living his musical dream at an extremely ripe age. 

But three decades later and with a whole new style of music, Ben White has become a rising star in the Gainesville community as he sets out to release an Americana-folk-inspired album three years in the making. 

White, a 38-year-old UF clinical research analyst manager, was born to parents who inspired him with song. His father preached as a church pastor in Norman, Oklahoma, while his mother played piano beside him. 

But little did White anticipate that his life would later turn in a whole new direction, as he sets to release his debut album Aug. 25, “Men as Trees Walking,” which serves as a critique of his Christian upbringing. 

“My parents treated the church building as a daycare,” White said. “They knew they could take me there and drop me off in the auditorium where all the instruments were.” 

In 2005, White’s concept of music completely changed when he moved to Orlando to live with long-time friend, Greg Perkins, a 41-year-old creative director, who introduced him to styles of music previously unfamiliar. 

“I had been insulated in the Christian communities I had been involved in,” White said. “Latching on to the community [Greg] was associated with gave me an opportunity to see some things that were, at the time, pretty mind-boggling and intoxicating.” 

White had officially decided to give up his dream of following in his father’s footsteps to become a pastor and, instead, embarked on his own musical journey of self-discovery by 2010. 

After a 2017 performance at The Atlantic, a now-closed nightclub formerly located on North Main Street, White caught the eye of many music professionals in Gainesville. 

Among them was 34-year-old Brandon Tegl, the co-founder of 4Bits Records. The company was created in early 2023 in an effort to spotlight more local talent, and it later became the label responsible for producing White’s album. 

“Word had gotten around really fast that Ben White is someone we need to be aware of,” Tegl said. 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, White was left with nothing but his instruments and own thoughts to confront while in quarantine. 

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After growing up in the Southern Baptist denomination of Western Evangelicalism, White later learned some things about the community that failed to align with what he was taught his whole life, specifically its promotion of racist and bigoted ideologies such as white supremacy, he said. 

Now traumatized by the church, he began channeling his feelings into a series of songs that would culminate in a monumental musical album, he said. 

“When all of that stuff started to dissipate,” he said, “a natural outpouring of that was trying to find a way to put some of that in song.” 

The process of songwriting allowed White to profess his loss of faith “without actually having to say it,” using metaphors and allegories in his lyrics. 

“Men as Trees Walking” takes its name from Mark 8:24 of the Bible, White said, which tells the tale of a blind man who initially fails to see clearly after Jesus heals him. 

“Something about that specific space felt very familiar,” White said, “because I was going through a period where all the things that I knew and understood were, all of a sudden, no longer clear.” 

The debut album combines folk and Americana instrumentals with music stylings from the likes of The Beatles and Paul Simon, said Perkins, the co-collaborator of the album. 

“We went into this intentionally saying, ‘genre be damned,’’ Perkins said. “If you start with [a genre] in mind, you limit the scope of where you think you can go.” 

The album consists of 10 singles and is expected to be released on all music streaming platforms Aug. 25. Two of the singles are currently available: the title track, “Men as Trees Walking,” released on July 11 and “Adelia,” released on Aug. 8.  

Contact Jared Teitel Follow him on Twitter @jaredteitel.

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Jared Teitel

Jared Teitel is a third-year journalism major, and this is his second semester as an Avenue reporter. In his free time, he enjoys running, shopping, and drinking coffee. 

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