For some, Felix White will only be known as the musical element in the hugely successful loosely based cricket podcast Tailenders. Joining Radio 1 DJ Greg James and England’s all-time leading wicket-taker, James Anderson, and the eleventh coolest man in Bristol, Mattchin, White has become the show’s heartbeat. Often using his own vulnerabilities to connect with the listeners, as well as providing backing music for some of the most ludicrous games you’ll ever witness, the guitarist’s exploits in one of Britain’s most unique bands has, for some, fallen by the wayside.
Not me, though. Growing up on the south coast and with my small town residence offering very little in the way of entertainment, I spent my formative years following White and the rest of The Maccabees around from grotty venues to ramshackle festivals and back again, fuelled by cheap red wine and a deep connection to the incandescent indie dancefloor jams the band were producing in their salad days. It must also be said that I’m a huge cricket fan, meaning the chance to speak to Felix about his new book, It’s Always Summer Somewhere: A Matter of Life and Cricket, was an opportunity I was willing to kill for.
The book is, without doubt, one of the best cricketing books ever written. That may sound like a needlessly qualified statement, but there is something truly beautiful, not only about White’s writing, but the subject matter at hand. While cricket is a large part of the book’s focus, it is positioned as a vehicle for which White could deal with some of the most difficult moments in his life, namely the tragic loss of his mother when he was only a teenager.
Throughout the book, White operates with candid humour that not only confirms him as “the nicest guy in indie” but also a deft touch when it comes to approaching difficult subjects. He continues to elucidate how both music and cricket helped him eventually move through his grief, revisiting difficult points in his life and reframing them with cricket in mind. Simply put, if you’re a fan of either music, cricket or Felix White, then this book is a must-have. It will make you laugh, cry and maybe, just maybe, start searching online for local cricket clubs.
When I spoke to White, we were more concerned with the former as we connected with the guitarist to share nine albums he would prescribe for living well. Continuing with our Mental Health Awareness campaign, Far Out Magazine has teamed up with the suicide prevention charity CALM to help connect you with your favourite artists and hear how music has helped them during their darker times and day-to-day lives.
With the full working title of ‘Campaign Against Living Miserably’, the organisation offers a free, confidential and anonymous helpline for those most in need of mental health support. Now lockdown measures have eased, that doesn’t mean that impact of the last eighteen months has ended, and CALM still needs as much help as possible to carry on with its excellent work.
We at Far Out believe in music’s ability to heal. It could be the moment that the needle drops on your favourite song and provides respite from a chaotic world, or, conversely, it might be the fanatic conversation you have with friends about which guitarist was the greatest. Music, it’s safe to say, has always allowed us to connect with one another and ourselves.
In support of CALM, we’re asking a selection of our favourite people to share nine records that they would prescribe for anyone they met and the stories behind their importance. Doctor’s Orders sees some of our favourite musicians, actors, authors, comedians, and more offer up the most important records they deem essential for living well.
Felix White’s 9 favourite albums:
Neil Young – Peace Trail (2016)
Not always regarded as Young’s finest moment in the spotlight, White notes the album Peace Trail largely because of his love for the title track. “I thought this is a really nice one to pick because this was a total revelation to me when I first heard this,” recalls the guitarist, “I was well aware that Neil Young was a comparatively old man. But. the nature of the song is so kind of pure and young and innocent and full of life. There’s something really reassuring and heartening about that.”
Of course, with any Young track, the reason for the song’s connection can be read as well as heard. “The lyrics, especially,” continues White, “It’s about how something’s ended. It’s not specified what, but he’s saying, ‘you know, I haven’t taken my last hit yet. I have to take care when something new is growing. And I’m going to keep my hand in’.”
“Sometimes a song turns up and tells you something that you just need to hear at that moment in your life. And that definitely happened to me a few years ago,” the guitarist continues. “I think it’s always reassuring to be told by someone like Neil, that there are endings and failures, and you just move on and build something new.”
Nick Drake – Pink Moon (1972)
Another classic record from a serial songsmith, White’s next choice comes from Nick Drake and his truly awe-inspiring album Pink Moon. A favourite among many, for White, the LP hits home because of its connection to his past. “I got given Pink Moon by a friend of mine, when I was about 14, maybe, and he said to me, ‘This record is very special to me, and you’re very special to me too.'” That’s quite something for a 14-year-old boy to say to another.
Perhaps owing to its special nature, the album became a lullaby of sort for White. “I hadn’t really hadn’t owned any really melancholic acoustic music till that point. And I used to fall asleep to it. I put it on so quietly and lay completely still. But even though it was so quiet, it would feel like it was filled a room. And so I used to get I developed this habit of only being able to sleep to Nick Drake’s Pink Moon.
“Ever since then, over 20 years later, it will, if my head’s really busy, or crowded, or like, I can’t start looking at my fucking phone, or whatever it is. And I listened to Pink Moon, and it just sends me into a different place.”
Everything Everything – Get To Heaven (2015)
Considering the company they’re keeping, we’d bet Everything Everything are pretty happy to see themselves in this list. For White, their inclusion was derived from his own band and the struggle to find the fun in his former hobby -— and now profession. “The reason I fell in love with this record is that around the time it came out, my band had been doing our thing for like ten or fifteen years, and you do end up getting quite functional about it.” But this album caught White’s attention.
“I fell head over heels in love with this record. But for a record that is so eccentric and has quite a lot of wonkiness, I just found it find it deeply moving.” That emotional movement came because of the realisation that music could still stir his soul, “I felt like it’s good that music can still do this to me.”
Roberta Flack – First Take (1969)
“I only heard it a year ago,” confirms White as he explains the reason for choosing Roberta Flack’s foundational masterpiece First Take. Clearly enamoured by the power of music, White continues to explain how the BBC provided him with a reminder of Flack’s embarrassment of talent: “There was a video of her doing ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ and could not believe what I just heard. I actually couldn’t believe that I’d lived this long without hearing that song, and I actually felt angry with everyone that they hadn’t told me that it was important to hear that song immediately.”
This is a Public Service announcement to encourage you to go and listen to Roberta Flack’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ at your earliest convenience. “Music has an amazing thing of doing that,” White continues, “Where you feel like you’ve heard it all. That all the records you’ll ever need in your life — you’ve got them, and then they’re just something makes everything feel completely new again.”
Few artists are capable of such a seismic cleanse, but Roberta Flack’s First Take is most certainly one of them.
Loudon Wainwright III – History (1992)
Another record picked straight from the heart is Loudon Wainwright III’s History, an album supported by Wainwright’s unique lyrical sensibility. “My parents were in love with Loudon Wainwright,” begins White, “His records are basically completely autobiographical. So, almost, when you trace his records back, it’s like you can chronologically race through his life. He’s a very funny songwriter but also incredibly candid and laid bare, and it’s a real part of my life.”
The Maccabees man continues: “Because I knew my parents loved it so much. And he was so open, even if the sort of messy or dark bits in life, I kind of always framed him in my head as he was one of my parents’ friends, like a friend of the family. And so I’ve always felt like I knew him. And I still feel like that, really.”
However, there is one track that stands out among the bunch in History, “There are so many incredible songs, but there’s one song in particular called ‘Hitting You’, which is a document of him hitting Rufus [Wainwright] in the car and regretting it. I think it’s interesting how much that’s lived with me because it was just clearly just the truth,” Wainwright inspired White by “having the bravery to lay it bare even when you’re coming off clearly the wrong side of it.”
Oasis – Definitely Maybe (1994)
One record that won’t be a surprise when noting White’s age is the Oasis landmark album Definitely Maybe. Like so many others, watching the Mancunian Britpop legends was a life-changing experience. “I definitely think the purpose Oasis instilled into my life was something that I’ll always be very grateful for. I definitely wouldn’t have had wouldn’t have dived into the world I did, with as much commitment and as little fear, if it wasn’t for Oasis.”
There’s no doubt the record is a bar-room crowd-pleaser, the kind of LP that will undoubtedly promote sing-a-longs and spilt beers as soon as the needle drops. But for White, the LP holds a little more importance: “Anytime I listen to that, I’m the child again when the world is really simple and opening up, and it’s sort of a shortcut. I can really embed into myself again that anything is possible. It just gives me that feeling.”
Adding: “That’s why so many records are really important, I think. Records that you’ve lived with. It is because you re-access the person you were and remember the good things about that person.”
Marisa Anderson – Into The Light (2016)
One of the two guitarists in The Maccabees, it seems only fitting that White would doff his cap to another member of the six-string society as he includes the wondrous Marissa Anderson on his list with her instrumental album Into the Light. The record actually provided White with the perfect solitude when the world locked down, and Covid-19 began to besiege our lives.
“I really liked Into the Light,” White tells me, “And was listening to it just getting on trains or whatever and then the pandemic happened. I felt like a lot of people and couldn’t listen to music that had any words in it. For some reason, I felt like words or meaning became really claustrophobic.”
For White, Anderson’s music provided a refuge, “Particularly Marisa Anderson’s songs; they filled my flat with a warmth. I think it’s interesting how music can fill your home and change how it feels. And her music definitely does that… has done that.” It’s a canny insight into how the power of song can completely change an atmosphere, even when faced with the possibility of a literal apocalypse.
Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
It’s not all guitars and rock and roll songsmiths, however, and White makes special mention of Public Enemy’s landmark record It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back as an album that gave him a renewed vigour. “I got into this in my mid-20s, and the same way Everything Everything made me feel renewed, I was completely obsessed with this record. It changed my world and made me feel very energised about life for a long time.”
The change of pace to one’s day is always worth revisiting, and this album is capable of changing just about anything its vibrating airwaves touch. “I was lucky,” continues White, “Because when I was obsessed with it. We did a tour in Australia with Public Enemy, where you’re moving festivals, and you get on the same flights and vans and stuff. So I was listening while actually being in the presence of them, which was really trippy and a once in a lifetime experience.”
Paco De Lucia – Fuente y Caudal (1973)
The final inclusion on the list comes from a sincere spot in White’s heart; his love of the guitar. Perhaps more precisely, his desire to continue to improve his skills and enrich himself at the same time as he picks out Paco De Lucia’s Fuente y Caudal. Being a part of one of the most successful indie bands of the century is all well and good by White had begun to lose sight of his original love for the instrument by the time the group came to a close.
“By the end of playing with the Maccabees,” he told me. “I had so many fucking guitar pedals and stuff that I didn’t even need to play the guitar to make the sounds. Part of my sort of rebuilding of my brain was like, well, I’ve gotta refocus on a discipline of like proper guitar play. So I ended up going into some Flamenco guitar nights and being just really jealous and in awe of the guitar players who could put so much feeling into one guitar. Where guitar is front and centre.”
It inspired White to rouse himself and begin his journey of learning once more, this time with a different discipline. “I’ve been learning to play like that because there is something so exposed about it. The fact that it’s just you and your fingers on a classical guitar is a true expression of musicianship.”
“Paco De Lucia is just the Godfather of it all.”