Keith White


EP 120: Keith White (autogenerated)

Dane Reis: [00:00:00] you booked it. Episode one 20. Okay, let’s get started. I am excited to introduce my guest today. Keith White, are you ready for this Keith?

[00:00:14]Keith White: [00:00:14] Yes.

[00:00:15] Dane Reis: [00:00:15] All right. Keith is a New York based artist. He is a singer actor writer doing his best to express himself with words and music. Keith was raised in Augusta, Georgia, and in the Bay area of Northern California, creating a unique blend of Southern soul and California love as his base for his artistic journey.

[00:00:35] He attended college at the Boston conservatory where he studied musical theater, then moved to New York city to pursue a career on Broadway.  notably Keith was in the second national tour of Jersey boys and then made him his Broadway debut in the original Broadway cast of a Bronx tale since ending his run on Broadway, just performed regionally in theaters all over the country.

[00:00:59] Appeared on TV on CBS is unforgettable and stars. Godfather of Harlem and gig in various clubs, all over New York city with his solo music shows and his solo cabaret show, we all try a Frank ocean tribute show. Keith currently is writing new theater and digital shows, songs and poems.

[00:01:20] You can see some of his writing in drew Gasperini, we aren’t kids anymore. And one of the theme songs for the podcast just to make it stupid. Keith, that is a quick intro of who you are and what you’ve done, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself, fill in the gaps and a little bit more about what you do as a professional in the entertainment industry.

[00:01:45]Keith White: [00:01:45] Oh, okay. So I am an actor. That is how I’ve made most of my money as a, in terms of a career. And I stay in New York trying to just be an artist, uh, and , create a space for my life that has purpose, and also keeps me happy and keeps me paid. And, uh, yeah, that,

[00:02:05] Dane Reis: [00:02:05] Right on.

[00:02:06]Perfect. And let’s move on to this next section here. And Keith, look, I am a sucker for a good quote. What is your favorite quote? You’d like to share with everyone?

[00:02:18]Keith White: [00:02:18] an artist always has something to say.

[00:02:21]Dane Reis: [00:02:21] Yes. I really liked that. Can you delve into that and expand on how that’s fit into your career?

[00:02:27]Keith White: [00:02:27] Yeah, absolutely. Well, it’s a quote that my dad gave me a long time ago. My dad’s a photographer and he spent most of his life just shooting, uh, chasing light, as he says. And. He told me that as I was filling out college applications and like there were essay parts and he was telling me that I better have something to say, if I’m going to go into this career, this lifestyle as an artist.

[00:02:53] And so that stays with me with almost everything I do. Um, I’m constantly trying to figure out, you know, how the material that I’m working with. , uh, resonates with me and then how through me, I can put it out there and express what I feel about it. Um, yeah. And hopefully then it, it connects with someone or, you know, vibrates in a way that has impact as all things do I guess.

[00:03:15] But I hope my impact is positive with people or at least something that changes them, you know? you know?

[00:03:21]Dane Reis: [00:03:21] Yeah, for sure. And. It sounds to me that you are really concentrating on you yourself first and creating your art and figuring out what your trying to say versus trying to meet the audience member where they’re at, but instead saying, Hey, this is what I have to share. I’m just putting it out there.

[00:03:43]Keith White: [00:03:43] Yeah, it’s a weird. Thing to realize when, you know, you know, before, as, as I was growing up and going to college and then coming out of college, I knew that I just went to work in industry and, um, make money. And at that time, just like be a star on Broadway. Um, And I still, you know, want to do that and still want to perform, you know, on that platform of Broadway.

[00:04:05] Cause some really amazing stuff gets made there, but there’s also in terms of that industry and business in general and commercial things, and just as you get older, you start to learn the things that you want to say that vibrate with few and, and sort of, I was chasing something that maybe was presented to me.

[00:04:21] And now it’s morphing into what I really want to present myself. And those two things are converging all the time.

[00:04:28]Dane Reis: [00:04:28] Yeah, I think that’s really good insight on that. I thank you for sharing that. And let’s get into this next section here. And Keith, of course you are an entertainer, I’m an entertainer. And I think that you would agree that this industry can be one of the most subjective, brutally, honest, personally, emotional industries in existence.

[00:04:51] And you know, you know, as well as I, that in order to create and have a successful career in this industry, like your having now, it takes a lot. Of dedication and hard work. And while, yeah, there’s an outrageous amount of fun excitement doing what we do. There are also our fair share of obstacles, challenges, and failures.

[00:05:12] We are going to experience and we’re going to have to move forward through. So tell us what is one key challenge, obstacle failure you’ve experienced in your career and how did you come out the other side better because of it.

[00:05:25]Keith White: [00:05:25] yeah. You know, there are tons of little things that have happened along the way that I have to get through you. You set expectations about maybe a job that you really want and you don’t get, which totally happens all the time. Um, but one of the biggest challenges I think is, um, you know, you just have to.

[00:05:44]It’s like what I just said about, um, the two worlds converging of learning, how to say what it is I want to say. And also then have a career, you know, to then also sometimes do the things that you don’t want to do. That was like a hard lesson for me to learn growing up that sometimes you have to take a job or, um, I mean, it can even be a side job to keep pursuing the.

[00:06:07]Lifestyle that you set out for yourself. Do you know what I mean?

[00:06:10] Dane Reis: [00:06:10] For sure. 

[00:06:11] Keith White: [00:06:11] like, I mean, one key failure. I try to put them all behind me, honestly. I can’t like I try to not remember the failures so that I just keep moving forward and maybe that’s not healthy.

[00:06:22] Dane Reis: [00:06:22] No, I think that’s

[00:06:23] Keith White: [00:06:23] Maybe I’m not learning. I don’t know.

[00:06:24]Dane Reis: [00:06:24] Very good. Yeah. I think it is really tough.  first off, first off. I think we have to fail forward. We have to

[00:06:30] keep moving forward. And the fact that you’re continuing a career in this industry is clearly a Testament to the fact that you are learning from the mistakes that you’ve made in your past, because it’s impossible to keep doing everything wrong and then keep in this career and have a sustainable lifestyle in this career.

[00:06:48]But you’re right. Finding those times when you kind of have to go, all right, this gig is not ideal, but this is what I got to do for the moment. So I can continue pursuing what it is that I love and what, like you said, what I set out to do from the beginning. There’s so much to be said about that.

[00:07:05] Sometimes you get lucky and you get a really great streak of just doing projects that fulfill you, artistically. They check all the boxes, but know that that that’s not always the case.

[00:07:16]Keith White: [00:07:16] Yeah. You know, like the biggest challenge itself, cause it is such hard work. It is such discipline. The challenge is the biggest challenge. And I would say the key one is the thing itself, you know, is sticking with it. Cause it’s so easy to. To give up on this thing, because it is so hard, but you also know that the joys that it does bring you, so it’s sticking with it.

[00:07:36] I would say is the biggest challenge, you know, in terms of the, I just want to make sure I don’t sound really, um, dark and pessimistic. Like this thing is so hard because for the people listening, cause I’m sure there are people out there that want to know, you know, what can I do like, and cause they want to live this lifestyle and you can’t do it.

[00:07:48] It’s just that it is. It’s really hard. I mean, I think the biggest. Obstacle the biggest failure, biggest challenge is the realizing how hard it is. Every step of the way the continuous realization of this is not what I thought it was going to be.

[00:08:03]Dane Reis: [00:08:03] yeah, for sure. And. This career is hard because unlike a normal job, you don’t get up at the same time, five days a week and go to the same place. Do your thing, get money, do it again. That’s just not the way our industry works. There are wonderful times. I found in my career where I’ve had that experience.

[00:08:23] I’ve been on a contract and it’s very regular and you’re in your show and you’re doing it. And that’s really fun. I’m sure you’ve experienced that when you were on tour and when you’re on Broadway, but. What I found in doing that when I found myself in those kinds of situations, , depending on the show, if it consumed too much of my time and I wasn’t able to explore other things is grateful and thankful.

[00:08:44] I was like, Oh great. I’ve got this regular steady gig for a minute. And I can just kind of kind of relax into this and really enjoy the show and what I’m doing. I love that time. But for myself personally, I eventually go, okay, I’ve been doing this for a little while now. Where’s the next adventure come on for myself personally, I, I am not wired to go to the same thing day in, day out for year after year.

[00:09:08]Keith White: [00:09:08] Oh, yes. And that is our industry too, especially what it’s doing, because there’s this special kind of, it’s not just go to your cubicle, do that job the same everyday, but it’s actually like, if you’re a performer, you’re saying the same words every day, you’re doing the exact same movements every day. And that, that, that can be a maddening thing too.

[00:09:26] Dane Reis: [00:09:26] For sure. And there’s a lot of exploration in there as well, and that’s fun, but. Yeah. I always find that a longterm gig. Eventually doesn’t quite sit well with me. Uh, I love it for the moment and it’s so great to have, but I love, I love this adventure of this career and it’s so fulfilling to me.

[00:09:42]Keith White: [00:09:42] Completely.

[00:09:43]Dane Reis: [00:09:43] Beautiful.

[00:09:43] Well, Well, let’s move on to a time that I like to call your spotlight moment. That one moment in time you realized, yes, I am going to be an entertainer for a living or maybe it was, yes, this is what I need to be doing as an entertainer. Tell us about that.

[00:10:05]Keith White: [00:10:05] I just know that I always kind of wanted to perform. I just knew that, that I always wanted to be singing and doing shows. I always liked that. And I always had an idea that I would be doing this as a career. But the one, the first moment that I was like, Oh, I need this. Like, I need this in my life.

[00:10:19] I’m addicted to, it was, . I was doing a production of the show, children of Eden when I was like, I think 13 or maybe 12. And it was community theater and I was one of three boys in the whole show. And I don’t know if people know the show, but there’s definitely more than three male characters.

[00:10:40] Um, Um, 

[00:10:41] and I was so young. I mean, I was 12 and I was because for what, just because of the slim pickings, I was chosen to be the lead of the show, which I didn’t think I could do at all these things I had done before. And I was always like, you know, just the 50th kid, like in the show, in the background. And  the director, asked me to sing something and I liked singing, but I’d never sung before. And he’s telling me to sing the scale and it got to a point. I was like, okay, I can’t sing. That’s too high. And he told me me to do like two things, like open my mouth wider and like, like, just be loud. And I kept singing higher and higher up the scale. And that feeling was like crack. So I knew that actually was like, the moment I was like, Oh, I’m.

[00:11:23] This is what I need to be doing for the rest of my life. This thing of like yelling and singing these notes. And I will never forget that moment. Matthew Trombetta, the director,

[00:11:32]Dane Reis: [00:11:32] Oh, so good. And that is a good show. If my is in whatever time we have, is that that’s

[00:11:39] that that’s that’s from the truth. Yes. I love that show. Such a 

[00:11:42] Keith White: [00:11:42] Schwartz before wicked wrote these incredible songs and you can hear wicked all through that score. And then it just never got big and then wicked. And it was like, this is all, this is all children have eaten

[00:11:55]Dane Reis: [00:11:55] Now that, now that you said that you’re right. The parallels that in whatever time we have is very much of, um, uh, what is new? What is the song? What is the song now that your mind, as long as your mind? Yes. It’s basically the, I mean the same form, right? 

[00:12:09] Keith White: [00:12:09] Same form and Oh, he just writes such good, like poppy musical theater,

[00:12:13] Dane Reis: [00:12:13] Yeah. Well, there’s songs that you leave the theater singing, which is

[00:12:16] Keith White: [00:12:16] Yes. He’s so good at that.

[00:12:18] Dane Reis: [00:12:18] Yeah, love it. And I want to piggyback. Yes,

[00:12:26] please. And let’s piggyback on that real quick and let’s talk about your number one, booked it moment. Walk us through that day, the auditions and callbacks, if they happen to be a part of it or what was going on in your life. And what about that moment makes it your favorite? What did moment

[00:12:49]Keith White: [00:12:49] Yes. So I had booked Jersey boys, and I was very excited about that. Like, it was definitely the first big gig, like I was ever going to do. Like, it was major. It was like, it was the first time I’d be like, Oh, I’ll have a steady gig for a long time. It’s going to pay well, like this is going to do, this is a next level job.

[00:13:04]And I had booked it. And, but through that audition of like callbacks and callbacks and college, there was like four callbacks. They asked me to. Do the dance lab. Yeah. Of a Bronx tale, the musical. And it was still in like pre production. And I thought it was, you know, it was going to be a month long. And then I was going to go on Jersey boys.

[00:13:26] And I didn’t think anything of it. I was like, wow, how lucky am I just get to do this gig? I mean, I knew nothing about the gig. I really knew nothing. I didn’t know who wrote it. I really didn’t. I didn’t know who Jerry Zach’s was the director and. I get into the rehearsal room and it’s Sergio Trujillo, who did Jersey boys.

[00:13:43] And he comes up to me and he’s like, so you’re the guy I hired without ever seen. Cause he never saw me in auditions. And I said, yeah. And he goes, okay, well don’t let me down. That’s the first day I’m in this room with like vets, everybody. I wasn’t even equity yet. I, on the first day of that contract, the equity meeting happens and , the equity.

[00:14:04]The deputy or the guy that’s the representative for equity. He goes   first words out of his mouth. First words of the whole process of everyone in the same room who is Keith White. And I was like me, young I’m easily youngest person there. And he goes, are you equity Keith White? And I said, no. And he goes, well, well, you were about to be.

[00:14:21] And then everyone started clapping and it was very nice. So that felt really good. But the best part about it was we worked every day for six days a week, five days a week. For a month. And I thought it was just going to be over that I’d gone to her. And I had so much fun. I had worked so hard. It was like a life that I was loving.

[00:14:38] I was living in New York and working every day on a rehearsal. And it was the day before the last day. And I was riding home on the subway and I started crying because it was going to be over and I had enjoyed it so much. And the next day we all come in, we have our last day and I had all these goodbyes prepared 

[00:14:55] and Sergio the choreographer comes up to me and I’m about to say, you know, thank you so much for having me. This has been the best week I cried yesterday. He puts his hands on his shoulder, my shoulders, and he goes, you’re going to be in this show. And I was like, huh.

[00:15:09] And he said, you’re going to be in this show. I said, Oh, okay. And I’ll see you soon. And he walks away. And that’s when he told me I had booked a Bronxdale and I didn’t even get to say all my, my goodbyes and the speech I planned. And that’s when I found that out. I was, that was my favorite book at the moment.

[00:15:25] Dane Reis: [00:15:25] Oh, that is so cool. And so unique as well. What a different experience. That’s so great.

[00:15:32] Keith White: [00:15:32] Yeah, it was amazing. These are, this is the happy stuff now for your listeners out there, they’re all like, man, maybe I don’t want to do this. No, but there’s this incredible moments. That’s why you keep doing it.

[00:15:42] Dane Reis: [00:15:42] Yeah, of course. Can you talk about doing a Bronx tale a little bit?

[00:15:48]Keith White: [00:15:48] Yeah, it was, I mean, it was amazing. It was, um, you know, to have two years where like my dream came true of being on Broadway and the people that were, I  got to do that show with, you know, we, I don’t know if it was the culture of the show of the building or whatever, you know, but something infused in all of us and it really was a good group of people.

[00:16:05]I, you know, there really wasn’t any bad blood in it. I don’t know if people out there are, you know, it seemed like Nick core Darrow just had this big moment on like people magazine and, um, cause he had gotten COVID and there was a saga that people followed. Nick was in that show. It was the last show he was in and out and it was incredible getting to work with him and it was everything.

[00:16:26]I mean, Robert DeNiro was. Co-director, uh, he, it was, it didn’t seem like real life on the flip. On the flip side, it was so hard. I mean, it was every day doing the same thing. I mean, it was hard work. I mean, my back is never going to be the same, but I would do it all again. I definitely would, but it was, um, it was incredible.

[00:16:46]Dane Reis: [00:16:46] That is so cool. Love that story. Thank you. And let’s take a moment to talk about the present. What projects are you working on now? What are you looking forward to? And it’s a weird time, right? We’re amidst this global pandemic. How do you see the entertainment industry moving forward in the next couple of years?

[00:17:09]Keith White: [00:17:09] Yeah, that’s a great question. Uh, you know, it’s already been shifting to digital, but I feel like digital is going to be shifting hoarder a lot harder, these coming years and stuff. , um, I can’t wait for the day that we all do get to come back and do the theater thing. I think it’s going to be a super cathartic experience for it.

[00:17:28]People that are in it, people that are watching it for everyone, you know that that’s good. I can’t wait for that. But anyway, what projects am I working on now? Well, it’s been a, you know, a great moment for introspection and I moved in with my girlfriend five days ago. So I’m working on that project of our first place together.

[00:17:44] So that’s amazing. Um, I’m trying to have my creativity be a thing that keeps me happy. You know, cause as we, we are learning that the arts while, okay. I don’t agree that they are not essential as we are seeing, you know, they, we are literally living in a time of essential workers and they don’t need performers right now, not live shows, which I think is right in that it’s not essential, but I do think it’s necessary.

[00:18:11] I do think the arts are necessary in our lives. We need more of it. You know, don’t twist my words and say that I want. Arts funding cut. Cause I don’t, I think there needs to be more of it. Um, but, uh, so, but I am trying to make sure that in this time, since it’s not here with me, my creative career, I want to keep doing it and see it as the thing that I love, you know, keep doing it to make me happy.

[00:18:33] Cause there is a lot of, you know, you know, I’ve got friends are leaving the business friends that are starting new careers and me, you know, I am. Trying to write things and keep it paying me, you know, trying to keep doing a career in this. Uh, but you know, I, you know, there are side jobs galore that, uh, that are not, you know, creative a lot, uh, not creative at all, just to, you know, stay living in this world.

[00:18:55]Uh, but, uh, yeah, I I’m interested to see what the entertainment industry is going to do. It’s got to shift, it’s going to be around, but. It’s going to be interesting, but yeah, I’m writing, I’m singing, I’m making music. I’m going to put stuff out soon on digital platforms, but that’s the thing you have to make your own work.

[00:19:09] You, the other funny thing about this for performers and people that work in the theater is. Part of this quarantine life. Some people took it as a big shocks. Some actors were like, man, this is what my life has been. You know, like, cause you go gig for a while and then you have nothing for maybe years.

[00:19:25] And you know, you just have to figure out how to survive without doing your thing. anyways, that was a really long answer.

[00:19:32] Dane Reis: [00:19:32] Really good. I really like how you made the distinction between, you know, the arts being an essential business and unnecessary business. And I think you’re so right in that, because the arts are so important to having our escape , helping our wellbeing and our, in our mental health for so many people.

[00:19:53]I mean, whether it’s YouTube videos or tic talk or Netflix or whatever, People are consuming so much content for entertainment purposes. 

[00:20:04]Keith White: [00:20:04] absolutely.

[00:20:06] It’s how we cope, but it’s also helping, you know, some people learn and grow and find themselves through creative pursuits. I mean, yes, it helps us cope when we get to watch something and experience art, but it also helps us grow. I think when we, partake in the creative process, like in any kind of way, I think anyone benefits from, you know, whatever, even if, even if you aren’t doing a.

[00:20:28] A career out of it, but, you know, just making stuff, you know, crocheting, like, I mean really like just being creative, creating things.

[00:20:35]Dane Reis: [00:20:35] For sure. And it is time to move on to one of my favorite sections in the interview. I call it the grease lightning round. I am going to ask you a handful of questions. I want you to answer them as quickly and concisely as possible one after another. Are you ready?

[00:20:55]All right. First question. What was the one thing holding you back from committing to a career as an entertainer?

[00:21:02]Keith White: [00:21:02] The one thing that holds me back as far from committing to a career as an entertainer is myself.

[00:21:08]Dane Reis: [00:21:08] There you go. Second question. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

[00:21:14]Keith White: [00:21:14] Um, it’s create your own work. Uh, got that from my college teacher, Johnny Koontz.

[00:21:21]Dane Reis: [00:21:21] Oh, that is so pertinent, especially. In this time you talked about it a little bit, uh, in the previous question about what this industry is looking like amongst the pandemic. But I think a lot of us also discovered that we are in control of our art  versus versus relying on a gig, relying on a show or a contract to be that the justification to express ourselves that we’re in control of it.

[00:21:46] We are artists. 

[00:21:47] And to really embrace that. 

[00:21:49] Keith White: [00:21:49] Yes, absolutely. And the industry will try and put you in a box. It puts you in a type or whatever, and. And everyone is so much more than just a little box to be put into. So you have to be the one to, to show everyone that yet to, to control it. Just like you said,

[00:22:07] Dane Reis: [00:22:07] Great. And the third question, what is something that is working for you right now? Or if you’d like to go pre COVID, what was working for you before our industry went on? Pause.

[00:22:20]Keith White: [00:22:20] Yeah, I think it was just not taking stuff seriously. I’m right. You know, at the beginning of this year, you know, of course I was 2020. I just turned 30 in January and I was like new decade of free, like, you know, for everyone’s existence. And personally it’s a new decade for me. I’m 30 and I was, I had shows lined up.

[00:22:35]I was, I was just putting stuff out there and not taking it seriously. And just, you know, sort of having fun, um, and living life for the now and just doing work because I loved it, that, and I was getting stuff out and I was having a great time, like doing the things that I love remembering to do those things in terms of creating that, you know, is, is, uh, my, what gets me through.

[00:22:56]I mean,  

[00:22:58] Dane Reis: [00:22:58] Yeah. And would I be correct in saying that when you. Really embrace that mindset. And you say, I’m just living in the now I’m enjoying everything I possibly can about this, that really interesting projects and opportunities also started just kind of showing themselves to you.

[00:23:16]Keith White: [00:23:16] totally. They just kind of start showing up. I mean, when you’re just leading with light, it also just like levity, it just makes everything so much easier.

[00:23:24] Dane Reis: [00:23:24] Yeah. And the fourth question, what is it your best resource? Whether that is a book, a movie, a YouTube video, a podcast, maybe a piece of technology that you found is helping your career right now.

[00:23:38]Keith White: [00:23:38] Well, I have to, a piece of technology is garage band and my laptop. I’m just having the best time going through that, figuring that out and creating things on that. And, but as like for a book, I think everyone should read Julia Cameron’s the artist’s way. It changed the game for me. And it really helped with this sort of not taking it seriously, living in the now and knowing that being creative is just a natural thing.

[00:24:04] We. We all are creations ourselves from whatever it is from the universe or a higher power or whatever we were created. And so it’s only natural for us to create things. And so when you can just allow it, that that changed everything for me.

[00:24:20]Dane Reis: [00:24:20] Ah, such a good book and yeah. And the fifth question, if you had to start your career from scratch, but you still had all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected from your career in this industry, what would you do or not do? Would you do anything differently or would you keep it the same?

[00:24:40]Keith White: [00:24:40] I initially answered, like, I’ll just keep it the same, but I do think I would love to have like a younger version of me know, like the timeline is not that important. Like don’t stress the timeline. And yeah, live in the now like that same sort of thing we were just talking about. Like, I kind of wish I’d learned that a little bit earlier, but at the same time, like I don’t regret anything.

[00:24:58] Like I love where I’m at 

[00:24:59] Dane Reis: [00:24:59] Yeah, for sure. And that’s what I love about this question, because it is. It is the conundrum of the question, right? Because our lives are the way they are because of all the decisions and the mistakes that you know, that we’ve made along the way. But it’s fun to go down the rabbit hole.

[00:25:13]And the last question, what is the golden nugget knowledge drop you’ve learned from your successful career in this industry?

[00:25:24] You’d like to leave with our listeners.

[00:25:26]Keith White: [00:25:26] You are enough. You don’t have to be anything else than just what you are. You are enough.

[00:25:33]Dane Reis: [00:25:33] So true. And to wrap up this interview, Keith, it is time to give yourself a plug. Where can we find you? How do our listeners connect with you? Is there anything you want to promote?

[00:25:47]Keith White: [00:25:47] Yeah, well, I’ve got my Instagram. It’s your boy, Keith White. That’s your boy. Y a  and you so follow that, please. And you can reach me on there. Um, and also there’s stuff of mine on YouTube. Go check out Keith White on YouTube, see what you find. And if you follow the Instagram, you’ll see stuff on there coming out.

[00:26:06]Um, there will be projects coming out all the time, so, you know, keep your ears to the ground 

[00:26:12] Dane Reis: [00:26:12] Beautiful. And for everyone listening out there, I have put the links to everything. Keith just mentioned into the description of this episode. Keith, thank you so much for taking your time  to chat with me today. It’s been a pleasure.

[00:26:26]Keith White: [00:26:26] Thanks for having me, Dane. It’s good to reconnect with. You. Love the show.