In 1988, country music was introduced to one of the smoothest female voices to ever grace the genre. Lari White, then only 23 years old, was already a seasoned stage veteran when she won The Nashville Network’s reality singing competition, You Can Be A Star.
White started singing at age four after experiencing what she called “a lightning bolt moment” inspired by the classic musical the Wizard of Oz.
“Back then, the Wizard of Oz only aired one night a year. If you missed it, you had to wait an entire year to watch it again,” White recalled to Country Rebel. “I remember sitting on the floor watching Judy Garland singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and knowing that I wanted to sing.”
White’s parents were teachers but sang on the weekends at the local community center in their Florida town. At four-years old, Lari joined her parents for the first time singing background vocals and had her solo debut singing none other than the tune that put the desire in her heart to perform…”Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Throughout her childhood, Lari honed her musical skills as part of The White Family Singers, a group comprised of her mother, father, sister and brother. While many artists have stories of stumbling upon success or music being a backup plan, there was never a doubt in Lari’s mind that she would make it in the music industry. In fact, it was never an option to fail because music was all Lari had.
White attended University of Miami on an academic scholarship, but took every opportunity to sing and used the money for other expenses.
“I did all different kinds of music jobs. I sang studio sessions, background vocals, for different records that were made in Miami and a lot of jingles. I sang with a big band orchestra that did weddings and big parties at hotels on the beach,” White said in a 1994 interview.
Those gigs involved very little country music and opened Lari’s eyes to a whole new world that included jazz, big band, and more. The experience was invaluable and gave White the confidence needed to get her foot in the door when she moved to Nashville after graduating from college.
Shortly after arriving in Music City, Lari entered and won You Can Be A Star. The win included a record deal with Capitol Records and a cash prize that allowed her to focus on songwriting. Three years later, the singer signed with RCA Records where she would record her breakthrough album, Wishes. The album became her most successful project with “That’s My Baby”, “Now I Know”, and “That’s How You Know (When You’re In Love)” charting in the Top 10.
The success of Wishes gained White a faithful following and led to other opportunities including collaborative efforts that would earn her three Grammy awards.
In 2000, Lari starred opposite Tom Hanks in the epic drama film Cast Away. After filming Cast Away, White walked away from being a country music artist to focus on raising her three children with husband Chuck Cannon. While White may not have been performing on stage and putting out new music, the busy mom was writing new songs and producing albums for other artists.
2017 marks the end of an era for White as her career as a homeschooling mom comes to an end. The timing coincides with the 25th anniversary of her country music career, making the timing perfect for a new project.
Last year, White went back into the studio to record an album unlike anything she had ever done before. She re-recorded some of her biggest country hits for an album called “Old Friends.” Then she recorded a second album, “New Loves,” full of new songs that capture White’s love of jazz and pop.
“My first national exposure was country music and it was a wonderful experience. The songs were very important and played a huge role in my life and in fan’s lives,” says of the “Old Friends” project.
As a way to honor her country roots while sharing her eclectic musical journey, White chose to pair both albums for a double cd release.
“Champagne,” the first single from White’s “New Loves” album can be heard below.