Jordan White
Singer-songwriter Jordan White will play Dec. 14 at Maewyn's in York. (jordanwhitemusic.com)
Singer-songwriter Jordan White knows it wasn't competing on “American Idol” that made him a better vocal artist — it was getting degrees in psychology.

“The more I learned about myself and the brain and how humans interact with social psychology ... I started to think that my songs, my lyrical content, got better,” he says in a recent phone interview. “I became an observant songwriter.”

White, now in his early 30s and living in Lansdale, Montgomery County, has a master's degree in psychology from Shippensburg University. He describes his experiences during the early rounds of season five of “Idol” as “eye-opening.”

“It was kind of exciting to be in that circus, but in the end I was kind of left disappointed that it wasn't about actual singing,” he says. “I heard them pass on some of the best singers I'd ever heard.”

White has formal vocal training, as well as a formal background in guitar and piano, but his passion for music had humbler beginnings.

“My parents bought me a keyboard when I was in second grade, and it was my favorite toy,” he says, describing summer days spent indoors tapping away on a small Casio-style keyboard many Gen Xers are likely to remember from their own childhoods. But instead of ending up in the basement or the attic after a few half-hearted play sessions, White's new toy was the start of a musical career.

Influence: And although he came of age in the grunge and post-grunge era, it's the sound from before he was born that really draws him in.

“I try to infuse a little bit of that 1970s singer-songwriter type of music, type of feel, with what's going on now” in his music, White says. “A singer that I'd love to open for would be Jackson Browne.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's dedication to meaningful lyrics and memorable melodies caught White's attention as a teenager.

“His stuff is a big influence on mine. ... I hadn't heard any of those songs” because his parents had other musical tastes, White says. “I was stunned because the sound still seemed fresh to me.”

The music: He takes songwriting seriously, typically working on the lyrics first and making music to match afterward.

“It's sort of a tough endeavor,” he says. “Sometimes it works right away, and sometimes it takes forever.”

Thematically, White finds himself seeking narrative and meaning in evaluating life's journey, both where he has been and where he's going.

“A lot of it is looking into the past and kind of trying to make sense of how things came about since then,” he says. “Not always that they went bad or wrong, (but) trying to estimate where I'm at now based on what had happened then (and) having a sort of optimism for the days that lie ahead as well.”

The crowd at Maewyn's in York on Dec. 14 will get to hear some White originals as well as covers and requests.

“I usually like to do a few covers in the beginning ... and then I throw the originals in,” he says. What kind of covers and requests? “A lot of¥'70s and a lot of¥'90s stuff, because people my age seem to really still listen to or like that kind of thing.”

When he's not playing, White is toting around his Chihuahua, Riley, who attends all of his outdoor shows (sorry, no dog at the bar, Riley fans), and working on his guilty pleasure: tuner cars.

“I'm really into cars,” he says. “On a Sunday where I don't have anything to do, I like to go out there and change brake pads.”

See the show

    Singer-songwriter Jordan White will perform from 9 p.m. to midnight Friday, Dec. 14, at Maewyn's Irish Pub and Restaurant, 110 N. George St., York.
    There's no cover charge for Friday night music at Maewyn's.
    For more information, call 718-7800 or visit www.maewyns.com or jordanwhitemusic.com.

— Reach Mel Barber at mbarber@yorkdispatch.com.