The four-year wait is over. On Wednesday, Jack White released “Connected by Love,” the blistering first single from his upcoming new album Boarding House Reach.
The song is a woozy plea for forgiveness from a lover who has burned all his bridges. Recorded with musicians who regularly play in the hip-hop world, “Connected by Love” sounds more modern than his previous solo material, albeit with a psychedelic edge.
White produced and recorded the song in three locations: Sear Sound in New York City, Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, and Third Man Studio in Nashville. It’s the first time White has recorded an album in New York and Los Angeles, and his first with an entirely new crew of musicians that includes drummer Louis Cato (Beyoncé, Q-Tip, John Legend), bassist Charlotte Kemp Muhl (The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger), synthesizer player DJ Harrison, keyboardist Neal Evans (Soulive, Talib Kweli, John Scofield), percussionist Bobby Allende (David Byrne), and backing vocalists Ann & Regina McCrary of Nashville’s legendary gospel trio the McCrary Sisters
“Connected by Love” was the first song he wrote in a Nashville apartment he keeps to work on new songs. “I just started humming notes out loud, staring out the window,” he tells Rolling Stone. “After that, you really can’t explain it. You just have to get out of the way and let it happen. And you don’t really notice it as it’s happening.”
White initially thought the song was “maybe some old melody I’m copying from some old song from 40 years ago, subconsciously – those are all the perils of trying to, you know, bring something new into the universe,” he says with a laugh. The original refrain was “I’m Infected By Love,” but he had second thoughts. “I thought ‘Well, people won’t get that metaphor — they’ll turn that into, ‘Well, Do you have an STD, or something?’ [laughs] It might hurt the rest of the messages of the song if I kept that as the main thing. So I changed ‘Infected’ to ‘Connected’ and then started to feed off of that.”
White doesn’t necessarily see the song as about himself, describing the wrenching line, “What have I done / I have pushed away everyone” as about a character. “I think these characters in my head, you have to put them in places where they’re in peril, you know? To me, I’ve always told people the pronouns don’t mean much; she, he, man, women. I say ‘woman’ in that song but it doesn’t really mean ‘woman.’ They’re just ways to get into a character’s head and try and see how I relate to your own life, and maybe other times people can relate to that about pushing away the people they love the most. So that was that character’s lowest moment in the song, and [he had] to rise above it, you know?”
“I’m still kind of learning about that song,” he adds. “The melody was coming straight from my gut. You start putting yourself into this character’s mindset and see what you can make out of it. It’s almost like someone pushed you out on stage on a Broadway show, through the curtains and all of the sudden you are told ‘Your name is this.’ you know?”
Alongside “Connected by Love,” White also unveiled “Respect Commander,” a polyrhythmic rocker that opens with a nod to classic Detroit techno before morphing into a slow-burn guitar-heavy track.