Brooke White’s new video for “Back Pocket,” premiering exclusively on Billboard below, will bring laughter. That’s exactly what she wants — otherwise she wouldn’t have enlisted Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder for the project.
The clip for the song — from the American Idol season 7 finalist’s new album Calico — is a kind of country take on Robert Palmer’s iconic “Addicted to Love” and “Simply Irresistible” videos, with Heder green-screened in as a cowpoke support chorus behind White as she sings the tune.
“Shania Twain had already done something like this [for ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman’], so I wanted to make more of a parody version of it, using my song,” White tells Billboard. “I started thinking about who could do it. In my mind, it would be awesome to have Jack Black or someone like that. Then I saw a little clip of Napoleon Dynamite and was like, ‘Omigosh, Jon Heder! He’d be perfect!'”
It turned out the “Back Pocket” co-director, Braden Barty, knew Heder and gave White the actor’s phone number. “I was so nervous: What are the chances he’s actually going to reply to me and be into this?” says White, who used to cut the hair of Heder’s twin brother. “I know we’d met one time, but I didn’t think he knew me. So I left him the message and a couple weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything. We were moving ahead on a brand-new treatment and, literally, a couple of days before that was going to be filmed I got a text back from Jon, ‘Hey, I’m so sorry for the delay, but I’m into it and I’ll do it.’
“So we talked through the treatment and he had some ideas and I went and found him a little denim vest, some Wranglers, and a mullet wig and we showed up for a green screen and in a couple of hours he just knocked it out of the park and nailed this little Calicody Boom character that he created.”
The country-flavored Calico, which came out in October, is White’s fifth album and follows a holiday release, 2012’s White Christmas, and 2014’s Never Grow Up: Lullabies and Happy Songs collection. “I really wanted to make a country record,” says White, whose 2009 studio set High Hopes & Heartbreak, produced by Dave Cobb, was “a very true singer-songwriter record, a throwback. It did have a couple country-leaning moments, so I think there was some foreshadowing there.” But on Calico, White lets her twang flag fly, working with co-writers and producers Chris Qualls and Eric Straube in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood.
“The year after High Hopes & Heartbreak I started taking trips to Nashville to work with writers there,” White says. “I did have a stack of country songs, but I didn’t feel like that had the sense of identity that I had with [High Hopes].” She then started the duo Jack and White with Jack Matranga, which “put the country stuff on the back burner,” though White returned to the material around the end of 2017, partly at the suggestion of her husband.
“In my mind I always thought Nashville was the place to go to make a proper country record, but with a couple of kids and after crunching the numbers and looking at my schedule, there was no way to go there at this point in my life,” she says. “I’ve always been enamored of California country, though. There is a rich history of artists who have come before me who have done it here, so I started to become more comfortable with the idea and…here we are.”
White plans to let Calico have “the time it deserves” to connect to an audience, but she’s also starting to think about what she wants to do next. “I might do another little EP with Jack and White,” she says, “but I can definitely see myself jumping back in and continuing on the country path, too. It’s been really interesting to step away from the piano and embrace more of the guitar and develop and evolve and be pushed in that direction. So I’m not done with that. I’d like to see how much farther we can go with it.”
White’s video for “Back Pocket” is below.