The song is a balm for pain and an exhortation to be kind.
Singer-songwriter Scott Sean White lives in a place called Poetry, Texas. And that’s just what he produces in his storytelling country songs. Listen to his new album, Call It Even, and you’ll see what fellow Texan Jack Ingram means when he says: “Some songwriters spend precious time struggling to find their truth and make it rhyme. Others just pick up their guitar and tell it. Scott Sean White is one of the others.”
And you have only to listen to the song “Humankind” off the new record to have the point driven home.
We’re pleased to premiere a video of White doing a front-porch acoustic version of “Humankind” here.
The idea for the song came from White’s co-writer Helene Cronin, who saw a hashtag — #Humankind — on the internet. On the day they wrote the song, White says, “she had an idea about how to set it up with something like ‘nothing helps human pain, like humankind.’ We ended up adjusting that wording by the time we got done, but that was the thought that sparked it all. It is one of my most favorite songs my name has ever been on. And possibly the most impactful.”
We talked with White to find out more about the story behind the song.
“Before Helene and I got to the writing part of this song, we just talked for a little while about people and kindness,” White says. “We talked about Helene’s oldest daughter, who was a hospice caregiver for a while, and what a gift it takes to do that job.
“We also talked about bullying a little bit too, because — as I am fond of saying at shows when I play this song — I was not always 6 foot 4 and 235 pounds! I didn’t really grow until I was a junior in high school, so I definitely had a lot of experience with getting bullied. Once I grew, though, I had a different heart for the kids who hadn’t grown yet and were still getting pounded and picked on.
“The other person we talked about a lot that day was my brother Joey. Joey was born with Down yndrome and had lived with me and my family most of my adult life. He passed away February 17, 2016, at the age of 57. He was nine and a half years older than me, but he was eternally my little brother. And I guess he was a little like a son as well.
“Helene and I talked about him a lot that day working on the song because he was really, really good at [being] kind. I posted something on Facebook later that evening about how ‘Joey was in the room a lot today and I was OK.’ I posted that because it had been about two and a half years since he had passed away and that was the first time that I had been able to talk about him at length without feeling like my legs would collapse out from under me.
“So while Joey didn't end up in the actual lyric of the song, he’s definitely in the song.”
Photography: (Cover image) courtesy Robert Elmore