The White Buffalo (aka Jake Smith) can perform under pressure; in fact, if his newest studio album is any indication, he sort of thrives under it. Released on Friday, Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights is a collection of 10 character-driven songs that stretch the boundaries of the White Buffalo's sound -- and that came together at the 11th hour.

Armed with one fully formed song (that got vetoed by his producers) and a few "loose ideas," Smith truly wrote his most recent record during its creation process.

"I kinda hit a really prolific lucky streak ... I mean, I kind of willed it," the White Buffalo tells The Boot. He knew he needed to put out a new album, so he gave himself a deadline and "just focused really hard, and once the first couple came quickly, then it all just kind of opened up."

"I just got on a roll, really," Smith adds. "And once one came, there always seems to be more to follow."

Actually, that urgency, the White Buffalo says, helped expand his sound and his playing. Once again, he worked with producers Bruce Witkin and Ryan Dorn, but in comparison to his past projects, this one has, in his words, "more balls -- a little bit more swagger."

"As a writer, you get in kind of ruts, or you have your easy places to go ... and I wanted to get out of that," Smith notes. "I tried to go into each character of each song as far as I really could go, to draw whatever emotion."

Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights' opening song, "Hide and Seek," is a good median for the record: With its swampy country ("Stones-y country," Smith calls it), the song falls right in the middle of the album's subject matter.

"There's hope," the White Buffalo says, "but there's also thought; there's some introspection as well."

More toward the record's end, fans will find some of the White Buffalo's favorite lyrics, on "If I Lost My Eyes." In that song -- a "twisted kind of love song" -- he sings "If I lost my eyes / Would you stay with me? / Would you take me by the hand, tell me what you see? / Fill my head with colors for my dreams?"

"I really like to try to hit people in the heart with whatever it is -- whether you feel good or you feel scared or your feel frail or sorrow -- and each of these songs kind of has a purpose of doing that," Smith says of the songs on Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights. "It's very varied, and each song is its own little animal ... I was pushing my voice to really be that character."

With a long string of tour dates ahead, Smith was happy to see his newest songs connecting with concertgoers even before he released his album on Friday (Oct. 6). The singer-songwriter says his goal is always to create "timeless" tunes, and to re-connect with them each night.

"I have to try to feel the lyric," the White Buffalo says. "I think that's important to feel it and get into the song in order for people to feel it."

Visit TheWhiteBuffalo.com to learn more about the White Buffalo, Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights and Smith's upcoming shows.

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