Shaun White

Hosted by

Professional snowboarder, skateboarder and three-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White first started playing the guitar after winning one as a trophy. Music has carried him throughout his entire career, including tracks by AC/DC and ELO that get him in competition mode. Shaun will be bringing a two-day music and sports event called Air + Style to the Rose Bowl this February.

For More:

Banner Image Credit: Alex Pieros


1. AC/DC - "Back In Black"
2. Electric Light Orchestra - "Showdown"
3. The White Stripes - "Seven Nation Army"
4. Wreckless Eric Goulden - "Whole Wide World"
5. Outkast - "So Fresh, So Clean"

Anthony Valadez: Hey, I’m Anthony Valadez and I’m here with Shaun White, professional snowboarder, skateboarder, two-time Olympic gold medalist, entrepreneur, lead guitarist for the rock band Bad Things and so much more. Today, we’re here to talk about five songs that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Shaun, how are you?

Shaun White: I'm good, thanks for having me...

AV: Doing lots of things. Happy to have you here, man.

SW: Thank you.

AV: So I’m excited to hear your picks, man. What did you bring for us today?

SW: This song, I was worried about picking it just because it’s kind of like a song you’ve heard so many times but, it’s "Back in Black" by AC/DC.

Song: AC/DC – “Back in Black”

SW: It was 2006 and I was on my way to my first Olympics. I was 19 and they played this song at the first qualifying event for the Olympics and I won. Wow, what a cool, you know, song. That was great - we should play that again for the next event. And I won again.

And then I was like OK, we HAVE to play this song, you know. And so now, it’s more of a trigger for me. Like, I don’t even hear a song. I hear, like, a gun at a horse race, you know what I mean? It’s like you’re in the starting gate.

It puts me immediately back in that mind set no matter where I am when I hear this song.

It’s like this swell of energy and this kind of like laser focus of whatever I’m doing.

I immediately kind of feel this horribly nervous excitement, you know what I mean?

AV: Yeah.

SW: It’s like a horribly great feeling. It’s one of those things.

AV: Yeah, yeah.

SW: So…

AV: I’m afraid to play this song with you in the room.

SW: (laughing)

AV: Let’s see what happens. This is "Back in Black" by AC/DC.

AV: That was AC/DC’s classic "Black in Black" selected by Shaun White - part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. I’m glad you didn’t go crazy.

SW: (overlapping) It’s tough.

AV: I’m glad you kept your cool. What's next for us?

SW: One of my favorite groups Electric Light Orchestra or ELO. The song is called "Showdown".

You know this song meant a lot to me because at the time I was filming this movie. It was called The Shaun White Album or The White Album. It was a snowboarding film.

It was crazy because I sustained my first injury. I hurt my knee. I was like 16, 17 and I freaked out. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Like, am I ever going to snowboard again? This is my life. What’s going to happen?

And it was just a really crazy time because I wanted to film and finish the project but I couldn’t - I physically couldn’t.

You know, just like in any part of life, you hear things. You hear - "Oh well so-and-so’s going to be doing this." Or, "did you hear that this happened?" And I was hearing a lot of things about myself and the sporting world and outside of that.

Like – "Oh, he can’t do this particular type of riding," or "He’s selling out to this company," or "He’s doin’ this and that."

And it was kind of this thing where I was - I felt like everywhere I turned was all this angst and, I don’t know, something about the "Showdown" was like - oh it’s my chance to, to really prove ‘em wrong and to show that I can do these things.

And then to come to this one event…

AV: And you did.

SW: And I did, yeah. And that’s what really kind of drove me through it.

You know, I had never been injured before. I mean, stepping into a gym or a workout scenario when you’ve never done any of those things - it’s pretty intimidating. And so, yeah, I just remember listening to this song day in, day out and it really kinda got me back on track and ready to perform again.

AV: Aw, let’s take a listen This is "Showdown" by ELO.

Song: ELO – “Showdown”

AV: I’m having so much fun. What’s next for us, Shaun?

SW: It’s the first song that I learned on guitar. "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes.

I actually learned how to play guitar during this time.

AV: When you were injured?

SW: Yeah, I had won a guitar at X Games, it was the trophy. It had "first place" on it and I was like - this is so lame, I’d rather play the thing.

So I played it in secret in my room and that really changed things for me. Obviously I play in a band now, but that was that moment where I realized that music wasn’t about how technical the song was or how many members were in the group or, you know, all these things that I assumed about music before I really picked up a guitar.

Hearing that thud - he’s like palm-muting one of his strings and there’s a myth that there was a bass string attached to a guitar, you know what I mean, I was like - "How did he get that sound?"

And I just fell in love with the song. I fell in love with playing guitar. And it really took that left turn for me in my life and the style in which I lived my life. And all things were based off that moment. So this song was really important to me.

AV: Well, let’s take a listen. This is "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes.

Song: The White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army”

AV: That was "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes selected by Shaun White - part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. What’s next for us, Shaun?

SW: "Whole Wide World" by Eric Goulden. I just know him as Wreckless Eric.

SW: I was competing at my second Olympics. It was in Vancouver and I remember everything around it. I had picked it up earlier in the season and I was like listening to the song and something about it - like the lyrics and how simple it was, and the attitude in it - really got me excited and I wanted to listen to it more often and ride to it.

We were traveling so much at that time. And the search for this like, girl. I mean, for me, it was almost like, you know, either it was Olympics or winning or something. It was like - if you could just get this one thing in life it would make everything better. You’d be on a beach in the tropical sun, you know what I mean?

AV: What was this one thing you’re talking about? Is it the gold medal or the woman?

SW: It was kinda both at the time. I put them in my head as like – wow, I’ve never really had time to have a girlfriend at this point and, you know, maybe a medal would actually get me to that point where I could go sit on a beach, hang out, actually meet somebody or like you know, enjoy that side of life.

AV: This is "Whole Wide World" by Wreckless Eric.

Song: Wreckless Eric – “Whole Wide World”

AV: Alright, that was "Whole Wide World" by Wreckless Eric selected by Shaun White - part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. So now we’re down to the final song, Shaun. What's next?

SW: It’s Outkast, "So Fresh, So Clean."

This album was so important to me because it was the first CD I’d ever purchased and I remember thinking like, this isn’t the same, like angry rap that you hear all the time.

This is a little different. There is something about this that’s different.

You know what it is? I think it’s something about the fact that like, they're kinda like calling out who they are and…

AV: Identity.

SW: Yeah. And owning it. You know what I mean?

It was undeniable how suave and slick and cool… they knew who they were and what they were doing. And they had hit after hit after hit. And that was, I think, the first point in my life where I was like "Wow, I guess you can kinda do some wild stuff if you really own it." If you’re that guy.

AV: It’s not about what you wear. It’s how you wear it.

SW: Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely like, being yourself and going with what you want to do.

AV: Let’s take a listen. This is "So Fresh, So Clean" by Outkast.

Song: Outkast – “So Fresh, So Clean”

AV: That was "So Fresh, So Clean" by Outkast selected by Mr. So Fresh So Clean himself, Shaun White. Thanks for joining us man.

SW: Yeah, thank you.