Valerie June is a truly remarkable young lady, a musician with a distinctive approach and style that has already earned her widespread acclaim and a legion of admirers that include the former first lady of the USA, Michelle Obama, who invited her to play at the White House. Now back on the road, touring in support of her sophomore label album, (she self-produced three earlier works) ‘The Order of Time,’ she believes she is in a better place than before, with the enormous uphill struggle she eloquently described in the preparation and production of her debut, Concord first major label release, ‘Pushin’ Against A Stone,’ in 2013 now firmly behind her. Looking ahead, she is upbeat and optimistic, evidently more than satisfied with recent career choices and the road ahead.
‘Yea, I really felt like I was pushing against a stone,’ she confirms, looking back over a shoulder at the process and time spent pushing to get her debut album written, completed and released. The title of that offering is clearly understandable given her retrospective view of its genesis. From her initial faltering steps in Memphis, a town with quite a musical heritage and history, June found it incredibly difficult to get her music out and accepted by the mainstream music world.
‘I don’t have any particular influences. I just do what I do in my own way,’ she rather fearlessly suggests, before adding: ‘I was brought up in a large family, one of five kids. We were all musical, music was always around, part of our life, so I never gave it much real thought. My family is now real proud of my success and I feel like I’m now doing okay out there, alone, like with no driver, no instructor to help or tell me what to do or where to go next.’
‘Order of Time’ takes the process a step further and deals with her own belief that time itself is the sole certainty in this life. To put the album and songs together, June retreated into the snowy Vermont countryside, a world apart from her usual bustling, noisy Brooklyn existence. When I ask how she finds life in Brooklyn after her roots in Memphis, she laughs and says she loves it: ‘I guess I’m really a city person, so it works just fine for me, and there’s always so much happening there.’ But she agrees that her time in the Vermont countryside helped focus her attention and intention to deliver a follow up release that highlighted and spotlighted exactly where she is now at professionally. ‘It was a wonderful experience. Friends and family came to stay over and I had the chance to bond more with the band and get to work in a more collaborative way than ever before,’ she says.
Anyone familiar with her music will appreciate exactly how singularly alone June really is: her voice and vocal delivery is pretty much in a league of its own, while her at times strikingly a-rhythmic guitar-work is equally surprising and instantly recognisable. This is a lady who produces remarkable songs, sounds and surprises at almost every turn. Folk, blues, bluegrass,rock and soul all fall under her spell. From her serpentine hairstyle to her boundary-pushing cross-genre music, she seems able to create unusually memorable musical hooks, looks and tags that seldom fail to surprise and excite.
‘I see myself as a song-writer, in many different genres,’ June says, before expressing herself in a distinctly more introspective and serious vein.
‘ I love being able to cross divisions, to express myself across a whole range of styles. I don’t care to be put into any one box, or concern myself too much with what people might say about it. I always try to be soulful, that’s maybe the heart of it all. I hope I’m original and interesting like, say, Robert Plant or Jimi Hendrix. Guys who were never prisoners of their own style or success.’
June confirms her pleasure with the new album and how much she’s enjoying taking it out on the road: ‘This is fun. I love the energy of being out touring, hitting new audiences, new towns and countries. It’s all going real well for me right now. The new album, ‘Order of Time’ has come together well and I’m absolutely loving it all.’
Valerie June will be touring Europe soon, see all tourdates HERE
30 april – BIRD, Rotterdam
01 mei – TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht