Band of the Day

2014.07.30

Valerie June

A blend of rural roots and country that bridges acoustic field recordings with biting blues
Did they tell you there were plenty of fish in the sea? But you're out in the cold and feeling empty looking for somebody...
lyrics from Somebody To Love

The stone that Valerie June has been pushin’ against for years is finally starting to budge. Produced by Kevin Augunas and Dan Auerbach, Valerie June’s debut album Pushin’ Against A Stone, showcases June’s astonishing songwriting and singular sound, a blend of rural roots and country, bridging Alan Lomax inspired acoustic field recordings with biting, electric indie-blues.  June has been a major media presence since the album’s release, with features in Essence, O Magazine, Vogue (September issue) New York Times Magazine, Southern Living; brilliant Letterman, Leno, Rachael Ray and CBS This Morning performances and massive support across NPR including First Listen, All Things Considered, Tiny Desk Concert and Fresh Air.  To top it all off, 2013 ended with a chock full of year-end accolades and best-of lists including NPR’s All Songs Considered, NPR Music, Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, American Songwriter, GQ, and Magnet.

By the time she released the album, the Tennessee native had already performed on Later… with Jools Holland, sung a stunning duet with Eric Church at the ACM Awards, toured with Jake Bugg, graced spreads in top music and fashion magazines, and earned some of the year's most glowing reviews. But June traveled a long road to the remarkable moment at which she now finds herself.

The singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist got started singing in the church in her hometown of Humboldt, TN. At age 19, June took on the music scene in Memphis, performing and recording like she’d always dreamed. The determined June not only taught herself guitar, but also banjo and ukulele, developing a distinctive style inspired by her heroes from a century before. "I really fell in love with 1920's and 30's music when I moved to Memphis," says June. "Mississippi John Hurt, Elizabeth Cotten, The Carter Family. I have almost everything with Alan Lomax's name on it. Once I discovered country blues and straight-up old time country, I never left it."

Though she had fans around the world and musical admirers in high places, June had yet to record a proper studio album of her own. There was no shortage of label interest, but the idea of signing away her music held no appeal, so June took a decidedly modern approach for her studio debut and launched a Kickstarter, where her fans helped her raise more than $15,000. It was about that time when famed producer Kevin Augunas stepped into June's life. Taken with her music on first listen, he immediately flew to Tennessee to introduce himself. Augunas connected her with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who, unbeknownst to June, was completing work on his Easy Eye Studio in Nashville at the time.

"I feel like my whole life I've always had a stone I've been pushing," she says, explaining the record's title. "Some days it's a good thing to have, like a best friend, and sometimes it's your worst enemy. In the case of this record, I had so many friends helping me move the stone." The result is a stunning studio debut from an artist who's journeyed a long and dusty road, pushing a mighty stone all the way. It's been a long night, but dawn is just breaking for Valerie June.