Pin It
Favorite

Working Girl 

Valerie June always knew how to work hard for what she wanted; she just didn't know it would pay off so well

click to enlarge Tennessee-born Valerie June brings her haunting voice to the Bartlett Monday.
  • Tennessee-born Valerie June brings her haunting voice to the Bartlett Monday.

Valerie June has worked her ass off to make it. Not that the self–described "organic moonshine roots" musician is complaining about it.

"My parents taught their children that we had to make our own way in this world, that no one was going to give us anything," says June earlier this week from her home in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York.

As a kid growing up in Jackson, Tennessee, she cleaned bricks for her father's construction business. Later, she passed out flyers for his music promotion company. Moving to Memphis days after graduating from high school, she hawked caffeine at competing coffeehouses and worked as a clerk at an herb store called Maggie's Pharm. Meanwhile, she was always singing and writing and teaching herself to play the guitar, which she never had the luxury of learning during her childhood.

"I wanted to get to a place where I could afford to just sit with my guitar and learn," she says in a breathy Southern drawl. For years, she would wait for that day to come.

"One of my biggest challenges is getting over myself. That's why it's so good to be on the road," admits June, who has been touring almost nonstop for two years. "You might say to yourself that you can't perform that day, but you have to do it. I'm constantly reminding myself I'm following my dream."

She says that from a young age, singing always made her "feel good," even when she knew she sounded like no one else.

"Growing up, when people heard me singing, they wondered, 'When can she wrap that up?'" June remembers.

But once she got ahold of some old roots records, she realized there were other women out there who sounded like her, with that nasally, profoundly affected and haunted voice; they were just from the 1920s and '30s.

Now in her early 30s (she wouldn't specify her age, but she was born in 1982), her voice has caught on with enough folks that she was able to raise $15,000 through Kickstarter in 2011. That resulted in her first album as a signed artist, 2013's Pushin' Against a Stone, which Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) and Kevin Augunas (Lumineers, Cold War Kids) co-produced and Auerbach helped write.

Recently, June opened for soul musician Booker T. Jones in Australia.

"His wife told me that every time they're at an airport they tell each other, 'Welcome home, honey,'" June recalls.

As she's been on the road for so long, the joke caused June to contemplate the situation of her own home.

"And then it came to me," she says. "My home is on stage. It took a long time to get there, but now I know it's where I belong." ♦

Valerie June with Jenn Grant • Mon, Aug. 4, 8 pm $10/$12 day of • All-ages • The Bartlett • 228 W. Sprague

Tags:

  • Pin It

Latest in Music

  • Do the Math
  • Do the Math

    Minus the Bear has accomplished the tough task of making progressive rock accessible
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • More than Labels
  • More than Labels

    Zakk Wylde's second solo record shows off his softer side, but it's just one part of his persona
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Rage On
  • Rage On

    The newly combined music festival Rage-Apalooza is the Viking's biggest event yet
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Laura Johnson

Most Commented On

  • Still Celebrating

    Boy George and Culture Club paved the way for genre- and gender-bending rock stars
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
Music & Film

Film


Review


Readers also liked…

  • Behind the Music
  • Behind the Music

    The Grammy Awards are about much more than what you see on TV
    • Feb 11, 2015
  • Phoenix Rising
  • Phoenix Rising

    Nat Park and the Tunnels of Love emerged from the ashes of other local bands to bring soul to the masses
    • Aug 4, 2016

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation