Photo: Susan Riddle Duke
Valerie June is a rarity among younger artists; she combines a wide range of genres to form an edgy, sultry and soulful whole. She was born and raised in Tennessee, so naturally, she has always loved music.
“Making music hasn’t been easy,” she said. “But you gotta do something with this life. You might as well try.”
The singing came naturally to her. The instrumental portions, on the other hand, have taken a lot of dedication on her part, often making her feel like “the most offbeat cheerleader.”
“I knew I wanted to do something creative,” June said, “but all the odds are against you.”
June persevered, moved to Memphis, and kept playing gigs and learning instruments.
“I believe we are here to achieve our dreams,” she said.
Success has not come overnight for her; it has come after many years of hard work and dedication. Recently, though, she has teamed up with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and Grammy Award-winning musician Booker T. Jones.
“I’m completely in awe of the whole process,” June said of the transformation. “I hope that I’m able to inspire other little girls.”
June is one of those people who truly feels the music. When she speaks about it, she simply can’t get the words out fast enough. To share the joy she finds in the notes and words is truly lovely and endearing. It’s not enough to casually speak about her love of the music of Elizabeth Cotten; she wants you to know her life, her struggle. She wants to envelope you in the music, whether it’s hers or someone else’s — as long as it speaks to the soul.
“There is other music that breaks us open,” she said.
While she is currently on tour through September in support of her critically acclaimed 2013 release Pushin’ Against a Stone, June intends to spend some quality time with her family this fall. She also has plans to head back to the studio in the latter half of this year to work on her follow-up album.
June is set to perform at the first of the 2014 Make Guthrie Weird summer block parties at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The series began last year when Shirley Clifford, owner of Guthrie gift store Prairie Gothic, teamed up with other local businesses and the City of Guthrie to start a summer block party series. It started with the band Escondido headlining the inaugural event, and soon, several more block parties followed. Now they’re hoping to keep the easygoing and fun atmosphere alive in 2014.
“Everything has something they can do to pitch in, and it makes it all the more interesting,” Clifford said, recalling how vendors and additions are added each time they put on a show. “The City of Guthrie has been very encouraging and helpful.”