Singer-songwriter Valerie June is belting out the words "I don't care to be somebody" like it's her job, and now — at long last — it is.
After years of walking dogs and cleaning houses, a series of big breaks, and two buzzy shows at SXSW, have pushed her singing career into overdrive.
A Memphis native, her voice is scorched and twangy, the perfect vehicle for her stunning ballads about growing up on the wrong side of the American divide. Her new album, Pushin' Against A Stone, co-written and produced by Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys, drops on August 13th.
We caught up with June after her recent show at Chez André ...
How do you like your new day job?
It feels great, but it is a job. It is work. I think it’s man’s way to work, woman’s way to work. What would we do if we didn’t have something cool to work on?
What's “organic moonshine roots music” for those who haven't heard you yet?
Making music has been a journey. Just like a gardener starts gardening for the first time with no skills, you start making music and then you learn. With a little spark, a little moonshine, and a little magic, you make it happen. It took me a long time to work this raw and infertile soil so it would allow my seeds to flourish.
Growing up you and your siblings liked to act like the Jackson 5. What was that like?
Oh, yeah. That was fun! We drove my parents crazy. At one point I wanted to play the drums and my mom was like, “Uh uh, five kids and a drum set? I don’t think so!”
You've got quite a stage presence. Do you act as well?
Act!? Did you say act? [laughs] Nooooo, not at all! The record label has been wanting me to do some music videos, and I can do them, but it’s really hard for me to lip synch, which is what you have to do when you're making music videos.
What's your biggest inspirations?
Right now I love Beatrix Potter – the children’s writer – she is so inspiring to me. She started writing and sketching as a child. It became her life. I mean, she created Peter Rabbit!
What's your favorite record?
The Mountain Music of Kentucky. It’s the first thing I see when I walk into my living room. It’s such a great mixture of amazing stories and songs.
What about food?
God, I love to cook and I love to eat. I go with the seasons. Right now, I really love dandelion grains. It’s time to eat cleansing foods. I’m always making such cool stuff. I made this amazing Smoked Trout salad. It’s off the chain. I put it on green apples slices and make little sandwiches. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. I just wanna beat somebody up over that, it’s so good.