Valerie June

Valerie June has a rare gift to know when the time is right to create a song and tell its story as a singer-songwriter. And while June sings them, she is able to somehow blend the music of country-blues, and a softened gospel-jazz style onto her recent albums, Pushin’ Against the Stone and The Order of Time. While June’s dominant talent seems to be her songwriting, it is her gentle Tennessean twang that also carries the tunes she sings so that one feels they are listening to the music of the past, and yet new music too.

During the last few years June has performed for both small and large audiences from Asia to Europe. Currently, June will be on the road again in the States, but this month she will perform at the Hanger Theatre on February 24. The Ithaca Times recently interviewed June about her music.

Gabrielle Burns: Can you say when you were first drawn to music?
Valerie June: I was first drawn to music when I was a baby and they took me to church!

Was it an event or a feeling that first drew you to play and write music? (Did your family also encourage you when you were younger?)
We all sang. We all still sing! None of us really thought about doing for a living.

The element of time and being original seem to carry you in your music, but how do you spend the time so you are connected to the music and the stories that do come?
As I'm sure you know, we change in time. So currently I have been spending time reading loads of books, cooking, learning new things on the instruments, dancing, taking baths in herbs, trying to see friends, and I usually make time everyday for affirmations to keep my mind in a positive place.

Do you feel your biggest talent is your songwriting?
I feel like my biggest talent has yet to be revealed, and I think songwriting is a key step to helping me discover my greatest potential for this life.

You have described the process of music and song writing as a kind of jungle or labyrinth, but when do you know or feel the process for a song with its music is complete?
It's never finished because songs are alive. It's like I have to take a picture of the song. I know that the things in the picture will move around, maybe grow, maybe change. It's just a snapshot of what the song is in that moment.

Why do you feel the stories and music such as “Somebody to Love” or “Workin' Woman Blues” must be both tangible and original?
In order for me to sing a song over 200 times each year, I've got to be able to personalize it. I've got to make it my own. I think every woman who has had the workin' woman blues can find herself in that song. The same goes for those who have loved or lost and "Somebody to Love". It has to relate on a personal level to each listener.

What music are you drawn to lately? And what do you find that is good about it? Is it the lyrics or the music?
Black Sabbath - Masters of Reality has been on my regular list. It's the lyrics.

I came across an interview recently where you say you are working on a new release. Can you tell us how that process is coming? And when it may be coming out?
I am always writing, and that's as much as I can share!

by G.M. Burns