06 Feb LENNY: Music Monday: Valerie June How Memphis, Massive attack, and singing hymns led to The Order of Time
From the gospel hymns she sang alongside her siblings at weekly church services, to hearing hits by icons like Bobby Womack and Prince, much of Tennessee native Valerie June’s childhood was defined by music. At the age of eighteen, Valerie left her hometown of Humboldt for the legendary city of Memphis, a move she says made her “fearless” and helped her find her voice. While there, she wrote many of the songs that would later appear on her debut album, The Way of the Weeping Willow, and fell in love with the work of artists like Nico and Nina Simone. Since then, she’s traveled the world, moved to Brooklyn, and recorded four albums, including The Order of Time, which will be released next month. The experience of listening to Valerie sing is similar to hearing her talk. Her voice is confident and strong, filled with wisdom, warmth, and light, characteristics that perfectly capture the spirit of “Two Hearts” and the beating pulse of “Shake Down.” Her music tells a story that you can feel deep in your gut.
I spoke with Valerie — who was recovering from a cold — about growing up in Tennessee, how a request from Massive Attack led to “Astral Plane,” and why self-care is vital to creativity and activism. Read more here.