Valerie June Talks 'Pushin' Against a Stone'
There's a special group of fans who've been waiting a long time for Valerie June's powerful, genre-defying debut album, "Pushin' Against a Stone," due August 13: investors. The Tennessee-born singer financed the project through the Kickstarter program.
She can't wait for her fans to hear the set, which will be released via Concord. After all, she reasons, they've been very patient.
"The ones that I hope hear it and like it the most are the ones who donated the money to make it," she tells Billboard. "They were the people who supported my shows when I was playing in coffee houses, juke joints in Mississippi, or wherever I was playing -- they were there. It's really cool because the Internet enabled me to have the funds after years and years of trying to save enough to make a record… It's been three years. Some of them have sent me letters asking 'Where is it at?' I made a record, but it took some time to decide what I wanted to do with it. Making this record has been a journey, but a good one."
"Pushin' Against A Stone" definitely qualifies as a sonic treat. But, try to classify the album – or June – and you might run into a road block. There's a little bit of the blues, some country elements, soul, and even a tip of the hat to rural Appalachia. "That's true. I think that's because there were so many producers and musicians from different backgrounds," she says of the album, produced by Dan Auerbach (Black Keys), Kevin Augunas (Florence + the Machine) and Peter Sabak. "Instead of me saying 'No, it's my record. We have to do it my way, I just tried to take a back seat in a lot of ways, and said 'Well, let's try it like this and see what happens.' Sometimes I loved what happened, and sometimes it was like a fight, but that's what happens when you get a lot of people together that have great ideas and wonderful minds. You bring yours, and you just make it happen. I was having the time of my life, and had the freedom to experiment."
The album's highlights include the spiritual tones of "Trials, Troubles, & Tribulations," as well as the mountain sound of "Tennessee Time." Stax legend Booker T. Jones guest of two the albums tracks, "Somebody To Love" and "On My Way," which he also co-wrote.
Some country audiences got their first exposure to June at the recent ACM Awards, where she backed Eric Church on his performance of "Like Jesus Does."
"He was so great to work with," she says. "The best thing about that whole experience was that I had been rehearsing on my own, and then we get to Vegas, and we have one rehearsal – a dress rehearsal. We did the song two times in the dress rehearsal. I asked my manager to ask Eric's if we could have another. Eric said 'Yeah, if we have time, we can do it. But, we didn't have any time, and we were in his space getting make-up and everything done. He looked at me and said 'Valerie, are you good, or do you feel like you need to rehearse?' I said 'We've only got about fifteen minutes before we go on. I'm not rehearsing anything. He said 'Good. I want you to go out there and just do it, and feel the music. I didn't want you rehearsing the hell out of it.' When he said that to me, I realized that's what my music is all about. It's about spontaneity, and not knowing what is going to happen."
That wasn't the first time she got such advice. "When I worked with Dr. John at Bonnaroo, I asked him if he was nervous, and he said 'No.' He said, 'We've done the work. We did a week of rehearsals. We're going to hear one thing. The crowd is going to hear one thing, and the sound guys will hear another. It's going to be what it's going to be. You just have to go out there and have a good time."