Four years ago, Valerie June released a debut album that incorporated the sounds of soul, country, folk, gospel, bluegrass and R&B.
The Tennessee native spoke to Morning Shift’s Tony Sarabia about the inspiration behind her forthcoming album, The Order Of Time, ahead of her Monday night performance at Chicago’s Park West. Below are some highlights from their conversation.
Tony Sarabia: Did you grow up in a musical family?
Valerie June: I didn’t think that I grew up in a musical family because we didn’t play instruments, but we all sang. So recently with my father’s passing, and all of us coming together and just singing around him, I realized that I did come from a musical family. It’s just a singing family, and everybody knows their part and everybody gets in there and sings with all their heart.
Sarabia: When you think about Tennessee, there’s this range of music from west to east. You have Memphis on the west, you have the Appalachian range on the east side. There’s so much there, how are you able to soak that all in and let it roll out the way you do?
June: Playing in the muddy water I guess (laughter). And drinking the water. I think it’s even become more diverse with Nashville becoming such a music city. Everytime I go back it’s like, “Whoa!” There’s such a rock-and-roll presence. There’s so many different types of music and genres coming together in Tennessee now, but it’s almost becoming like New York or L.A., where it’s not just what we had before Nashville started to expand, but it’s everything else, too and that’s cool.
Sarabia: When you were growing up, was country music a big part of your record collection?
June: I really didn’t have a collection. I listened to everything and I just listened to whatever came on the local stations. I guess the funny thing about me is I didn’t have one station that I liked. I listened to all the different stations.
Another thing about growing up in that area is that no matter where you go, you’re gonna hear some music of our region. If you’re shopping in Walmart or you’re going to the gas station, they’re going to be playing a Hank Williams song or a Denise LaSalle song. Just so many different genres all at once. And you just soak it up because that’s what you grow up around. I don’t know if people realize how much of the music comes into their unconscious mind that happens around them, but it’s always — everything’s musical. Everything.
Sarabia: The concept of the upcoming album is time. Tell us about that.
June: For me, music and the whole path has been like a dream, and slowly it all comes into place. I’ve been doing it for I guess about 15 years now. So slowly I began to see everything just beautifully unfolding. I see how years ago — things that I would’ve been like, “Why am I doing this?” — a question mark is now answered. Time has just been on my side, all along the way. I feel like as long as people are following their passion and moving toward their dreams, then time will be on their side.
Sarabia: Is there something else about the concept of time that grabbed hold of you?
June: Well, it’s with me all day, everyday. It’s with all of us. We get here on time. We exit the rooms to go somewhere, to get somewhere in due time. Everything is just a matter of time.
This whole life, coming to earth and being here — we have limited time. There’s one thing for sure; that we all must leave. It’s just the beauty of thinking about how special it is that we all get to come here right now and get to share this space together right now. I mean, you could’ve came 60 years ago or before that, I don’t know. And I could’ve not come at this particular time. It’s just so magical to me how it all just seems to work out in the right amount of time for a beautiful harmony in all of life.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the ‘play’ button to listen to the entire interview.