Valerie June grew up in small Tennessee towns about halfway between Memphis and Nashville. Her latest album, “Pushin’ Against A Stone,” seems to have soaked up the history of both cities, incorporating folk, country, soul, blues and gospel music into something her own. She calls it “organic moonshine roots.”
amNewYork spoke with June, who now lives in Williamsburg.
Where did you get the phrase “organic moonshine roots”?
It came from playing at the King Biscuit Blues Festival. People would come up to me and say, “What kind of music is that? It sounds like hillbilly music, or folk or country.” I never even thought about what kind of music I was making. I was just making music. I was like “I need a name ?”
It started as organic moonshine folk. Then I thought it was more roots music. ? The process of learning to play instruments, playing at bars, everything I was doing for 13 years, has all been organic. It’s like a gardening process. I went out every day, tended to the garden, planted seeds and waited on them to grow.
Who influenced you?
Tracy Chapman was one of the biggest. From the time I was little, I wanted to be just like her. And Odetta. I’ve always been fascinated by women of color who played instruments and didn’t just sing. ? Whitney Houston was perfect. Odetta was real. She reminds me of people I see every day, but she made music that made my soul just stop.
How did you get to know co-producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys?
I fell in love with [Auerbach’s solo album] “Keep It Hid.” One morning I was brushing my teeth and I thought, “It can’t be that hard to meet this guy. We should be working together. I’m just gonna put that out in the universe.” When [co-producer Kevin Augunas] asked “Who do you want to work with?” I said, “M. Ward, Gillian Welch and Dan Auerbach.” He said, “Well, I know Dan. I’ll hook that up.”
If you go: Valerie June is at Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park Bandshell on Friday at 7 p.m., FREE