At Work: Valerie June

Justin Jacobs on February 10, 2017

It is two days after what is perhaps the biggest upset in presidential election history and the streets of New York City are unnaturally quiet. The city’s overarching feelings are pivoting between stunned, scared and sad. But sitting in her apartment in Brooklyn, Tennessee-born Valerie June is already striking a brighter tone.

“On a day like today, I’m reminded that music is always touching people. I’m going to continue to shine my greatest light,” she says. “I’m trying to focus on what I came to Earth to do.”

June will shine her light brighter than ever when she releases her latest album, The Order of Time, in March through Concord Records. The album builds on the sparse, glimmering folk of her 2013 breakthrough, Pushin’ Against a Stone, with chiming guitars, punchy drums and strings—a gorgeously starry sky to its predecessor’s moonlit night.

At the center of June’s music remains her crisp, unforgettable voice, which she discovered “sometime when I was singing at the top of my lungs and my mom told me to ‘shut up with all that bellowing,’” she laughs. “To know I moved someone with my voice told me something.”

But hers isn’t the only great voice on The Order of Time. Norah Jones sings sultry backup on the party-starting closer “Got Soul.” June’s brothers and father also contribute backing vocals, which were recorded in the family’s living room. While June credits the album’s fuller, warmer sound to simply “listening to what the songs wanted,” the flurry of New York City also painted its colors across these cosmic soul-blues tunes.

“Any place I drink water becomes part of my music, and I’ve been drinking water from a lot of wells,” she says. “But here, everything is moving. It’s a beautiful symphony to me.”