Songs Come in Tennessee Time for Valerie June

“I Don’t Fight the Music. I Do as I’m Told.”

It’s hard for Valerie June to classify her sound.

She says her songs come to her in voices that sing in different styles and genres inside her mind, and all of them originate from different places and feelings.

When the West Tennessean sits down to write a song, her No. 1 goal is to honor those voices speaking directly to her soul. That’s how fans get to enjoy her unique blend of country, blues, rockabilly and soul that can be simply described as Valery June music.

Watching her songs come to life live onstage is like watching Dolly Parton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and David Bowie perform together through one woman. Her show at Nashville’s 3rd and Lindsley in February was one of the venue’s most unifying experiences in recent memory. The set attracted all walks of life who were moved to silence when she opened her mouth to sing, talk with her hands while sharing the stories of her life and explain how she pulls her music from the ether. The show was heavy on her latest album The Order of Time and 2013’s Pushin’ Against the Stone as she led a seven piece band wearing a sparkling jumpsuit that looked straight out of Bowie’s closet.

“I don’t fight the music,” she said that night. “I do as I’m told.”

The Order of Time continues to establish her art as the first of its kind. The songs were written over the course of 12 years and all of them involve the concept of time. The opener “Long Lonely Road” lists memories and sacrifices her family before her made to build a solid legacy for future generations. Vintage gospel organ and horns meet country pedal steel and rock guitar in “Love You Once Made,” which has her making peace with the feeling of loss.

The main character in the lead single “Shakedown” declares she’s not going to waste time on just any ol’ body. Her brothers, Jason and Patrick Hockett, and her father, Emerson Hockett, recorded backup vocals for the song at the Hockett family home in Tennessee before her father died of a heart attack three years ago at age 63. The New York Times just published June’s essay about her experience of losing a parent for the first time.

“There’s a beautiful order to time and a balance to time,” she said over the phone for our CMT.com interview. “That’s what happens in the process of a person who follows a dream because that’s what I’ve been doing with music. None of it happens the way you think it will in the time you think it will. Everything happens in a certain order. All of life I feel is that way. But beautiful things do happen, you know? It’s just not within your little plan of it happening in a certain window.”

She explained her songs mostly come to her while performing some of life’s most mundane tasks like vacuuming, doing the dishes or folding laundry.

“I don’t really feel like any of them were hard to write,” she said of her songs. “I feel like the biggest challenge to any of them was waiting to get them out. But all I have to do is wait. It makes me laugh because people are like, ‘Why do you sound like that? Why do you do so many different styles?’ I’m like, ‘I’m from Tennessee. We have everything.’

“I grew up in Jackson, and so I got country from Nashville and soul, rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll from Memphis. I just feel like that shaped me. It also shaped me to be raised down the street from where Tina Turner was born. I wanted to do music as a profession ever since I was a little girl, too. But I never thought I could.”

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.