On this tour he chose to make people dance. Bringing the bpm up a little: from the viscerality of “Jaime”, her 2019 debut solo album which earned her two nominations at the Grammy Awards (Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance, both with “History repeats” ), to the infectious rhythms of “What now”. Brittany Howard, the soul of Alabama Shakes, won four Grammy Awards in total, returns to show yet another side of herself.
In the new album, which will be released on February 9, the 35-year-old singer-songwriter who grew up in a not too fortunate family in Alabama, only to later redeem herself thanks to music, dusts off her passion for .Prince, Earth, Wind & Fire and the black music of the 70s and 80s more generally: “When I record records, I like to take my time, even three years. It’s usually the time I need to experience life and learn something or grow in some way. So my music can grow and evolve, because that’s the only thing I’m really interested in doing. It would be very easy for me to reproduce the same thing over and over again.”
The black and white of “Jaime” leaves room for psychedelia in “What now”: more acidic sounds, almost fusion atmospheres, the voice treated like an instrument and therefore distorted, manipulated, altered. Brittany Howard worked on the twelve songs included in her new solo album together with Shawn Everettproducer already alongside – among others – Julian Casablancas, Killers and Beckwho had already edited part of “Jaime” himself.
But the new diva of overseas black music is keen to underline that in “What now” there is a lot, a lot of her own making: “Not everyone knows that I am an engineer, a producer and that I play a lot of these instruments . .It’s not necessarily something I need people to know, but I want to show young women out there that we can do this, we can dominate in this field.“, explains she, who started playing the guitar when she was 13 and grew up listening to the 33s of Dionne Warwick and Elvis Presley at home, before discovering in her high school years – it was right behind the school desks, the East Limestone High School, who met Zac Cockrell, bassist with whom he would later found the Alabama Shakes – Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Yes and Cream.
In “What Now”, the title track, she addresses a former lover with extreme brutality – she came out in 2014 and four years later married former bandmate Jesse Lafser, but the marriage ended after just twelve months – screaming: “I don’t have love to give you more / you’re fucking up my energy”, “I have no more love to give you, you are ruining my energy”. “’What now’ is perhaps the truest and most bluesy of all the songs. It is never my intention to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I needed to say what was on my mind. I like the fact that it’s a song that makes you want to dance, but at the same time the lyrics are brutal“, explains.
Speaking of this dualism between lyrics and sounds: Brittany Howard’s sources of inspiration also include the classics of Italian music. “I think about how sad love songs were in the last century, not lyrically, but just musically. So sad, so dreamy, so overwhelming. I think about Burt Bacharach and things like that. Italian composers and Spanish composers, Brazilian composers. The lyrics were so sweet. And somehow it felt bittersweet, because love is like that in a way. Even though it’s really, really, really good, there’s always this little undertone of, ‘What if this happened?’”