Valerie June on all the influences that went into making the critically acclaimed soul singer’s new album, The Order of Time, out now. She wrote it over a period of 12 years, so, yeah, there’s a lot.
ON HER BOOKSHELF “I often read Wendell Berry for inspiration. He’s an amazing writer from Kentucky. I like reading children’s books, like The Velveteen Rabbit, because I need to be reminded to live in a state of wonder about the world versus feeling like I know what the world is just because I’m 35.”
WHERE SHE WAS LIVING “After my first marriage ended, I used to clean houses. I took care of this mansion over on Park Avenue [in Memphis], and I lived behind it in the carriage house. Then I moved over to Harvard Avenue; that’s when I received ‘The Front Door.’ It was a time when I was dreaming a lot, and I got that song in the morning hour, right as I was waking up.”
WHAT SHE WAS EATING “When I got the first part of ‘Astral Plane,’ I was cooking dinner. I’d just started sautéing the onions, getting them nice and caramelized. It’s funny because an onion is a very good analogy for that song—it’s about peeling back the layers and getting to the heart of something, to the light inside.”
WHO SHE WAS THINKING OF “The song ‘ Love You Once Made’ reminds me of my father, even though I wasn’t thinking about him when I wrote it. We recently lost him, and now I go back in my mind and remember every little thing he did. We were making this beautiful world of love in our family, even when the electricity bill wasn’t paid and we had to go without.” h
ON HER BIGGEST INFLUENCES...
“I strongly identify with women in music, like Nina Simone, Maria Callas, Chrissie Hynde, Peaches, Amy Millan, Tanya Tagaq and Leah Fay. Professionally, I haven’t had that many women to look up to. There are a few prominent women running restaurants, but my way of doing it, less demurely perhaps, often feels to me like charging through burning underbrush at top speed.”
ON WOMEN SUPPORTING WOMEN...
“We are pitted against each other from a young age: Who’s the prettiest? Who gets the most attention from boys? It’s so ingrained that I’m constantly checking myself, making sure I’m not judging other women too harshly for qualities I’d overlook in men.”
ON HER FAVE SOCIAL MEDIA...
“TWITTER 4EVER! Facebook never! I love the brevity and quickness of Twitter. I can scroll through my feed for a few minutes and be caught up in each new horrifying news event. Maybe Trump will be impeached by the time this runs, or maybe we’ll all be dead....”
ON THE NEXT BIG THING IN FOOD...
“I am a consummate consumer. I always have multiple tabs open and too many books on the go. I get bored easily and need constant stimulation, much like a child. I think sake (you really do need a great palate to appreciate its nuances) will make a splash in the next few years in a more mainstream way. Also, I’m gonna open an all-nacho restaurant before I die. The veggie nachos from Sneaky Dee’s [in Toronto] are the best, but even bad nachos are still pretty good. Sometimes I get 7-Eleven ‘ nachos’— hot peppers and black olives from the toppings bar applied liberally, all smothered in nacho cheese sauce. DO NOT JUDGE ME.”
Warning: Do not start Agg’s memoir before attempting to go out/make dinner/ do any chores. You won’t be able to stop reading.