Valerie June sings an anthem for the ‘Workin’ Woman’

Valerie June performs her song “Workin’ Woman Blues” at Pickathon 2014, a three-day musical festival outside Portland. Seattle’s KEXP recorded the performance. Video by Jim Beckmann, Shelly Corbett and Justin Wilmore; edited by Scott Hoplainen

Valerie June may be a full-time singer-songwriter now, but, like most musicians, she has worked a series of different jobs to support herself. She cleaned houses, walked dogs, cared for kids, served coffee, made soaps and the list continues.

“I can’t say that I don’t love all the things,” June told Art Beat. “It’s just that I love making music more.”

June grew up in Tennessee and true to her roots she makes what she calls “an amalgamation of southern music and roots music.” Her songs include a mash-up of folk, country, blues and gospel.

“If it is a good story, then I want to sing it usually.”

When June first moved to New York, she wrote “Workin’ Woman Blues,” the first song off her album “Pushing Against a Stone.” Unlike most of her compositions, the music came to her before the lyrics did. But when she finally heard the story in her head, she couldn’t get it out.

June thought about all the women in her life: her mother and grandmother, the woman who owned the herb shop she worked at and the who ran the couple of coffee shops where she served. Both of her record labels — the UK’s Sunday Best and North America’s Concord Music Group — are owned by women.

“There are just so many women out there that are working hard and doing great things and changing the world one little day-to-day job at a time. We needed an anthem and whenever I heard that song and I started writing it, I thought yeah, I could really sing this one,” said June. “I consider it to be an anthem for women.”

Her anthem seems to have touched people around the country — from a poet with a day job to the first woman in her family to go to college.

“That song gives them a lot of power and a lot of energy to just be like … ‘I’m going to do what I have to do regardless,’” said June. “There’s always this juggle in everybody’s lives, but this song in particular gives honor and respect to women. That’s why I call it an anthem because it gives so many women pride and inspiration and motivation to continue along whatever path it is that they’re on.”

Valerie June is currently on tour through mid October. She will be playing at Bumbershoot Musical Festival in Seattle. You can listen to June perform at the KEXP Bumbershoot Lounge on Sept. 1.

Local Beat is a weekly series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

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