Valerie June

"It's been a long night if that's what happened," Valerie June laughs when asked about her seemingly overnight breakout in the UK. By the time she released her debut album, Pushin' Against A Stone, the Tennessee native had already performed on Later... with Jools Holland, sung a stunning duet with Eric Church at the ACM Awards, toured with Jake Bugg, graced spreads in top music and fashion magazines, and earned some of the year's most glowing reviews. But June traveled a long road to the remarkable moment at which she now finds herself.

Ask her where it comes from, and she'll tell you about her church. "Everybody sings in my church, there's never a choir," she explains. "There was every kind of voice you can think of, so I was always trying to sit beside somebody who had a cool voice and listen to them and see what I liked about it. I had 500 teachers three-days-a-week for 18 years."

That education paid off in spades, as June has developed what The Independent's Andy Gill describes as "the most strikingly individual delivery I've heard in ages." Percolating somewhere between Dolly Parton and Billie Holiday, June's is a stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks voice, the kind that grips your imagination and paints her Southern portraits in vivid detail.

Many of those portraits are drawn from Tennessee, where June grew up between the small towns of Humboldt and Jackson. She moved to Memphis after finishing high school and considered attending art school, but ultimately settled on singing in a band. The clash of creative egos proved to be more draining than inspiring, though, and she quickly made the leap to solo artist.

Valerie June on iTunes:
Pushin' Against A Stone (2013)