A global outbreak, public hysteria and an extended hiatus hasn’t kept the members of Alabama Shakes from pursuing their creative projects. Four Grammy wins, including an Album of the Year nomination, and a spectacle of other awards would be enough to earn any group a deserved break during a pandemic. For lead vocalist Brittany Howard, it just pushes her to create and be herself even more. From two critically acclaimed studio albums to an award-winning solo project, Howard shows just that. A creative resilience that expresses the band’s genre bending fluidity and artistic desire that’s empowered millions of others worldwide.
Hailing from Athens, Alabama the band saw early online success through their demo releases in 2009. The band’s new wave combination of rhythm and blues was enough for ATO records to sign them in mid-2011. By 2012 the band would release their debut album Boys & Girls and would receive near-universal acclaim as critics were reveled by the blues influenced sound.
Over the next eight years the band would continue to amass their presence in the industry. From their platinum selling records to their showcases with musical juggernauts such as: Paul McCartney and Prince. Now, with a disease sweeping the entire world, what could be next for the dynamic group? Howards’ recent return from the UK amid the COVID-19 pandemic only sparked further questions and health concerns from fans. She reassures everyone in a sit-down interview with The Breakfast Club saying, “I’m clean, trust me.” Of course, she’s never been one to show concern over appearances. In her response in being a female lead in a rock ‘n’ roll band she says, “It’s like clickbait. Me, being a different figure at the head of a rock band—or whatever you want to call it has worked out for me.”
Growing up in an impoverished, diverse community influenced Howard’s musical taste. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, AC/DC and Black Sabbath are just the few that shaped her artistic views. “This kind of music is not just for white people.”, as she states. Howard’s latest debut solo album, Jaime, is a testament of that upbringing. The need for starting something new that made her “vulnerable” and “seen” are the reasons behind the solo project. The album has already been nominated for various awards and sparked hit singles including: ‘History Repeats’ and ‘Stay High’. The latter of the two personifies Howard’s songwriting ability for misdirection in a title. Despite its connection and references to marijuana, the single is defined by Howard’s feelings of elation with your significant other. She later states in a lyrical breakdown with Genius that it’s all about “doing what makes you feel joy.”
Currently, Howard is still touring in connection with her solo project with upcoming show dates throughout the rest of summer. This leaves questions regarding the future of the group for fans. Since its hiatus announcement in 2018, each band member has gone on to begin their own side projects. Though, Howard maintains the closeness and comradery of the band as each member supports the other for whatever they choose to do. This includes potential replacements for the group. “Even I’m replaceable.”, Howard states regarding her future with the group. Her trust in the group is so strong that she’ll support whatever changes are made in the lineup. Even if it includes a new lead vocalist.
It’s easy to worry about the future of a group during a time when “social distancing” is nearly mandatory. However, fans can expect one thing from Howard and the rest of the members: they’ll always be actively creating something no matter the circumstances.
Written by Trenton Luber