VALERIE JUNE
Photo: Gus Stewart/Redferns via Getty Images
Backstory
Her beautifully deep voice might be sexy now, but it didn't always hold such allure: "As soon as I could talk, I was bellowing at the top of my lungs," June says. "My parents couldn't get over how weird I sounded—like an old man when I was just a toddler! But no one was gonna shut me up." Growing up in Humboldt, Tennessee, June sang gospel at her church three times a week ("no instruments, just voices"). In her early 20s, when her first band broke up, she decided to become a one-woman show—finally picking up the guitar her grandfather had given her several years earlier. Learning was slow: "I was working like a dog as a housekeeper, barista, nanny, cook, so I could save enough money to really sit with my instruments," June says. "Whenever I had 20 minutes, I would practice a new chord or write a new verse."

Big Break
At age 25, June hit the road full-time, playing small gigs across the country. After raising nearly $16,000 through Kickstarter, June had enough to make her first studio album. Hoping to collaborate with Black Keys front man Dan Auerbach, she sent him music samples; he loved her funky blues-folk sound and signed on to coproduce the album and help write songs.

Next Up
With the release of Pushin' Against a Stone, June has embarked on her first major U.S. tour. Expect to see her performing with her latest string favorite: the ukulele. "It's my baby," she says. "As I try to get around with a guitar, a banjo and a suitcase of high heels and dresses, I treasure that little ukulele." Check her schedule at ValerieJune.com.

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