Taste of Chicago > Performer Bios
With “Wake Me Up”—the 2013 mega-hit he sang and co-wrote for Swedish DJ Avicii and saw climb to #1 in 102 countries across the globe—Aloe Blacc proved himself a singer/songwriter with an irresistible power to capture the complexities of human emotion. Now with his third solo album Lift Your Spirit (Blacc’s major-label full-length debut, released by XIX Recordings/Interscope Records), the rapper-turned-singer pushes further into a folk/soul/pop fusion that’s both undeniably joyful and eye-opening in message. Adding an of-the-moment twist to the music of legends like Sly Stone and Stevie Wonder, Lift Your Spirit is built on songs that pair Blacc’s poetic yet incisive lyrics with huge hooks and relentless feel-good grooves.
The follow-up to his 2013 EP Wake Me Up—whose title track serves as an acoustic version of the Avicii single that’s emerged as the fifth best-selling dance/electronic song in SoundScan history—Lift Your Spirit finds Blacc teaming up with premier producers like Pharrell Williams, DJ Khalil (Eminem, Drake, Kendrick Lamar), and Rock Mafia (No Doubt, Miley Cyrus) to achieve a slick and smooth retro-soul sound. “On my last album I paid homage to the music of Curtis Mayfield and James Brown and Al Green,” says Blacc of 2010’s Good Things, which featured his breakthrough hit “I Need a Dollar.” “But for this one I wanted to go in a new direction and create a new, updated sound.” To that end, Lift Your Spirit expands Blacc’s sonic approach by amping up his soulful musicality with a fiery rock & roll energy, razor-sharp hip-hop edge, folk-influenced lyrical sensibility, and pop-inspired ease with melody.
“After working with so many different styles of music over the years, I’ve found this place somewhere between folk and soul that feels really true to my vision,” says Blacc, who began writing rap lyrics at age nine, put out his first hip-hop mixtape in 1996, and released his soul/R&B-laced debut album Shine Through in 2006. (A Southern California native born to Panamanian parents, Blacc is also well-schooled in salsa music, and has closely studied everything from psychedelic rock and funk to reggae and dancehall.) “One of the reasons it was so great to work with Khalil is that he understands all the genres that have influenced me—from jazz to folk to Brazilian music to pop—and knew how to help me tap into those influences and make it sound amazing,” Blacc adds.
Kicking off with “The Man” (a sweetly boastful single that gives a sly nod to Elton John’s “Your Song” and climbed to the top 10 on Billboard’s Digital Songs chart in early 2014), Lift Your Spirit reveals both Blacc’s musical adventurousness and graceful grasp of the subtleties at the heart of his folk/soul hybrid. Produced by Pharrell Williams, “Love Is the Answer” is a big and brassy old-school soul anthem, while the haunting “Ticking Bomb” wraps its anti-war message in ghostlike backing vocals, intensely ominous rhythms, and Blacc’s pained but soaring vocal performance. Blacc’s stripped-down and bravely intimate version of “Wake Me Up” also appears on Lift Your Spirit, as do tracks as eclectic as the strutting, guitar-fueled “Can You Do This,” the blues-meets-hip-hop stomper “The Hand Is Quicker,” and the smoldering R&B slow jam “Red Velvet Seat.” And, fulfilling Blacc’s central mission of instilling joy in his listeners, songs like the gospel-inspired, groove-heavy “Lift Your Spirit” and the harmony-soaked epic “Eyes of a Child” are each a powerfully pure celebration of life and love.
Raised on the boundary-pushing hip-hop of acts like Public Enemy, The Pharcyde, and De La Soul, Blacc developed a fierce admiration for such soul musicians as Donny Hathaway and Marvin Gaye and folk-rock singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell and James Taylor as a teenager. “I got interested in folk and soul because of the songwriting,” he says. “Especially with folk, I was really drawn to the way those artists turned their songs into storytelling.” Tuning into Lift Your Spirit, the influence of folk-rock pioneers becomes evident in Blacc’s artful layering of disparate yet deeply linked themes in his lyrics. On the hard-hitting yet tenderly confessional “Here Today,” for instance, Blacc both portrays the struggle involved in making a living as a musician and meditates on the ephemeral nature of existence, cleverly weaving together images of cockroach motels, lonely nights, tattered shoes, and empty pockets. And on “Ticking Bomb,” Blacc laments consumer-crazed culture and environmental destruction by laying down such piercing one-liners as “The future is a dying art.”
“I’m really proud of my development lyrically,” says Blacc, noting that one of his greatest aspirations is to make it into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. And while Blacc thrives on collaboration in creating the sonic elements of his music—including “those long nights when everybody’s in the studio and we’re having such a good time that we just keep working when I really should be getting some sleep”—he’s adamant about taking sole responsibility for the lyrics that end up on his albums. “All the lyrics are me,” he says. “I really only ever want to sing lyrics that I’ve personally written.”
Carefully crafting lyrics to create impactful music has been essential to Blacc since high school, when he first broke into the indie hip-hop scene. Back then Blacc and his partner DJ Exile formed a duo named Emanon and quickly became cult favorites in Los Angeles, largely due to their heavy inventiveness in working with jazz samples and breakbeat loops. Going solo in 2003, Blacc soon signed to indie label Stones Throw and transformed from rapper to singer—albeit without shedding his hip-hop spirit or sense of social consciousness. Three years after the release of his solo debut Shine Through, Blacc began work on the record that would change his life and career: Good Things, an album certified gold in the UK, France, Germany, and Australia, among other countries. Along with “I Need a Dollar” (the platinum-selling single that was selected as the theme song to HBO’s How To Make it In America), Good Things included the singles “Loving You Is Killing Me” and “Green Lights.” The European success of both tracks led to interest from Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment, a move that paved the way to the 2012 signing of his recording contract with Interscope Records.
With “Wake Me Up” having sold more than 2.8 million copies in the U.S., Blacc notes that one of his main ambitions is to use his surging popularity to affect social change while continuing to infuse his music with a mindful positivity. “What it comes down to in my songwriting is trying to tell the story of the underdog and all the obstacles they have to overcome in this life,” says Blacc of the songs that make up Lift Your Spirit and his overall body of work. “The stories in my songs are about the common individual and all the struggles they’re dealing with everyday, and also all the hopes and aspirations that they have. It’s about reflecting all of that, and at the same time getting people to sing along and feel good and just celebrate being here.”
A solo project of Aaron Bruno, AWOLNATION began as a creative outlet for the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Bruno, who had been a member of Home Town Hero and Under the Influence of Giants, needed a break from the collaborative process and hoped to find a place for some of his songs that didn’t fit with his other bands. With AWOLNATION, Bruno built a kind of creative free-for-all for himself, allowing him to blend genres as he wanted in a style reminiscent of Beck, blending live instrumentation, electronic elements, and slick production into an electro-pop hybrid that draws from the whole of pop music. In 2011, AWOLNATION made its full-length debut, releasing Megalithic Symphony on Red Bull Records. -iTunes
A 13-time Grammy winner and Billboard Century Award recipient, Emmylou Harris’ contribution as a singer and songwriter spans 40 years. She has recorded more than 25 albums and has lent her talents to countless fellow artists’ recordings. In recognition of her remarkable career, Harris was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
Harris is known as much for her eloquently straightforward songwriting as for her incomparably expressive singing. Admired through her career for her talent as an artist and song connoisseur, Harris shook up country radio in the 1970s, and established herself as the premiere songwriter of a generation selling more than 15 million records and garnering 13 Grammy Awards (this year she and Rodney Crowell won the Grammy for "Best Americana album"), three CMA Awards, and two Americana Awards.
Harris is one of the most admired and influential women in music. She has recorded with such diverse artists as Linda Ronstadt, Daniel Lanois, Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler, Neil Young, Gram Parsons, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, Ryan Adams, Beck, Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash, Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett and most recently Rodney Crowell. Few artists have achieved such honesty or have revealed such maturity in their writing. Forty years into her career, Harris continues to share the hard-earned wisdom that—hopefully if not inevitably—comes with getting older, though she’s never stopped looking ahead.
A longtime social activist, Harris has lent her voice to many causes. She has performed at Lilith Fair, helping promote feminism in music and organizing several benefit tours to support the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. Harris is also an avid supporter of animal rights and is actively involved in Bonaparte’s Retreat, the dog rescue organization that she founded.
To sum up Gary Clark Jr. is more challenging every day. He’s a musical universe unto himself, expanding at a nearly immeasurable rate, ever more hard to define — as a mind-blowing guitarist, a dazzling songwriter and engagingly soulful singer.
With his debut album Blak And Blu he has just become the first artist ever recognized by the Recording Academy with Grammy Award nominations in both the rock and R&B categories for the same album in the same year, winning the latter: Best Traditional R&B Performance” - “Please Come Home” (from the album Blak And Blu). And the day after claiming those honors he provided one of the highlights of the highlights-filled “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles,” with sparks flying as he dueled with Joe Walsh on an incendiary “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” Dave Grohl behind them pounding the drums.
But that barely scratches the surface. The album’s a rocket ride from the Mississippi Delta of a century ago to multiple points still out beyond the horizon. Rock and R&B sure, but blues, soul, pop, psychedelia, punk and hip-hop are also in Clark’s expansive musical embrace and insatiable hunger for inspiration, which he’s internalized into music all his own. And his two acoustic blues performances on the soundtrack album for the acclaimed movie 12 Years a Slave show the distinct talent and personality he brings to his music.
That, in turn, has been inspirational to others — including some who inspired him. Just ask Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Jay-Z, Jimmy Page, Alicia Keys, the Roots, Buddy guy, Dave Matthews, Roger Waters, Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow, Jeff Beck, among the many who hailed his arrival as a major talent and cherished chances to perform with him. It’s no accident that he was invited to make more “special guest” appearances on the Stones’ recent 50th anniversary tour than any other artist, including the concluding Hyde Park blowout in which he and band also were the opening act.
Or ask President Barak Obama himself, who seeing Clark command the stage of the PBS White House concert honoring the blues — with Jagger, Beck, B.B. King and Buddy Guy among the veterans performing — declared of the young man, “He’s the future.”
Rolling Stone dubbed Clark “The King of the Summer Festivals” as he captivated audiences from Coachella to Glastonbury, Lollapalooza to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, from Metallica’s Orion Festival to Jay-Z’s Made in America, and of course his hometown Austin City Limits Festival, where he his band set a daytime attendance record. He’s dominated late night and daytime TV with multiple appearances on Leno, Letterman, Kimmel, Conan, Fallon, Arsenio Hall, Queen Latifah, Today, CBS This Morning and so on. Guitar Player magazine made him the first emerging artist to grace its cover in more than 15 years. Rolling Stone proclaimed him no less than “The Chosen One.”
It’s a lot to live up to, but through it all his musical ambition and reach continue to grow. New songs he’s previewed to delighted audiences show him exploring ever further combinations of sounds and styles, all with his distinct stamp.
A man of few words, he’s quietly grateful that the music he makes his way has connected with so many. “To think a weird idea I noodled on at the house has gone to something 40,000 people might hear at a festival is an indescribable feeling,” he told Esquire recently. “As cool as I might try to be, I think, ‘Oh my God, this is real!’”
At long last, Janelle Monáe -- the inimitable, award-winning, songwriter, performer, producer, CoverGirl and avant-garde funkstress -- is back again, ready to release her another full-length "emotion picture" to the masses. But as always, Janelle is not ready to talk about music just yet. She'd rather talk about her past and how those fertile powerful experiences forced her to create her coming album "The Electric Lady."
According to Monáe, "I went back to Kansas City after my tour for my debut album 'The ArchAndroid.' And when I looked around me, I decided I wanted to make a raw, revealing album all about my life and the things I'd experienced in my community -- about the laughter in the parks, the jams bumping in the cars, the jokes told over kitchen tables, all the life and warmth and struggles I felt there. But I also wanted to figure out how to take Kansas City to the future...like a surreal Parliament album with lyrics by Octavia Butler and album art by Salvador Dali."
As time passed, Monáe found herself increasingly drawn to the stories and experiences of the strong women in her life, and their ability to electrify and inspire individuals to do the right thing. "At some point I realized that the true heart and glue of the community were the women. My mama and grandmamma and my aunties and who to this day, are some of the most powerful beings on the planet. Under their guidance, I went from cleaning houses everyday in my maid outfit to the world-traveling performer I am today. They made me believe in myself enough to move from Kansas and pursue my dreams. A lot of folks think I work hard onstage because of James Brown. But they've never met my mother!"
Inspired by her mother and other matriarchs, Monáe began to write lyrics and songs about rebel women who refused to be marginalized and dared to live their life boldly and unapologetically in a distant future. According to Monáe, "When I returned to the studio, I felt I had to do my part. Through my art, I had to help create the woman I wanted to see around me. Incidentally, during concerts, for years I'd been painting this woman's physique -- the silhouette of her hips -
I have hundreds of these paintings with the same feminine figure over and over...this glowing Technicolor woman...seen from behind...regal, powerful and electric...My colleagues and friends told me to name this mysterious figure because she seemed to be a totem, a powerful symbol for me. So I named her 'The Electric Lady,' and that's where the album's title came from."
As she began the audacious task of following up on her acclaimed debut LP "The ArchAndroid" -- an album that topped critic's lists in 2010 all over the world -- she took along some trusty, brave companions: the original music producers of "The ArchAndroid," Nate "Rocket" Wonder and Chuck Lightning of Wondaland Productions. And together they crafted a new strain of jamming music they called "ish." In the hip hop community, "ish" is a euphemism for the profane four-letter word for excrement, but as Monáe explains, they set out, like proverbial alchemists, to turn lesser substances into gold. "This entire project was produced by Wonder & Lightning. We set out to make a soundtrack for the Obama era, something that spoke to the beautiful, majestic and revolutionary times that we're living in. The musical language we're speaking now is called ish. In the African-American community, we've been turning left-overs (like chitlins) and social depredation (like poverty) into delicacies and fine art for years. So we just set out to turn the rubbish all around us into something beautiful. Ish is the bowtie on the funk."
From the sound of "The Electric Lady," ish is an urgent and dangerous form of dance music, rebel music that forces one to fight, jam, and fall in love. Like on "The ArchAndroid," the sonic textures of the album are varied, and the past and present come together to explode and create a mind-blowing future for pop and soul music. For example, wondrous strings reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield and Bernard Herrmann orchestrations abound, Hendrixian guitar solos soar, Outkast-like raps float over punk rock riffs; defiant socially-conscious lyrics extol the virtues of soul-searching and fighting for change, while the funk simply melts your speakers: 808s boom and Prince-like synthesizers squiggle in your earhole, making it veritably impossible to just sit still.
"As we like to say at Wondaland, the booty don't lie. The booty always obeys the LAW OF THE JAM. You can't hate on something that makes your booty move, that makes you jam and have a good time. And the booty will always tell you the truth of a given situation. You can always tell what a community or a person truly believes by just studying the actions of their booties at any given time. They can claim they love this other person or culture, or believe in this peaceful god, or really want freedom, but do their actions prove it? Their actions, what their booties do or don't do, that tells you the truth."
The recording process was fun, rewarding, but also strained by Monáe's newfound need to be more courageous and personally revealing in her storytelling. "To do this album properly, I had to revisit some turbulent chapters in my life, deal with some questions and experiences left over from my childhood. There were so many things I had questions about. Sexual things. Racial Things. Gender things. Memories. Things I thought I had left behind me. New things I was discovering. But ultimately I found myself emulating my mother and grandmother and using their strength to surpass my fear. I had to do that before I could write and sing and perform these new songs convincingly. I'm not the kind of artist that can perform something night after night, if I don't believe in it, or if it's not true to me or my experience."
Monáe was also inspired and emboldened by her truly amazing collaborators: Roman GianArthur, the wunderkind and Wondaland Arts Society artist-in-residence that, once again, provided the album's magisterial overture; the soul star Miguel, who crooned his way effortlessly to the stars and helped provide a prime baby-making moment on the lush ballad "Primetime"; Erykah Badu, her self-ascribed "twin," who used her cosmic grace and poise to help turn the first single "Q.U.E.E.N." into a female empowerment anthem and a runaway smash; and none other than her lifetime hero, the legendary Prince, who contributed in countless ways, musically, vocally, and most importantly, spiritually -- by conversing with her from his purple telephone in Minneapolis, whenever she was weak and unsure which artistic direction to go.
As she worked, Monáe found herself, as always, drawn again into her other love, science fiction, and the exploits of Cindi Mayweather, the heroine of her first EP "Metropolis." In fact, the new album serves as Suite IV and V of her Metropolis saga, and in this chapter, the android hero Cindi moves from self-realization to self-actualization: from the knowledge and owning of her unique superpowers, to actually using them to better the world around her. Monáe says, "I like to think you can hear me using my superpowers this time. And not just talking or wondering about them. "The Electric Lady" is like the big action sequence in the third act of an epic film. Every party this album starts, or every baby born because of it, is actually another victory against the Great Divide."
As she continued to work on the album, Monáe found herself displaying these superpowers in new ways in the recording studio, and found that some of her best creative work was done when she was running entire production sessions by herself. "There were key moments like the rap on Q.U.E.E.N. where I needed to be alone. I dimmed the lights, setup the mic and engineered myself. I just let the words and sounds flow through me. Overall, I've been feeling stronger as a producer, as well as writer." In addition, on this album, Monáe had the chance not only to produce herself, but also to produce her collaborators Miguel, Erykah Badu and Prince. "I'm still humbled by the collaborations and partnerships I have on this album. I actually got the chance to produce and write for some of my heroes. And through my recording label the Wondaland Arts Society, I've been executive producing the artists I love. Wondaland artists such as Deep Cotton and Roman GianArthur. I'm proud of the Wondaland movement, and this new phase in my life as an artist, producer, and businesswoman."
The fruits and rewards of this artistic journey can be heard in ample measure on the album's courageous, outrageously funky first single "Q.U.E.E.N," which features the queen herself, Erkyah Badu. "Erykah's one of my best friends, and we talk about everything. That particular song really developed from a deep conversation we were having about a woman's place in the world. And how we were expected to be freaks and muses and virgin goddesses all at the same time by patriarchal cultures and religions. Rather than answer all the questions we just decided to jam to them and let the booties decide."
Now that the album is complete, Monáe finally has a concrete formula for the Electric Lady that she summed up by turning her first single "Q.U.E.E.N." into an acronym. In Monáe's own words, "An Electric Lady is Quirky, Unafraid, Electric, Epic and Nicety. That's when you're being nice and nasty, noble and naughty all at the same damn time. Because even superheroes need a glass of red wine. Even rebel women need a kiss every once in a while. What's proper and acceptable behavior simply depends on the time of day... and the kind of week you've been having."
Jeff Tweedy is “one of the most daring songwriters of his generation” and his band Wilco “vital, adventurous . . . breaking new stylistic ground with each ambitious and creatively restless album.” Salon.com
As the founding member and leader of the American rock band Wilco and before that the co-founder of alt-country band Uncle Tupelo, Jeff Tweedy is one of contemporary American music’s most accomplished songwriters, musicians and performers. Since starting Wilco in 1994 Tweedy has written original songs for eight Wilco albums and collaborated with folk singer Billy Bragg to bring musical life to three albums-full of Woody Guthrie-penned lyrics in the Mermaid Avenue series.
Tweedy has had a firm hand in producing all of Wilco’s eight studio albums, and over the past decade has created “the Wilco loft,” a state-of-the-art recording studio and rehearsal space on Chicago’s North Side “where eccentric vintage instruments sit side by side with near classics . . . industrial-grade shelves filled to the ceiling with guitar cases and amps. Everywhere you look, there are instruments.” Fretboard Journal
Tweedy, an accomplished and in-demand producer beyond the Wilco realm, has collaborated twice with soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples. First on her 2010 release You Are Not Alone, and more recently, on the just-released One True Vine. Both albums were produced by Tweedy and recorded at the Wilco loft and both have garnered widespread critical acclaim. “One True Vine sounds at once contemporary and true to Staples’ lengthy career and history . . . haunting, beautifully restrained . . . A-“ The A.V. Club. “Guided by the brilliant production of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy . . . mixes triumphant gospel and evocative blues, infusing each with hard-won wisdom.” NPR on You Are Not Alone, which went on to win Best Americana Album in the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.
Tweedy’s most recent producer credits include The Invisible Way by the Minneapolis trio Low, Wassaic Way by folk-rock duo Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion (co-produced with Wilco’s Patrick Sansone) and a forthcoming album by Austin’s psychedelic rockers White Denim.
A touring tour-de-force since the release of The Whole Love in September 2011 on the band’s own dBpm Records, Wilco has played more than 170 concerts worldwide including multiple tours of North America and Europe as well as tours in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Wilco also mans the helm at its own Solid Sound Festival at MASS MoCA in The Berkshires – a three-day event blending music, comedy, world-class contemporary art and more.
In addition to his work with Wilco, Tweedy tours frequently as a solo artist, playing intimate unscripted acoustic sets that draw from his 400-plus song repertoire. A departure from Wilco’s carefully orchestrated, sonically complex performances, Tweedy’s solo concerts showcase his prolific output as a songwriter, his proficiency as a guitarist, his charismatic and compelling stage presence, and his wry sense of humor.
Born in 1953, Lucinda Williams grew up listening to blues, country and folk music. She learned to play guitar and started writing songs in her teens. In 1979, Williams released her first album, Ramblin' on My Mind. She experienced a career breakthrough with 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Today, Williams continues to record new material and plays numerous concerts each year.
Nickel Creek's new album, A Dotted Line, is available on www.nickelcreek.com
2014 marks 25 years since the formation of the Grammy Award winning roots-music trio Nickel Creek, dormant since 2007. Violinist Sara Watkins, mandolinist Chris Thile, and guitarist Sean Watkins agreed that they should commemorate this milestone with at least a few concerts, a festival date here or there, and maybe an EP of new tunes to play at the shows. But when they convened in June at Chris's New York City apartment for a few days of writing, their creative synergy returned with a vengeance. These practically life-long friends immediately realized they had an album's worth of tunes in hand.
“We fell into step very quickly,” Sara recalls.” We felt like we had started right up again. Each of us seemed happy with the direction of the songs we were writing and the contributions all around. It was just really fun. We were excited enough about what we were coming up with to really go for it and make a proper recording and do a proper tour. We wanted to make it a real step forward. And that's what we did.”
“The band is going to be stronger and more exciting, at least for us,” decides Sara, “During the hiatus we developed a lot individually and on this record, we got to bring together what we've learned and make a record we are really proud of. We needed the break. It was really important to step away for a while, and that has made this process that much more exciting to us. And we'll be getting to do a lot more of it this year. We are going to be touring, playing some festivals. This band is a big part of our individual musical careers. It feels great, really balanced. I think I'm a better musician than I was then, I can bring different things to the band, and we've all grown up quite a bit.”
An Oklahoma native brought up in the Pentecostal church, which he’s since departed, 21-year-old Parker Millsap will make you a true believer with his self-titled Okrahoma Records/ Thirty Tigers debut album. Accompanied by his collaborators, high school buddy Michael Rose on bass and fiddle-player Daniel Foulks, the young tunesmith delivers his religious-laced parables, character-driven narratives and relationship tales with the fire-and-brimstone fervor of a preacher, restoring our faith in the power of song.
Influenced by the dust-bowl neutrality of John Steinbeck, Millsap’s memorable creations include the wife-murdering bible-thumper of “Old Time Religion,” the self-made church-on-wheels minister in “Truck Stop Gospel,” the questioning believer of “When I Leave,” the meth cooks in “Quite Contrary” and the gambler who spends all his money buying lottery tickets in “Yosemite.” Filled equally with ghosts and guilt, as well as an objectivity that invites listeners to paint themselves in each picture, Millsap’s songs teeter on the fine line between gospel and the blues, sin and redemption, God and the devil, heaven and hell… from the pulpit to the back pew.
Saints of Valory are a diverse bunch, with the four band members, Gavin Jasper (lead vocals, bass), Godfrey Thomson (guitar, vocals), Kenny Bozich (drums), Stephen Buckle (keyboards, vocals), growing up in three different continents — South America, Asia, and the U.S. — though they now call Austin, Texas, their home.
In November 2010, Saints of Valory self-released their first EP The Bright Lights, featuring an early version of “Providence,” which entered the Top 50 at Triple A radio, making them the only unsigned band in the upper reaches of the chart. In March 2012, they were chosen as one of Billboard’s top six unsigned bands nationwide. In May, they self-released their second EP, Kids, which broke into iTunes’ Top Rock Albums chart.
Saints of Valory are the type of band that craft dramatic, sweeping, arena-ready rock filled with elegant pop hooks, shimmering guitars, and emotionally genuine lyrics. Songs like the rhythmically charged “Kids,” “Long Time Coming,” and “Neon Eyes” (all of which appear on the band’s current EP Possibilities) are widescreen in scope, announcing the considerable ambition of these self-assured newcomers as they gear up for the release of their second EP, titled “V”, due out May 20th, 2014.
Together with Bob Marley, the Wailers have sold in excess of 250 million albums worldwide. In England alone, they’ve notched up over twenty chart hits, including seven Top 10 entries. Outside of their groundbreaking work with Marley, the Wailers have also played or performed with international acts like Sting, the Fugees, Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana, and Alpha Blondy, as well as reggae legends such as Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, and Burning Spear. As the greatest living exponents of Jamaica’s reggae tradition, the Wailers have completed innumerable other tours, playing to an estimated 24 million people across the globe. They have also been the first reggae band to tour new territories on many occasions, including Africa and the Far East.
Their nucleus formed in 1969, when Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh recruited the Barrett brothers - bassist Aston “Family Man” and drummer Carly - from Lee Perry’s Upsetters to play on hits such as Lively Up Yourself, Trenchtown Rock, Duppy Conqueror, and many more besides. Inspired by Rastafari and their ambitions of reaching an international audience, this is the line-up that pioneered roots rock reggae, and signed to Island Records in 1971. Bunny and Peter left two years later. It was at this point that the in-demand Barrett brothers - whose rhythms also underpinned innumerable seventies’ reggae hits by other acts - assumed the title of Wailers, and backed Marley on the group’s international breakthrough album, Natty Dread. Under Family Man’s musical leadership, they then partnered Bob Marley on the succession of hit singles and albums that made him a global icon, winner of several Lifetime Achievement awards, and Jamaica’s best-loved musical superstar. Drummer Carlton “Carlie” Barrett died in 1987, leaving his brother as the main beneficiary of the Wailers’ mantle.
Reggae music has never stopped evolving but for millions of people from around the world it’s still defined by the songs of Bob Marley and the Wailers. It’s been their heartbeat rhythms that have inspired so much of what’s followed since, as evidenced by the enduring popularity of the “one-drop” reggae sound.
The history of the band during Marley’s lifetime is well known. Just to recap, their music has sold in excess of 250 million albums worldwide. In England alone, they’ve notched up over twenty chart hits, including seven Top 10 entries. This was no accident. Apart from Marley, the Wailers have performed with international acts such as Sting, Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana, as well as reggae legends Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Burning Spear. Their most recent collaborators include Kenny Chesney, Eve, Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat. They’ve also completed innumerable tours over the years, playing to an estimated 24 million people across the globe, including groundbreaking performances in Africa and the Far East.
The anchor of the band is Aston “Family Man” Barrett, who in addition to being Marley’s most trusted lieutenant, played on countless other classic reggae hits throughout the seventies. The authenticity he brings to the Wailers’ sound is indisputable and yet today’s line-up combines old school know-how with lead vocals from one of Jamaica’s most exciting new singers.