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Live From The Current Studio

Valerie June plays songs from her upcoming album, 'The Order of Time'

Valerie June performs in The Current studio.
Valerie June performs in The Current studio.Leah Garaas | MPR
  Play Now [19:23]

by Jill Riley and Brian Oake

March 03, 2017

Valerie June - Just In Time (Live on The Current)
by MPR
Valerie June - Astral Plane (Live on The Current)
by MPR
Valerie June - With You (Live on The Current)
by MPR

For Valerie June, songs are like living things. "They never leave my head and my heart,' June says. 'Once a song is born and it comes to me, then it can stay with me." Her next album, The Order of Time, celebrates that idea; the album is a collection of songs June has written over the past decade or so, and it is set to release on March 10, 2017.

Valerie June was recently in the Twin Cities to play a show at The Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. The next day, June stopped at The Current to chat with Brian Oake and Jill Riley, and to play a few songs from the forthcoming record.

Interview Highlights

On her approach to writing songs

"The way I write songs is while I'm doing other things. I never sit down to write a song ever. If I'm writing with another songwriter and we've blocked off time in our day to sit and write songs, I'll do that. It's not always easy for me, but I'll do it, and usually I have to have a lot of popcorn involved!

"But if I'm writing for myself and the songs I've put on the record, they're songs that just come, and they come when I'm doing stuff like cleaning the house, walking somewhere, taking the subway (because I live in New York). Hanging out, playing with my plants, gardening … sometimes I'll hear voices during that. Or when I'm cooking. Different things. That's when the songs come."

On the way her song ideas come to her

"What I do hear is all kinds of voices: sometimes I hear a child's voice, sometimes I hear an old man's voice, sometimes it's a woman's voice. I hear these voices, and as soon as I hear one, then I hear a thousand of them. It's very similar to the way a composer hears a symphony … but I don't hear instruments usually, I hear voices."

On her youth-mentoring work

"I have a school in Milwaukee that I work with called Lancaster Elementary. It was a program, Turnaround Arts, that the Obamas started, and goes into areas where art programs aren't funded properly in public school systems, and it allows sculptors, painters, poets, musicians, actors, actresses to go in and share their craft with the students. And by doing so, we find that the students are more enthusiastic about coming to school and learning about science and math! So it's pretty cool.

"I just feel art has such a great place in the world of education, and I don't think it needs to be cut as far as funding for it, so I was glad to be invited to be a part of Turnaround Arts."

On her trajectory as a performing artist

The whole journey as a songwriter for me has been about taking a dream, something that I felt like wasn't something I could achieve in my life … and bringing it into my reality. Seeing if I could make something that's imaginary come into the physical world and become true. And what I found along the journey is that it takes time. … It could take your whole life to manifest it, and it manifests one little step at a time with small, multiple moves instead of giant, massive, great leaps. And so The Order of Time is just dealing with all the different human emotions and all the different feelings and things we go through in our everyday journey towards our dreams."

On the origin of the song "Astral Plane"

"This is a cooking song — I was chopping the onions and garlic and sautéing, and I started to hear this beautiful voice, and it said 'Is there a light you have inside you … ' chop, chop, chop, fry! … And it was really fun to receive this song that was so playful and so otherworldly. It really aligns for me, the message and the theme aligns for me, the dreams and the journey."

Use the audio player above to hear the complete interview and songs from Valerie June.

Songs Performed

"Just In Time"
"Astral Plane"
"With You"
All songs from Valerie June's forthcoming album, The Order of Time, out March 10 on Concord Records.

Hosted by Brian Oake and Jill Riley
Produced by Anna Reed
Engineered by Michael DeMark
Visuals by Leah Garaas
Web feature by Luke Taylor


Valerie June - official site

Turnaround Arts - official site