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From the Promoter
As the frontwoman and guitarist for Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard has become one of music’s most celebrated figures—the band has won four Grammys (out of its nine nominations), and she has performed everywhere from the Obama White House to the main stage at Lollapalooza, where she sang with Paul McCartney at his invitation. But for her solo debut, Jaime, Howard boldly decided to explore new directions, with diverse instrumentation and arrangements and intimate, revelatory lyrics.
“It’s scary to mess with success, because the Shakes are doing so good,” she says. “But I needed to shake it up—and if you’re going to do that, you better go all out and make it worth it.”
Howard had amassed a bunch of ideas and song scraps, things that felt like they were outside the realm of the band. Her plans weren’t clear for these incomplete tracks, which were mostly recorded alone on her laptop and given temporary, random titles—making it challenging to even locate them later.
“I wanted to do something on my own, just my music, that didn’t have to have a genre or stick to fans’ expectations,” she says. “I knew I wanted to do a record, but I didn’t know where to begin. I was freaking out, I didn’t know what to sing or what it would sound like. I was writing every day, putting all this stress on myself, hoping something would happen.”
In search of inspiration, Howard left her home in Nashville and went to Topanga Canyon for a change of scenery. “I was staying in this beautiful place and I was miserable because the songs just weren’t coming,” she says.
When she eventually went into engineer Shawn Everett’s studio in Los Angeles to record, she only had a handful of finished songs. But once she started working with the band she had assembled—a core group of Alabama Shakes bassist Zac Cockrell (“We’ve known each other since we were kids,” she says, “so working with another bass player seemed ludicrous”), innovative jazz-based keyboard player Robert Glasper, and drummer Nate Smith—Howard started to feel the music taking shape, sometimes out of their playing and sometimes simply out of conversations.