It’s been a long wait for new music from Alabama Shakes, whose second release, “Sound & Color,” debuted at No. 1 in 2015 and went on to win multiple Grammys and be nominated for album of the year. But while the group itself has been dormant of late, its singer/songwriter, Brittany Howard, has been busy on her own. She’s just announced her first solo album, “Jaime,” for Sept. 20 release, along with a 17-show fall tour of America.
“To me, there is no time off — I’m a creative person and I need to create, or I just feel weird, not fully human,” Howard said in a statement announcing the album. She told Rolling Stone she’d informed the band in a meeting last year that she needed time to branch out on her own and “be in control of everything: the music, the arrangements, all that stuff. And when am I going to do it if not now?”
She did work with one Alabama Shakes member, bassist Zac Cockrell, on her solo debut, but rounded out her core ensemble with keyboardist Robert Glasper, an acclaimed jazz recording artist in his own right, and drummer Nate Smith. While she shares guitar duties in Alabama Shakes, she took on the lion’s share of that herself here.
“I turned 30 and I was like, ‘What do I want the rest of my life to look like?'” Howard said. “Do I want to play the same songs until I’m 50 and then retire, or do I do something that’s scarier for me? Do I want people to understand me and know me, do I want to tell them my story? I’m very private, but my favorite work is when people are being honest and really doing themselves.”
The album is named after Howard’s late sister, Jaime. “The title is in memoriam, and she definitely did shape me as a human being,” said the singer. “But the record is not about her. It’s about me. I’m pretty candid about myself and who I am and what I believe. Which is why I needed to do it on my own.”
Howard’s tour begins Aug. 17 with two shows in Asheville, NC, followed quickly by a night at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. Other stops include nights at New York’s Beacon Theatre (Sept. 24), L.A.’s Theatre at Ace Hotel (Oct. 8-9) and Austin’s ACL Festival (Oct. 5) before the trek winds down in Atlanta Oct. 13. Tickets for most shows go on sale Friday.
Howard talked with Variety‘s Shirley Halperin at a Citi conference last week about her experiences bucking the odds as Alabama Shakes enjoyed an unlikely but triumphant rise. “Right from the get-go I had a really hard time because I was a woman and wanted to play guitar and front the band and nobody wanted nothin’ to do with it,” Howard said. “They said I looked strange, I was too tall, wrong color skin to be playing rock n’ roll music so no one wanted anything to do with me because they’re like this is never gonna get off the ground. Well, four Grammys later… I did it my way and I was never gonna give up and I was never gonna listen to what anyone else had to say about what I wanted to do,” she said.