Muscle Shoals, Alabama, was always an important part of my life. Whenever I went to visit my grandparents in the adjacent town, Sheffield, we always drove to Muscle Shoals (it was 10 minutes away) to hit the local fast food joints and to do some shopping at Rogers department store. Both Walmart and Kmart were in Muscle Shoals. That says it all. On all of those drives we would pass the historic FAME Studios.
I didn’t know that FAME was an important place in music history until years later. And honestly, if someone had told me when I was 12 about the folks who recorded there, I probably wouldn’t have been that impressed. I had yet to be introduced to the fine music of Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, etc. Little did I know that this studio and the music that was recorded there would become such an important part of my life all these years later.
I have a deep connection with Muscle Shoals because of the sweet memories I have of my grandparents that span 30 plus years. And now I have a new connection because of the music I’ve come to love.
2016 was truly the year of Muscle Shoals. I released a full-length album recorded at FAME with an amazing cast of players, including the legendary Spooner Oldham. The “Muscle Shoals Sessions” includes classic songs and some new ones I wrote just for this project. And then, this past summer, I took a Muscle Shoals Revue on the road, playing 50 shows across the country.
Touring extensively with a full band was a first for me. I held auditions for Berklee students in Boston to build the band. They would tour with me as a part of a paid internship that would give them great road and performance experience, playing excellent listening rooms in great cities across the U.S. While this project could have failed, it did not, and the fellas who toured with us were great guys and and players. We had a great summer together and several of them are touring with us again in 2016.
My husband Ryan, who learned to play the drums to support my music and to be a part of it, was our drummer for most of the summer and will return to the tour this year. I’m so proud of him and glad we can make music together.
My rock-n-rolling friend Sarah Borges joined us for a good number of the shows in 2015. It was a blast to have her along! She’s got a new album coming out this year and that will be her focus. Definitely check it out (it’s called Good and Dirty).
As I embark on 2016, it’s hard to believe that just over two years ago, I was working an office job four days a week and touring on the weekends. Two albums and two years of extensive touring later, that old life is solidly in the past. The path I’ve chosen isn’t easy and it doesn’t pay a third of the desk job, but I do love it and have no regrets!
I have Muscle Shoals to thank for an incredible 2015 and for what’s to come in 2016 and 2017. I’ll continue the Muscle Shoals tour this year, taking it back on the road this summer and then in early 2017, I plan to record my next album of originals (with the support of my fans), which will be greatly influenced and inspired by the soulful music I’ve been playing and singing for the past few years now.
“Place” will once again play an important role in my music. Who knows where the music will take me for my next album. Time will tell. But I’m sure glad and grateful it took me to Muscle Shoals for my current one.