Alabama Shakes

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Alabama Shakes
Alabama Shakes performing in Santa Monica in 2014
Alabama Shakes performing in Santa Monica in 2014
Background information
OriginAthens, Alabama, U.S.
Genres
Years active2009–2018 (indefinite hiatus)
LabelsATO
Associated actsThe Revivalists
Websitealabamashakes.com
Members

Alabama Shakes was an American rock band formed in Athens, Alabama, in 2009. The band maintained a consistent lineup of lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, and drummer Steve Johnson. The group rose to prominence in the early 2010s and has sold over 1.5 million albums in the US.

The band began its career touring and performing at bars and clubs around the Southeast for two years while honing its sound and writing music. They recorded their debut album Boys & Girls with producer Andrija Tokic in Nashville while still unsigned. Online acclaim led ATO Records to sign the band, which released Boys & Girls in 2012 to critical success. The album's hit single "Hold On" was nominated for three Grammy Awards. After a long touring cycle, the band recorded its second record Sound & Color, which was released in 2015, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and won four Grammy Awards.

History[edit]

Early years (2004–09)[edit]

Brittany Howard grew up interested in music, filling notebooks with lyrics and teaching herself to play drums, bass, and guitar.[1] Howard, from East Limestone High School, played in multiple bands growing up that helped to formulate and craft her taste in music. Her most serious band in her early years was Kerosene Swim Team, a rock band that consisted of Owen Whitehurst and Jonathan Passero. They went on to have a single titled "Coffins and Cadillacs" featured on a compilation track from now defunct indie label Volital Records. They would practice daily after school in Passero's garage, Whitehurst's garage, and Howard's house. They mainly played house parties, and their songs consisted of a mix of covers and originals penned by Howard. Both Whitehurst and Passero went on to continue playing backup for Howard, with Whitehurst playing with Howard and Shakes' bassist Zac Cockrell in what would eventually become The Shakes. Whitehurst would play drums and piano, with Howard and Cockrell playing their current respective instruments.[2]

Formation (2009–11)[edit]

Howard met Heath Fogg in junior high when he played guitar at house parties.[1] She met classmate and bassist Zac Cockrell in a psychology class some time later, and they soon began to spend time listening to their favorite music together and writing their own.[3] After graduation, Howard hosted twice-weekly jam sessions at her great-grandparents' former home. Drummer Steve Johnson, who had heard Howard singing at a party years prior, began attending the jam sessions at the suggestion of Cockrell.[4] They began making music together and recording homemade demos[4] having little else to do in the small town.[1]

The group made its live debut in May 2009 under the name "The Shakes." [4] Fogg, by this point a guitarist in the Tuscaloosa-based Tuco's Pistol, invited the group to open for his band at Brick Deli & Tavern in Decatur.[3] The band was nervous to perform for an audience, as they felt "vulnerable." Their set included covers of Led Zeppelin, James Brown, Otis Redding, and AC/DC.[4] The show went over well, and Fogg soon joined the group.[1] During this time the band members held other day jobs: Howard as a fry cook and then a postal worker, Johnson at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant, Cockrell at an animal clinic, and Fogg painting houses.[5] For much of their early years, the Shakes performed shows on weekends at "sports bars and country dives."[6] They also began recording their debut album at Tokic's Bomb Shelter—the home of producer Andrija Tokic—in Nashville, funding the recordings themselves.[1] The band chose Tokic's over other studios because they recorded mostly live to tape, and they believed it would spur a livelier performance. The band would complete arrangements in their hometown and drive an hour and a half north to Nashville to record in intervals over the course of 2011.[7]

Their breakthrough came when Justin Gage, a Los Angeles music blogger and SiriusXM host, found a photo of Howard performing online. After contacting the band, he posted an MP3 of their song "You Ain't Alone" on his music blog, Aquarium Drunkard, in July 2011.[1][8] By the next morning, the group was awash in offers from record labels and management companies.[1] Gage also contacted Patterson Hood, vocalist of the band Drive-By Truckers, who attended a show not long after. He arranged to set the band up with his managers, Christine Stauder and Kevin Morris.[9] Alabama Shakes released a four-song EP, Alabama Shakes, in September 2011, which gained media attention (including NPR)[10] and earned an invitation to play at the CMJ Music Marathon industry showcase in New York.[11] The band began negotiating a record deal with ATO Records and added "Alabama" to their name after Joseph Hicks, of Halo Stereo, noticed how many groups shared the name "The Shakes".[1][12] They began to open for the Drive-By Truckers.[13]

Boys & Girls and mainstream success (2012–14)[edit]

The band performing three months prior to the release of Boys & Girls (2012).

The band's first full-length album, Boys & Girls, was released in April 2012.[14] It debuted at number 16 on the national charts as a digital-only release,[14] but climbed to number eight as physical releases were distributed.[4] The album received near-universal acclaim.[1] After a European tour, they opened for Jack White over a summer tour and performed at several major music festivals, including Sasquatch, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.[4] The album's lead single, "Hold On" was a radio hit (peaking at number one on Billboard's Adult Alternative Songs chart)[15] and was dubbed the best song of the year by Rolling Stone.[16]

The New York Times credited their "rapid ascent" to "Howard's singular stage presence."[1] The group received three nominations for the 2013 Grammy Awards: Best New Artist, Best Rock Performance for "Hold On," and Best Recording Package for their debut album, Boys & Girls.[17][18] After the Grammy's performance, Boys & Girls returned to the top 10, peaking at number six a year after its release.[15] Boys & Girls was certified Gold by the RIAA for sales of over 500,000 in the United States on March 13, 2013.[19] It has since sold over 744,000 copies in the US.[15]

Sound & Color (2015–2018)[edit]

The band began recording their second album in late 2013. They spent over a year in the studio, with no clear end-goal, as they had not written any new songs due to their exhaustive touring schedule.[5]

The group's second studio album, Sound & Color, was released on April 21, 2015.[20][21][22] It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 in the US, making it the band's first number one album.[15] The record's lead single, "Don't Wanna Fight", was a number two hit on the Adult Alternative Songs chart.[15] The album eventually earned three Grammy Awards, including Best Alternative Music Album.[23][24]

The band played for the VMworld 2015 Party at ATT park in San Francisco on September 2, 2015 and Barclays British Summer Time in Hyde Park, London on July 8, 2016.

In 2018, the band won the Grammy Award for Best American Roots Performance for their rendition of "Killer Diller Blue" in the film The American Epic Sessions, which was directed by Bernard MacMahon.[25] They recorded the song live on the restored first electrical sound recording system from the 1920s.[26]

Hiatus (2019–present)[edit]

In 2018, the band went on hiatus due to Howard's focus on her solo project Jaime, which led to a solo tour in 2019.[27] In June 2020, guitarist Heath Fogg released his debut solo project under the name Sun on Shade.[28]

In March 2020, drummer Steve Johnson pleaded guilty to domestic violence, harassment and stalking in relation to his ex-wife, following their divorce after three and a half years of marriage. He received a one-year suspended prison sentence and 24 months’ probation. On March 24, 2021, Johnson was arrested on suspicion of child abuse and was subsequently indicted by a grand jury on charges of "wilful torture, wilful abuse, and cruelly beating or otherwise wilfully maltreating a child under the age of 18."[29] He has been released on bail.[30]

Musical style[edit]

Early critical reviews of their debut, Boys & Girls (2012), noted that the band borrowed from mid-20th century rhythm and blues.[31][32] Alongside Howard's voice, the songs were compared to artists such as Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, and Aretha Franklin.[6] Howard herself took inspiration from Bon Scott of AC/DC in her vocal style, praising his "soulful" way of singing.[4] As the acclaim mounted, "reviewers speculated" that their sound was in homage to the music produced in Muscle Shoals, Alabama nearly five decades prior. Cockrell and Fogg were aware of the Shoals legacy,[16] but Howard was more influenced by bands such as Led Zeppelin and artists like David Bowie. The success of debut single "Hold On" led some to believe the group "[was] trying to pass themselves off as revivalists, something they never aspired to be."[1]

Their second record, Sound & Color (2015), is steeped in several different genres, and touches on everything from shoegaze to bands such as MC5.[31]

Influence[edit]

Alabama Shakes has been cited as an influence for artists such as Drake, Childish Gambino, and Beyoncé.[33][34][35]

Band members[edit]

Members[edit]

  • Brittany Howard – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
  • Zac Cockrell (Born: February 16, 1988, age 33)  – bass
  • Heath Fogg (Born: August 10, 1984, age 36)  – lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Steve Johnson [36] (Born: April 19, 1985, age 35)  – drums, backing vocals

Touring[edit]

  • Ben Tanner – keyboards[37]
  • Paul Horton – keyboards[38]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums

Awards and nominations[edit]

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2013 Alabama Shakes Best New Artist Nominated
"Hold On" Best Rock Performance Nominated
2014 "Always Alright" Nominated
2016 "Don't Wanna Fight" Won
Best Rock Song Won
Sound & Color Album of the Year Nominated
Best Alternative Music Album Won
2017 "Joe" (Live from Austin City Limits) Best Rock Performance Nominated
2018 "Killer Diller Blues" (The American Epic Sessions) Best American Roots Performance Won

Other awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2012 Boys & Girls AIM Independent Music Awards for Independent Album of the Year Nominated
Alabama Shakes AIM Independent Music Awards for Independent Breakthrough Act Nominated
Q Award for Best New Act Nominated
Americana Music Honors & Award for Emerging Artist of the Year Won
Rober Awards Music Poll for Best Songwriter[39] Nominated
2013 BRIT Award for International Group Nominated
NME Awards for Best New Band Nominated
AIM Independent Music Award for Most Played New Independent Act Nominated
Libera Award for Best Live Act[40] Won
Boys & Girls Libera Award for Album of the Year[41] Won
2014 "You Ain't Alone" in Dallas Buyers Club Libera Award for Best Sync Usage[42] Nominated
2015 Alabama Shakes NME Awards for Best International Band Nominated
Rober Awards Music Poll for Best Group or Duo[43] Nominated
Rober Awards Music Poll for Best Rock Artist[43] Nominated
2016 BRIT Award for International Group Nominated
Sound & Color Billboard Music Awards for Top Rock Album Nominated
AIM Independent Music Award for Best Second Album Nominated
Album of the Year[44][45] Won
Libera Award for Groundbreaking Album of the year Nominated
Libera Award for Marketing Genius Won
Alabama Shakes Libera Award for Best Live Act Won
Apple iPad Pro Commercial Libera Award for Best Sync Usage Nominated
2017 Transparent Season 3 (Official Trailer)[46] Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Rhodes, Joe (March 29, 2015). "Alabama Shakes's Soul-Stirring, Shape-Shifting New Sound". The New York Times. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  2. ^ Whitehouse, David (7 April 2012). "Boys & Girls, meet the Alabama Shakes". The Guardian. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Crawford, Jan (May 3, 2015). "Alabama Shakes: Fearless and free". CBS News. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Mansfield, Brian (April 27, 2012). "Meet the Alabama Shakes". USA Today. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Browne, David (March 25, 2015). "How Alabama Shakes Gambled Big on Wild Second Album 'Sound & Color'". Rolling Stone. No. 1232. New York City: Wenner Media LLC. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Alabama Shakes: Full Of 'Southern Soul'". All Things Considered. NPR. April 11, 2012. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  7. ^ Frost, Matt (July 2012). "Andrija Tokic: Recording Alabama Shakes' Boys & Girls". Sound on Sound. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  8. ^ Gage, Justin (July 25, 2011). "The Shakes: You Ain't Alone". Aquarium Drunkard. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  9. ^ Lamont, Tom (March 29, 2015). "Alabama Shakes: from small-town bar band to titans of rock". The Guardian. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  10. ^ Powers, Ann (14 October 2011). "How To Keep It Real When Making New Soul: Three Attempts". The Record: Music News from NPR. Retrieved October 29, 2012.
  11. ^ Ramsey, Jan (January 18, 2012). "The Alabama Shakes: Right At Home with Newfound Fame". OffBeat. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
  12. ^ Mongillo, Peter (February 8, 2012). "Once a cover act, Alabama Shakes rock and soul band draws notice". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  13. ^ Peisner, David (February 2, 2012). "Muscle Shoals Revival: Alabama Shakes Take Off". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  14. ^ a b Thompson, Stephen (April 1, 2012). "First Listen: Alabama Shakes, 'Boys And Girls'". NPR Music. NPR. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
  15. ^ a b c d e Claufield, Keith (April 29, 2015). "Alabama Shakes Scores Its First No. 1 Album on Billboard 200 Chart". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  16. ^ a b Hermes, Will (February 28, 2013). "Alabama Shakes' Unlikely Triumph". Rolling Stone. No. 1178. New York City: Wenner Media LLC. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  17. ^ "55th Annual Grammy Awards Nominees". Grammy.com. The Recording Academy. Archived from the original on December 1, 2011. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
  18. ^ Colurso, Mary (February 11, 2013). "Alabama ties: 2013 Grammy nods for Alabama Shakes, Casting Crowns, Civil Wars, more". The Birmingham News. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
  19. ^ "RIAA News Room - Nine Acts Spring Forward With New Multi-Platinum Awards". Recording Industry Association of America. March 13, 2013. Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  20. ^ Stern, Claire (July 30, 2014). "Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes Shares Her Tour Must-Haves". InStyle. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  21. ^ Terry, Josh (February 10, 2015). "Alabama Shakes announce new album, Sound & Color, premiere "Don't Wanna Fight" — listen". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  22. ^ Coughlan, Jamie (February 11, 2015). "Alabama Shakes Share 'Don't Wanna Fight,' Announce New Album". Overblown.co.uk. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  23. ^ Gibsone, Harriet (February 15, 2016). "Alabama Shakes win best alternative music album Grammy for Sound & Color". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  24. ^ Young, Alex (February 15, 2016). "2016 Grammy Winners: Kendrick Lamar, Alabama Shakes, David Bowie". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  25. ^ "60th GRAMMY Awards: Winners & Nominees (2017)". Grammy.com. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
  26. ^ "Watch Alabama Shakes Travel Back In Time With Cover Of 'Killer Diller'". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
  27. ^ Doyle, Patrick (25 June 2019). "Why Brittany Howard Put Alabama Shakes on Hold and Made a Wild Solo Album". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  28. ^ "ALABAMA SHAKES GUITARIST HEATH FOGG RELEASING DEBUT SOLO LP AS SUN ON SHADE". glidemagazine.com. June 22, 2020. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  29. ^ Snapes, Laura (March 29, 2021). "Alabama Shakes drummer Steven William Johnson arrested on child abuse charges". The Guardian. Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  30. ^ Richards, Will (8 April 2021). "Alabama Shakes drummer Steve Johnson released on bail following child abuse charges". NME. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  31. ^ a b Charlton, Lauretta (June 12, 2015). "Alabama Shakes: 'There's No Way to Be Original'". Vulture. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  32. ^ Dolan, Jon (April 10, 2012). "The Alabama Shakes – 'Boys & Girls'". Rolling Stone. No. 1155. New York City: Wenner Media LLC. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  33. ^ Dionne, Zach (April 29, 2016). "Drake Doesn't Talk to Nicki Minaj, Loves Alabama Shakes & Taylor Swift". Fuse.tv. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  34. ^ Ramos, Adam (November 30, 2016). "The welcomed evolution of Donald Glover". The Observer. University of Notre Dame. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  35. ^ Spanos, Brittany (April 26, 2016). "How Beyonce's 'Lemonade' Reclaims Rock's Black Female Legacy". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  36. ^ bbc.co.uk Alabama Shakes drummer Steven Johnson arrested on child abuse charges, 29 March 2021
  37. ^ Wake, Matt (January 21, 2014). "Ben Tanner: In-demand keyboardist talks Belle Adair's Huntsville show, touring and recording with Alabama Shakes". The Birmingham News. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  38. ^ "Alabama Shakes: Live from the Artists Den". The Artists Den. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  39. ^ "The Rober Awards 2012 Music Poll". Rober Awards. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  40. ^ Ugwu, Reggie (June 21, 2013). "Dualtone, Alabama Shakes, Tom Silverman Take Honors at 2013 Libera Awards". Billboard. Retrieved March 19, 2020.
  41. ^ Ugwu, Reggie (June 21, 2013). "Dualtone, Alabama Shakes, Tom Silverman Take Honors at 2013 Libera Awards". Billboard. Retrieved March 19, 2020.
  42. ^ Peters, Mitchell (April 25, 2014). "A2IM Libby Awards: Chvrches, William Onyeabor, ATO, Glassnote Among 2014 Nominees (Exclusive)". Billboard. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  43. ^ a b "The Rober Awards 2015 Music Poll". Rober Awards. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  44. ^ "SoundExchange Presents The 2016 A2IM Libera Awards". Shorefire. April 11, 2016. Retrieved March 19, 2020.
  45. ^ White, Caitlin (June 17, 2016). "Alabama Shakes And Kamasi Washington Win Big At The Independent Music Awards". Brooklyn Magazine. Retrieved March 19, 2020.
  46. ^ Gensler, Andy (April 25, 2017). "Radiohead, Run The Jewels, Bonobo, King Gizzard Lead A2IM's Libera Award Noms: Exclusive". Billboard. Retrieved March 19, 2020.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
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Saturday Night Live musical guest
February 16, 2013
Succeeded by
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Preceded by
D'Angelo
Saturday Night Live musical guest
February 28, 2015
Succeeded by
Zac Brown Band