Newport Folk Festival Recap: Interview with Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes

 “Newport is kind of legendary, isn’t it?” says Brittany Howard, of the Alabama Shakes. When we sat down to chat with the lead singer of this powerhouse blues-rock band on Saturday afternoon, Howard got straight to the point. As is the case with most artists at the Festival, Howard felt to be a little part of history by playing at Newport. We have to agree, as her performance with the rest of the Shakes will go down as one of our favorites of this past year. Howard and co. charged through a set full of powerhouse vocals and dynamic blues riffs that captivated the lawn at the Fort Stage.  Unfortunately, not every tour experience hasn’t been so idyllic for Howard. Brittany regaled us with a story from a recent set she played in Seattle, saying, “I was on stage and the sun was right in my eyes. It melted the mascara right into my eyeballs. It felt like there was ants and fire in my eyeballs, and I had to finish the entire set blind.” Well, shit. Regardless of the whole ants/fire/mascara fiasco, we feel pretty confident that she killed it in Seattle.

The Alabama Shakes have gained popularity just about as fast as a mash-up of cringe-worthy Ryan Lochte interviews. In under a year, the band went from relative obscurity to playing major festivals like Newport, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza. On her wildfire rise to success, Howard says,“None of us expected what’s happened. It was never my dream to be famous or make millions; I just never thought it was possible. I was just happy to tour around the South and quit my job. It’s turned into something completely different. And there go all my expectations. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.” To keep their winning streak going, the band is constantly writing and prepping for their next record, though right now they’re focusing on touring. Their aggressive touring schedule has certainly paid off, seeing that about every review of their show has been consistently glowing. So how do the Shakes put on a hype-worthy performance, night after night? Brittany breaks it down, plain and simple: “You gotta mean it. That’s all I’m tryin’ to do.” And damn do they.


Posted on by Caroline in M&T Favorites, Newport Folk Festival Recap

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