“I turned thirty and I was like, ‘What do I want the rest of my life to look like?,’ “ says Brittany Howard. “Do I want to play the same songs until I’m fifty 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.”
As the frontwoman and guitarist for Alabama Shakes, 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.
As the first project to come out under Brittany Howard’s own name, Jaime represents an enormous step both musically and personally. “It’s my first time making decisions on my own, being the captain of the ship,” she says. “It brings up existential questions—why am I here, why do I do this? People think that touring in a band is super-fun, and it can be, but nothing about it is normal. You miss out on a lot of stuff, so I need to make sure I’m doing it for the right reasons.”
Howard looks forward to playing these songs live, but is tempering her expectations. “I have no idea what’s going to happen,” she says. “I have to measure my success by the fact that I did something I didn’t think I could do—I knew I could, but I didn’t know if I would. So just the fact that I made it, and gave myself permission to just fuck it up and do some stuff that’s maybe stupid and not cool, is pretty successful. Being a creative person, that’s the most successful thing.”