Alabama Shakes are an American rock band formed in Athens, Alabama, United States in 2009. The bandâ€™s core members include lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard, bassist Zac Cockrell, guitarist Heath Fogg, and drummer Steve Johnson. After independently releasing their debut EP, Alabama Shakes began touring the United States, quickly gaining national attention and a large underground following. After signing with label ATO Records and releasing their debut album Boys & Girls in 2012, the band skyrocketed into mainstream success. Alabama Shakes received a number of accolades, including Grammy Award nominations, the Breakthrough Act award at the 2012 BRIT Awards, NME Award for best international breakthrough act, and two subsequent Grammy awards for their 2015 album, Sound & Color.
Brittany Howard, the lead singer and guitar player of Alabama Shakes, grew up in an all black Baptist church in Athens, Alabama, where she first found and developed her passion for music. Starting at the age of 11, Howard immersed herself in her communityâ€™s Sunday services and other music-centered experiences. Later in life, she got involved in local acts consisting of punk and acoustic shows, honing her skills as a vocalist, exploring different types of sound, and ultimately developing a tight room. By the time she crossed in her 20s, Howard had already built a committed local audience along with a passion an unforgiving performing flow, enabling her to quickly come up with catchy melismas and pierce the emotions of the listeners with her blues-tinged vocal styling.
The rise of the band drastically changed in 2011, when Brittany joined forces with Zac Cockrell, Steve Johnson, and Heath Fogg to create Alabama Shakes. After months of rehearsing, networking, and writing, the quartet released a 5-track EP â€œAlabama Shakes â€“ Boys & Girlsâ€ in April 2012, which served as an introduction to their intense retro soul-flavored live shows. An immediate critical acclaim followed the EPâ€™s release, as the band quickly became favorite among the public and industry figures. On the backdrop of these positive reviews, Alabama Shakes embarked on a nationwide promotional tour and signed with ATO Records later that year.
The band dropped their debut album Boys & Girls, also on ATO Records, just in Spring of 2012 and Alabama Shakes promptly made their way to the indie music scene with them. Their debut album, showcasing restless 1930s and 50s-inspired rhythm and blues combined with Hannahâ€™s stellar voice, quickly captured both audience and critics. The band earned its first Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best Rock Performance in the same year. Later in Spring of 2013, Alabama Shakes was nominated and graciously earned the Breakthrough Act award at the prestigious BRIT Awards, further establishing their place in contemporary mainstream music.
The same year, Shakes members engaged on a promotional tour for Boys & Girls across the United States and the United Kingdom. They took their show through the largest venues across the country, delivered a powerful performance at the blockbuster Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival, and closed out the tour with a set at the famous Coachella festival. After their return to the US, they finished the recordings for their sophomore album. The recordings where surprisingly diverse thematically, as they used synthesizers and augmented their sound with strings.
In April 2015, Alabama Shakes finally released their much anticipated second album, entitled Sound & Color, marking their return in a new light that until then had been unheard of in their repertoire. They quickly gained attention from the press and public alike, and although there was a lot of apprehension for their return, the album received critical acclaim and showcased a multi-dimensional exploration of sound. Its release was supported by an international promotional tour that showed both a polished and liberating performance by the band that had evolved from youth to adulthood over the span of their career.Just after one year of Sound & Color's release, in 2016 the band won their first Grammy Awards for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song for their single â€œDonâ€™t Wanna Fightâ€.
Today, Alabama Shakes proudly stands as one of the most respected American rock bands. Though no members have ever revealed their natural aspirations or what the future foreshadows for Alabama Shakes, the one sure is that with joint and separate explorations beyond their hometown theyâ€™ll definitely leave their mark in the world of modern and classic rock for decades to come. Sustained by an acclaimed catalogue and a behemoth-sized live show, Brittany Howard and her band will continue to push the envelopes and present quality music thatâ€™s sure to live up to the legacy they have created.