When it comes to showcasing the absolute best of what modern Southern-bred soul has to offer, one needs to look no further than Memphis-based outfit Southern Avenue. Comprised of award-winning blues guitarist Ori Naftaly, otherwordly vocalist Tierinii Jackson, funktastic drummer Tikyra “TK” Jackson, Beale Street fixture Jeremy Powell tearing up the keys, and Evan Sarver holding it down on bass, the Concord/Stax Records recording artists released their latest stunner Keep On to rave reviews in May. Now, the five-piece powerhouse is tearing up the highways with a new accolade to add to the many–GRAMMY nominees. The band will make a pit stop in the Music City on December 11th, and we recently caught up with Ori Naftaly about all the things:
East of 8th: Y’all were nominated for a GRAMMY! Congratulations! What’s the first thing you did when you found out?
Ori Naftaly: We were shocked! It’s a huge honor. We don’t take anything for granted. We called each other and freaked out over the phone. It was a special day we will never forget.
Eo8: What’s it like to be GRAMMY nominees?
ON: We feel just the same as we’ve always felt – focused. Focused on our art, our friendship with each other, and our fans. We want to be the best version of ourselves that we possibly can. We also feel like we are being appreciated and it warms our hearts and helps us feel that the sacrifices are worth it. A GRAMMY nomination is huge but this isn’t why we are doing what we are doing. It’s all about the journey and the friends you make along the way.
Eo8: What is your band dynamic like, i.e., who contributes what personally and musically?
ON: We all contribute one way or another. Tierinii and I wrote most of the songs on the last two albums with TK being involved on a few of them. We try to bring the best out of each other in all ways every day and at every show.
Eo8: Your latest LP Keep On was recorded at legendary studio Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis. How was that experience, and how did it affect your music?
ON: We had a great time recording there. It was the first time we ever recorded in a museum, a place where so many amazing songs had been recorded. We went in very focused on what we needed to achieve, so to be honest it didn’t matter to us where we recorded as long as we had the freedom to be who we are, and that we have the perfect work environment.
Eo8: You’ve said that making this new album was very different than making your previous one. Can you tell us more about that?
ON: Our first album was done fast, because we were touring without a record. Originally, out of the ten songs on our debut album, five were recorded as an EP that we had previously released independently. When we signed with Stax, we used those five and went into the studio (Zebra Ranch) to cut five more tracks. We wrote almost 30 songs for Keep On over the course of two years. We had to filter a lot of songs that we really loved in order to fit everything into a vinyl package. We had more time to arrange, to play them live and to experiment. It was the first time that we co-wrote with other people that aren’t in the band, an experience that we enjoyed, but that we also found takes a lot of the energy away from us. It was a great experience altogether and we are very proud of how it all turned out.
Eo8: If Southern Avenue had a baseball team, which artists (living or not) would be drafted to play on your team and why?
ON: North Mississippi All Stars: because the Dickinson brothers are timeless, talented, and inspire us. We owe a lot to Luther for supporting us early on and recording on “Don’t Give Up.”
Tedeschi Trucks Band: because they are one of the best touring bands that ever lived, if not the best. Nicest people with an amazing work ethic.
Galactic: because they are the masters of groove and class.
Beyoncé: because the Jackson sisters love her so much that I cannot not mention her.
It’s hard to choose a team from all of our personal inspirations!
Eo8: You’re playing Nashville on December 11th. What can the Nashville crowd expect from a Southern Avenue live experience?
ON: We give it our all on stage, and we are honest about our art. We talk about subjects that people can relate to. We try to bring people together. We like to describe our music and show as Memphis Music — a melting pot of soul, blues, gospel and rock.
Eo8: Parting words? Is there anything else you’d like us to know about Southern Avenue?
ON: We want to wish everyone happy holidays, and hope to see y’all at the show. And thank you for supporting live music!
[Southern Avenue will bring their brand of Memphis Music to the Exit/In stage in Nashville on December 11th. Click HERE for tickets and show information.]