Music fans have always had mixed feelings when a band member decides to release solo work. Some people think that an artist is stronger in their collective, while others are open to the idea and are excited to see what a musician’s individual voice sounds like. If you find yourself being the first kind of fan, get ready to eat your words because Brittany Howard shows with ease that her solo act is nothing to look down upon. The Alabama Shakes lead singer is on her way to release Jaime, her first full-length solo release. Jaime is named for Howard’s sister, who taught her to play the piano and write poetry, and who died of cancer when they were still teenagers. Howard’s collaborators on the album include engineer Shawn Everett, Alabama Shakes bassist Zac Cockrell, jazz-based keyboard player Robert Glasper, and drummer Name Smith. Discussing her solo debut, she says, “It’s my first time making decisions on my own, being the captain of the ship. 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.”
“Stay High,” the first single from Jaime, is an ode to joy in which Howard reflects on her upbringing. In the lyrics, she highlights the significance of where she’s from and how the people there aren’t always pleasant or even likely to have a smile on. However, what they lack in consistent jolliness, they make up for in being a hard-working community who are proud of who they are. They may not live a life that’s always peaches and cream, but they don’t necessarily want that. They find more joy in knowing that there is an end of the day in which everyone clocks out of work, comes home to their families, and spends their last few hours with the ones they love. That’s what Brittany means when she wants to stay “high”: it’s not a euphoria you’d find at a club; instead, it’s more of a high that you get when you realize you are in the right place with the right people.
Although this is Howard’s first solo endeavor, she has already gained a star-studded reputation by being a four-time Grammy winner, a two-time recipient of the NAACP Image Award, and an onstage collaborator with the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Prince, and Alicia Keys. Confirmed as Amazon’s Song of the Day and already lauded by outlets like Rolling Stone, SPIN, and The New York Times, “Stay High” is yet another breathtaking addition to her resume of award-winning music and phenomenal accomplishments.
Howard’s video for “Stay High”, directed by Kim Gehrig, is undoubtedly one of the most impressive displays of imagery to be paired along with a song. It’s no surprise the clip is so stellar, as Gehrig has an utterly impressive resume: her videos for Wiley & Mark Ronson’s “Cash in my Pocket” and Chaka Khan’s “Like Sugar” won top honors at the UK VMAs, and she was the winner of the first Glass Lion as well as multiple Gold Lions at Cannes. This summer, you’ll be able to see the video on BET HER, BET SOUL, CMT Rotation, MTV Live, MTV U, MTV News Story, and many more, prominent networks.
The “Stay High” video is set in Howard’s hometown of Athens, Alabama – and for the first time, she herself is onscreen. In the clip, viewers follow a working man (played by Brooklyn 99 star Terry Crews) as he clocks out of his blue-collar job and makes his way home through his small-town community. For the entirety of the video, we get a spotlight on rural Southern living, and although it may not be glamorous or invoke traditional feelings of being high, this man and the colorful characters that make themselves part of the scenery are feeling an intense sensation.
Howard says about the video, “The actors are my family and friends. Terry Crews plays a man who isn’t out to change the world, he plays a man who just wants to come home to those who understand and love him best. We see his inner beauty, grace and humanity in a place that is so often misunderstood.” Crews shares, “I got an email from the Brittany Howard, asking me to be a part of a song she wrote that was all about her dad and how special he was to the family. And she poured her heart out in this letter. I couldn’t believe it. Brittany was like, ‘we can shoot it in L.A.,’ and I said, ‘No, I’m coming to you, we’re going to Alabama. We’re going to where you grew up, to where your family is.” Whether it’s coming together for a cookout or merely arriving home to hug your wife and kids, the stars of “stay High” are feeling at peace and accepted.