[EXCLUSIVE] Southern Avenue Talks 'Keep On' & How They Met in iEDM Interview
Named after a street in Memphis, the band Southern Avenue has flourished, being called the most talked about band in Memphis right now. In only a few years, they have charted on Billboard and toured playing their soulful music around the world.
The second the lead singer steps on stage, the crowd is captivated by her high energy and wide range voice. Paired with her talented musician counter parts, this newer band has already proven to have what it takes for success.
Band members include vibrant vocalist Tierinii Jackson, her smiling sister TK Jackson on drums, their band founder Ori Naftaly on guitar, their close friend Jeremy Powell on keyboards and Evan Sarver on bass guitar.
Southern Avenue has had a busy tour schedule this summer, with stops at Electric Forest, Bonnaroo and Summer Camp and even across the pond to Europe.
iEDM got the chance to sit down with the band before one of their 2 sets at this year's Electric Forest.
iEDM: I became familiar with Southern Avenue music during your Colorado tour and when you opened for String Cheese at the Apres Festival. How was that?
Tierinii: Yeah, all those shows were great. It was, you know, it was just a great opportunity that we are very thankful for. It was a lot of fun.
iEDM: You guys dropped a new album 'Keep On' in May, tell me about that.
Tierinii: Yeah, we worked about 18 months on it. Well, I mean we are always writing but officially it took about 18 months to get it good.
Ori: There were a lot of songs. We were like, 40 songs, 30 songs and we brought it down to 12 which was hard!
iEDM: So what did you do with other songs? Do you still play them?
Ori: Well, first of all yes. We have songs that the label didn't chose or that we didn't think it fits the album and we definitely are doing it. But still, some songs we write and then whatever happens, happens but when you want to do an album then it needs to have a story; a beginning, middle, and end. So not everything fits into that.
iEDM: Right, so tell me about the story for this album.
Tierinii: This album is just another part of our journey and where we are now in our lives and careers is not the easiest place. So we just wanted to make honest music, stuff that people will be able to relate to, and we want to give positive messages like always.
iEDM: So how did you guys all come together to form the band?
Ori: I moved from Israel in 2013 for my band tour and then decided to change it up and asked around for the best singer in Memphis for me. And somebody suggested Tierinii and then quickly, the first time we met for an interview, both of us had the same interview - you know interviewing each other. And then she told me about TK, her sister, playing drums and immediately she joined my band and then within a few months we started Southern Avenue and became partners. So through my project, we met, but very quickly we started our project. And Jeremy was always there, he played with my band. He played with Tierinii's band on Beale Street, with me on Beale Street. He was always a part as a friend and as a musician. We invited him to join officially the band full-time also quickly, a few months later. And now, here we are.
iEDM: So somebody that doesn't really know what Beale Street is, can describe that.
Ori: Beale Street ... it's Memphis' Bourbon Street basically. It's where you can drink outside, walk with your alcohol, listen to music and get wreckless.
iEDM: Awesome. So you guys eventually were in the International Blues Challenge. You did pretty well in that, tell me about that experience.
TK: That was the start of it all. That was in the beginning of 2016 that we competed. Funny story - Ori came up to us and he was like "You gotta be in this competition." And we literally put in the hardest last minute, not last minute, but you know, getting ready for a competition. Like, let's do this. And it ended up bringing us, something more than just an award. We didn't win first place but we paced in the top. So after that we started taking off when we got our name around. But also the whole process of that night was like the fore-telling of our lives to come.
Ori: Yeah, it's 4 shows in a row with all the different stages, quarter finals. It puts you in a serious test as a group. And to be honest, most of the people that go there are way older than us. So, they have more stability in all terms of life, so for us it was definitely hard. It's cold. And it's a lot of rules and it prepares you for doing Electric Forest, for example, there's 100 artists, there's da-da-da-da-da but it's nothing compared to The International Blues Challenge.
Yeah, because the stress. Everybody is looking at you, judging you. And it's not a competition, it's a challenge because it's not really a competition. Susan Tedeschi didn't even make it to the finals and she has the best career that anybody could ask for. So, it's really a challenge but it really prepared us as a group. Whatever we could have gone through in a year, we went through in 2 months. And then, did that and it really got us stronger as friends.
iEDM: Awesome. That's cool. So then, what have been some of your biggest influences musically? Because you guys have such a wide range of soulful influence, and then Ori is from Israel.
Tierinii: I mean, when we grew up, we only allowed to listen to gospel, so we just had a lot of gospel influences and like a couple of my favorites: Michael Jackson, James Brown, Tina Turner, Beyonce, but I think Ori is one of my biggest influences because I have always been around blues but I have never just gotten into it. Because it's just always ... I live there. Yeah, he got me actually listening and appreciating the genre.
TK: My biggest musical influences first of all was church, growing up. So that was my introduction, my training wheels, my smack on the hand, you know. Then when I got out, when I met Ori he was also an influence. At the time I was just taking on gigs, joining different bands and it ended up being something that I didn't expect. Another influence - Kirk Franklin.
Ori: Yeah, I grew up on blues and everything, rock and roll. Anything on the Mississipi river. I have been playing since I was 5 and unlike the girls I didn't have have chruch... well, synagogue doesn't really jam, you know. I had to really fight, literally fight for music, fight with the record store to bring music in back in the 90s. It was never easy to acquire good music. Now it's easy - but back then it was harder but I grew up really on the same kind of thing.
iEDM: Awesome. So, then in 2017 your guys' debut album charted on Billboard. Did you expect that?
TK: No haha. You never know what to expect.
Ori: Yeah, who knows.
Tierinii: You can't really think about those things when you're in our position. It will just drive you crazy but it was a nice surprise. We were happy with the album.
iEDM: Awesome. So you guys have a busy tour schedule and you guys just got back from Europe. What has been one of your favorite places so far this year that you have played?
Ori: Yeah! Barcelona.
iEDM: You guys played Electric Forest previously and TK was telling me about your Grarnd Artique experience. What do you have planned for tonight? Anything special?
Ori: We do! We are wondering if we should rest or if we should party up until, I don't know. It's always hazy in there! *laughs*
iEDM: Can you party and play? Are you good at that?
Ori: Well ... *all laughs* We party when we play. We party when we play. But we don't play when we party.
Thank you Southern Avenue for taking time from your busy tour schedule to chat with us!
Their Grand Artique set was incredible! Tierinii's powerful voice and the band's energy was unmatched. It was an incredible experience for those who wandered up in the Forest.
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