As Fuse celebrates an extended Black History Month, we’re highlighting a variety of rising talents who are creating history right before our eyes. Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard is not merely a great rock frontwoman, she’s a sonic force of nature with the deep pipes, emotional songwriting chops and killer riffs that can’t help but make you feel all the feels.
She and the band walked away with an armful of GRAMMYs a few days ago for their second album, Sound & Color, but the most mesmerizing moment was when they performed and the cameras focused right on Brittany as she let out a galvanic wail, wrangled that turquoise axe and kicked it through “Don’t Wanna Fight.”
But taking home the Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance and Best Alternative Album GRAMMYs this year was just the latest in an astonishing, heartening series of badass accomplishments for 27-year-old Howard. Just last summer, there was the massive Lollapalooza main stage performance wherein she had the crowd of tens of thousands hanging on every note, rocking out so hard they blew out the sound system. Hours later, she was called on stage by headliner Sir Paul McCartney for an unforgettable duet on the Beatles’ “Get Back.” This fall, she also dropped a fantastic side/solo album under the name Thunderbitch.
“When I sit back and think about how miraculous [Alabama Shakes’ fame] is…I’d say it’s more than gratifying: It’s surreal,” Brittany recently told People. And no wonder. Her story isn’t the average rock star rise.
She grew up in the tiny town of Athens, Alabama and it was her older sister—who died of cancer at age 13—who taught her piano and poetry. As a teenager, tragedy struck her family further—their house in a junkyard was struck by lightning and burned down—but music had already become an unstoppable positive force. She’d learned guitar, bass and drums and joined forces with other like-minded musicians to form Alabama Shakes in high school.
Blues, rock, soul, roots, psychedelia, Americana—it’s all infused into everything Brittany touches musically. And between the GRAMMYs, the Beatle duet, tour after amazing tour and two stellar critically acclaimed Alabama Shakes albums, it’s clear she’s only getting started.