Southern Avenue takes more from Memphis than just its name.
As the first Memphis-based band to be signed to STAX Records in 40 years, the blues/soul/R&B fusion band has been bringing that Memphis sound all over the world –– performing in major music festivals like Bonnaroo and Firefly, and even going on to win the 2018 Blues Music Award. The band was formed by Ori Naftaly, sisters Tierinii Jackson and Tikyra Jackson, and Jeremy Powell, an alumnus of Stax Music Academy; and their second album, titled Keep On, was released earlier this year.
We recently spoke with Southern Avenue about their unique sound, their creative process, and what’s next for them as a band.
What inspired you to make music?
The ability to express myself without words. To be happy or sad, excited or nervous. Music is healing and we have the ability to heal people and ourselves by writing and performing songs. It is a true blessing to be able to do what we do. We are very thankful.
How has being in Memphis shaped your music?
[Ori Naftaly]: I moved to Memphis from Tel Aviv, Israel because I felt like this city is the Mecca of soul, blues and rock-n-roll music. I grew up listening and playing Memphis music, for me, it is a dream come true. Living here made me a better musician because of the energy and beat that the city has and mostly because of the amazing musicians who live here and create music here. I sacrificed a lot and feel like I got so much in return.
For Jeremy Powell: Can you describe your experience at Stax Music Academy? How has that experience affected you as a musician?
[Jeremy Powell]: I was born and grew up just a couple of blocks from Stax and everything about my musicality is influenced by Stax and Memphis music. Playing on Beale Street for so long has made me who I am.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
We write soulful music. We touch many genres but all in all it’s always soulful. The influences we all have as band members create a melting pot of blues, funk, and rock with a touch of gospel. We describe our music as “Memphis Music”. We are still at the beginning of our musical journey and feel like we got a lot more to put out before we can even start to describe it ourselves.
What is your creative process like?
We are inspired by our experiences growing up and the interactions we have on tour. We think about what would work best at our shows and try to go from there. Sometimes we are inspired by a lyrical concept and sometimes we have music in our head that we just have to get out. Being away from home for so long gives us a lot of inspiration to write.
How did it feel to be signed by Stax Records?
It was the best moment of our lives. We felt lucky and thankful and felt like we are the right group of people to represent our city and the Stax legacy. We never imagined it would happen, not in our wildest dreams… but now we own the responsibility and do our best to write honest and soulful music that will touch people.
If you could go open a show for any artist who would it be?
Tedeschi Trucks band! Which we are! How crazy is that? We are now on tour with them and having the best time of our lives. We got to jam with them at the end of one of their shows and became friends with the entire band and crew. So now we have to think about another group or artist we would love to tour with…so we will go with Beyoncé!
What would you be doing right now, if it wasn’t for your music career?
We can’t think of anything else but making music. Nothing compares to the amazing feeling of living your destiny.
Where have you performed? What are your favorite venues?
We are touring 300 days a year doing about 150-200 shows a year. We played in over 13 countries around the world including Australia, Spain, Romania, France and more. We hope to play in Africa, that’s our next goal and dream. We don’t have a favorite venue, but anywhere on the west coast and Colorado is always special.
What is your favorite song to perform?
“Don’t Give Up.” It has changed our lives and many of our fans’.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
To never give up and believe in the process and our intuition.
What’s next for Southern Avenue?
We are writing the next album and focus on improving our show every day. We have a tour in Scandinavia and Europe in 2020 and tours with our good friends Galactic and North Mississippi Allstars starting early next year.