Valley Queen hits the road on tour for their most recent album, Supergiant, hoping to mend and grow from their past experiences with touring.

valley queen photo
Valley Queen, by Pooneh Ghana

Touring broke Valley Queen up once. Now, it gives singer Natalie Carol a way to understand her band. Valley Queen is shaped by Carol’s Arkansas roots and the surrounding influence of L.A.’s guitarists, but the instability of tour caused a significant amount of strain on the band during its first go-round which caused them to splinter. They took some time apart, then came back together and are back on tour, with a stop in New Orleans on September 18 at the House of Blues, along with Justin Townes Earle and Social Distortion. Despite that, Carol stresses the magic of the touring process.

“When you’re touring, and you’re in movement, you’re in a music of its own,” Carol says. “I feel like maybe not being in one place, and being shaped by one place, you’re getting shifting perspectives of different ways that people live, and different paces of people’s lives. You’re just kind of thrown into humanity.” Touring caused the band to splinter, but touring helps to shape the music that Carol creates.

“Movement in general, just the sensation of being in a dynamic of movement … has an energetic current of its own which can be very creative,” she says. “It can be inspiring.” Her outlook manifests itself in Supergiant, an album brimming with a sense of urgency and a search for community.

There was healing that needed to be done in the aftermath of their first tour, and SuperGiant reflects the re-founding of their sound. The song “Two of Cups” most clearly exemplifies the transformation, and it is positioned on the back end of the album to reflect the labor of their journey. The song begins slowly and contemplatively, then builds into a momentous, cathartic culmination of vocals and instruments, with all members feeding off of each other’s energy.

“That track just puts me in a place where I’m just kind of floating in water,” Carol notes. “It’s a song very much about blue water, and how it’s a good place to come back to.”

This focus on healing is not only directed towards their band’s internal structure. Carol views songwriting as a way to better understand the self and understand the long lineages and bloodlines that our separate selves come from. “I think that’s why a lot of times I am drawn to music,” she says. “I feel like I’m meeting myself wherever I am and finding ground there. Speaking about what’s happening in your life, and trying to bring healing into your life, is speaking back to the past.” Through this, the listener becomes witness to someone else’s self-understanding while also being given a potential path to their own.

Listeners are also given the opportunity to heal communally. Carol talks about her privilege and platform as an artist, saying she does “feel a privilege of being able to have people’s attention for 45 minutes to an hour.”  In a contentious political climate, she wonders whether the most effective way to enact communal change and healing is to openly discuss societal injustice, or if “the most helpful thing is to just create a space where people feel love and know that it exists,” she says. The band tries to strike a balance.

Still, injustice elbows its way into Valley Queen’s music just like it does our lives. “Gems and Rubies,” for example, was inspired in part by the death of Philando Castile. “I was maybe just trying to slow it down a little there,” Carol says. “I woke up, and the day before the Philando Castile video had broken in the middle of the day, and it was just so awful to watch. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And with the development of technology, we’ve been able to see more brutality. We witness more brutality, and I was stewing on that.”
By telling these stories and contextualizing their listeners, Valley Queen is working to create a more honest, healing space during their shows. They are creating a community, even if it exists only briefly. On this tour, they are learning from their mistakes, and it seems as though their shows are succeeding in reflecting the energy of a band renewed.

Because they have been so shaped by touring and the consequences of being in constant motion, Valley Queen seems intent on creating meaningful spaces within each stop along their trajectory. With more people discovering their music, this round of tour has been more fulfilling, and they’ve been able to cultivate more a invigorating energy for both the band and the audience. Even though they are in moving constantly, they are working to give themselves and their listeners a place we can all root ourselves temporarily.

“Our album release show in L.A., that was the first time we had played since the album came out, and you definitely felt a new energy to it,” Carol says. “It was freeing and liberating and I want to carry that for as long as I can.”