Memphis is known as the country music capital of the world, but it attracts performers from many other genres too. The foundation of Southern Avenue’s music is vintage blues and soul. However, it also has a rich smoky base taken from their Memphis home and is spiced with ingredients from other types of music worldwide.
One of the band’s founding members is the Israeli guitarist Ori Naftaly. He began learning to play when he was only five years old, and in his teens, studied funk, jazz and classical techniques.
Eventually, his interest changed to the blues, and he played throughout school and even when he got his first job. He formed The Ori Naftaly Band, and in 2011 they released their debut album, A True Friend (Is Hard to Find). In 2013 he made the trip to Memphis to compete in the International Blues Challenge.
He found he loved both the city of Memphis and its music scene, so he decided to move there permanently. That’s when he met singer Tierinii Jackson. She was born in Memphis and spent her early years singing at church. As she grew older, she also performed with a number of cover bands. Ori was blown away by Tierinii’s voice and the power in her singing. The pair hit it off and decided to form a band of their own.
They completed the band’s lineup by asking Tierinii’s sister Tikyra to play the drums, Jeremy Powell on the keyboard and Daniel McKee on bass. They began touring the US and Europe almost immediately, playing gigs and festivals, and later reached the finals International Blues Challenge.
Their fame slowly spread until it reached the ears of one of the most successful and powerful soul labels of the 60s and 70s, Stax Records, who had recently risen to prominence again. They offered the band a recording contract, and in 2017 produced their first album, simply called Southern Avenue.
The album reached number 6 in the blues charts, and remained in the top 30 of the Americana Airplay charts for nearly 6 months. This is quite a feat for a debut album. Their success continued, and they won an award from the Blues Foundation for the Best Emerging Artist Album. To keep this momentum going and build demand for the album, the band toured widely. They played over 300 different shows before they decided it was time to work on their second album.
By this time, Daniel McKee had left the band, and bassist Gage Marley had replaced him. They released Keep On in May 2019, and while they held true to their roots, their music also included elements of funk. This album was even more successful than their first, reaching number 5 in the Blues chart and also receiving a Grammy nomination.
The band continues to go from strength to strength and released its third album in June 2021. It’s called Be The Love You Want and features performances by Cody Dickinson and Jason Mraz. It’s safe to say this band is one to watch.