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Julie Dexter's independent soul

For someone dubbed the U.K.'s Queen of Soul, Julie Dexter is very unassuming — and lately has spent more of her time in Atlanta, where she's taken up residence. At a recent local concert, the slender songstress slid on stage unceremoniously after quite a fanfare, then pulled a very un-diva like move by playing her own keyboards on two tunes from her upcoming album Dexterity. Her smoky delivery, however, immediately shoots her into a stratosphere occupied by Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone.

So why isn't this royalty signed to a huge label? "I've been tempted by the deal thing," says the 29-year-old at a listening party for her current indie EP Peace of Mind. "But at the same time, I don't want to lose the fact that I'm a free woman to do what I want to do. If I want to sing with the man down the street, I can do that right now."

Nearly 10 years ago, the Birmingham, England, native was earning a classical music degree, but fell in love with jazz while at Virginia's Radford University on an exchange program. She hit the ground running upon graduation as lead vocalist for jazz quartet J-Life, which toured internationally as Britain's goodwill music ambassadors.

Pulled to strike out on her own, Dexter made Atlanta her base of operations as she infiltrates the U.S. soul scene. While her manager is also based here, Dexter says she chose Atlanta because there's "no pressure like in New York, where 6 million artists are trying to be put on."

Dexter is currently writing and producing Dexterity — which she says is about being a "young black woman from England" — for her own Dexterity label. Locals including drummer Littlejohn and Eric Harvey accompany her. Not bound by major-label marketing concerns, she plans to flex her vocal chords in styles ranging from jazz to reggae to soul.??