Stories abound of how musicians navigated the full-stop nature of the pandemic. For English singer-songwriter Yola, who plays Showbox Sunday, the extended COVID-19 pause gave her a chance to take a deeper dive into herself with “Stand for Myself,” her critically acclaimed 2019 debut. Walk” is the follow-up album. through fire. ,
While her introduction to the public came as a country-soul force of nature that earned her several Grammy Awards, including Best Americana Album and Best Original Performance (despite being from Bristol, England), Yolanda in Claire Quarty. Born Woman has expanded her stylistic palette substantially with “Stand for Myself”.
With The Black Keys’ Dan Orbach returning as producer, “Stand for Myself” echoed Yola’s childhood sounds with bubbling and catchy protest jams (“Diamond Studded Shoes”) and Bacharach-flavored pop (“Like a Photograph”). ) covers everything. Gamble & Huff-flavored disco (“Dancing Away in Tears”) and silk sheet R&B (“Here You Are Now”). In the process, Yola created a self-list, already working to hold onto her center while facing a tsunami of success.
“It became clear during the lockdown as I was adding songs to my coffin of tunes, that I was writing about something,” she recalled in a phone interview in late February. “It felt like the arc of my journey from a double-mapped man to a person who seemed like I was on my way felt like the inspiration for the arc of this record, a moment where life took away some sense of time.” I talked about how to get over it for myself and take control of my life – not someone else’s – just mine. It was quite amazing how often I was in situations where people were in control of my life And they didn’t even know they were doing it.”
A major factor that allowed Yola to find the greater truth on the project was the involvement of the female-focused supporting cast. Major contributors were lesser-known talents such as Joy Oladokun and Ruby Amanfu, and better-known names such as Brandi Carlile and Natalie Hemby.
Yola explained, “I think with the first record, I was surrounded by white people.” “It was my relationships with women of different backgrounds, colors and persuasion that gave me this amazing ability to really dig into everything that I needed.” [dig up] on this record. I was blessed to have a group of women out there to help me fully understand where I was trying to go. ,
The Carlyle and Hemby connection came through The Highwoman. Yola was invited to contribute to the self-titled 2019 album by this all-female supergroup, which also features Maren Morris and Amanda Shires. Hemby caught Yola playing at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion Festival, professing his love for the latter’s first album and insisting that she be taking Carlyle to the British vocal powerhouse. The Highwomen Project followed, and doors of opportunity continued to open for Yola.
When she flew to RCA Studio A in Nashville, “I met Brandi with Natalie Hemby, who writes five of the 12 songs on my current record. I met Maren and Amanda there,” Yola said. There (producer) Dave met Cobb. Obviously, I’ve been on the road with Dave and Chris Stapleton too, so we got to see a lot about each other. [Dave] doing the soundtrack for this film [about Elvis Presley] And we were already connected.”
Cobb suggested that Yola audition for the Presley biopic, and she landed the role of gospel-star to rock-and-roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
“With this role, I get to correct some inconsistencies in the etymology of rock ‘n’ roll,” Yola said. “I know (as Tharpe) I’m the jumping-off point for Elvis as a character in the movie, but without me, you don’t have that. Without him, you don’t have the whole scene. The main thing is that how [Tharpe] Showcase to people and search them. That single-handedly brought us to people who might not have been seen or heard on the same level, while also clearly inventing a style of play that no one else was doing. No one was distorting their amp and playing and no one was bending the strings the way it was – or at all. This innovation changed everything. Plus she was very outspoken about being queer. ,
Yola is looking forward to sharing the entirety of her “Stand for Myself” material on her flagship tour this spring. Bassist Nick Movshon (Sharon Jones; Amy Winehouse) and drummer Aaron Fraser (Durand Jones and the Indications) anchor Yola from the rhythm section promised both subs and sizzles with their shows.
“I knew this record needed a rhythm section steeped in disco and funk. Feeling in the pocket was paramount to the drum sections we had,” she said. “We’re doing small sets for Chris Stapleton, So in the end we get the full fat system, distribution and all. I learned how I connected to this record and what was coming out in these live performances. It is also an opportunity to present these themes that can be taken up either on the surface or at a deeper level and meet people where they are.”