With the release of her critically applauded, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, last year’s Walk Through Fire, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a highlight-filled, breakthrough year. Some of those major highlights included:
playing a breakout performance at SXSW
making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a live session for YouTube at YouTube Space New York
opening for a list of acclaimed artists including Kacey Musgraves, Lake Street Dive and Andrew Bird on a select series of US tour dates that featured stops at Newport Folk Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Austin City Limits Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors
making her nationally televised debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions
receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Artist, along with fellow JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas.
making her late night national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
releasing a soulful cover of Elton John‘s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” that’s not only a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John himself, who praised the rapidly rising artist and her cover.
The British-born JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon the incredibly momentum of 2019 with a handful of opportunities that many artists across the world would probably kill someone for: Earlier this year, it was announced that she was preparing to play blues and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama Elvis alongside Austin Butler in the title role, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Presley’s mother. Unfortunately, the film wound up being delayed as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns- and infamously, Tom Hanks contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia.
The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay finished her first Stateside headlining tour, which included a Music Hall of Williamsburg show in February, right before pandemic-related shutdowns put the entire known world on pause. In between filming, she was supposed to play a series of dates opening for country superstar Chris Stapleton and Grammy Award-winning acts The Black Keys and Brandi Carlile — with one of those shows being at Madison Square Garden. The best laid plans of mice and men, indeed.
In the meantime, Yola has made her rounds across the domestic, late night television show circuit: Earlier this year she performed, album bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and recently, Yola was on Late Night with Seth Meyers with a soulful, gospel-tinged cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium.
Her latest single, the Dave Cobb-produced “Hold On” is the first bit of original material from the JOVM mainstay since the release of Walk Through Fire and the track features an All-Star cast backing her including The Highwomen bandmates Brandi Carlile (backing vocals) and Natalie Hemby (backing vocals), Sheryl Crow (piano) and Jason Isbell (guitar). The Yola penned song was recorded during The Highwomen self-titled debut sessions at RCA Studio A — and the track is an uplifting, gospel-tinged track with a warm yet spacious country soul arrangement and that incredibly soulful powerhouse vocal range. The sister can flat out sang, as they say. And along with the aforementioned cover of “To Be Young Gifted and Black,” “Hold On” comes from a rather personal, lived in place.
Inspired by many of the conversations and lessons Yola’s mother gave her about the racism, colorism and systemic unconscious bias she would later experience as a woman, the song finds its narrator imploring the listener — young, Black women, in particular — to be brash and bold, to stand up and take up place, and to to show the entire world that being young, gifted and black is where it’s at, as Nina once sang. Fuck yes, to all of this — and all the goddamn time, too.
“‘Hold On’ is a conversation between me and the next generation of young black girls,” Yola explains. “My mother’s advice would always stress caution, that all that glitters isn’t gold, and that my black female role models on TV are probably having a hard time. She warned me that I should rethink my calling to be a writer and a singer…. but to me that was all the more reason I should take up this space. ‘Hold On’ is asking the next gen to take up space, to be visible and to show what it looks to be young, gifted and black.”
A proportion of the profiles from sales of the track will be donated to MusicCares and National Bailout Collective. She also launched an accompanying line of merch with a proportion of proceeds from those sales also benefiting the same organizations. Check out the following: