Tag: Easy Eye Sound

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstay Yola Performs “Dancing Away in Tears” on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”

Back in 2020, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based, multi-Grammy nominated singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had hopes of building upon the momentum of 2019’s breakthrough debut Walk Through Fire with a series of enviable opportunities that came her way.

Early that year, it was announced that she was casted as gospel, 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. Much like everyone else across the globe, the pandemic threw a massive monkey wrench into her planes — and her hopes: Hanks wound up contracting COVID-19 while in Australia for filming and pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions added further delays.

During breaks in the Elvis film ing schedule, the JOVM mainstay was supposed to play a series of dates opening for Chris Stapleton and Grammy Award-winning acts  The Black Keys and Brandi Carlile. All of those tour dates were either cancelled or postponed indefinitely. (Her tour with Chris Stapleton was rescheduled and took place late last year and included a stop at Madison Square Garden, which is a helluva long way from Rockwood Music Hall.)

Luckily, she was able to finish her first Stateside headlining tour, which included a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg, about a month or so before our collective and seemingly unending nightmare. In lieu of live, in-person touring, Yola made the rounds of the domestic, late night TV show circuit: She performed Walk Through Fire bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden, and a gospel-leaning cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers

Besides the virtual performances, much like the rest of us Yola wound up with a lot of time on her hands. She used the unexpected gift of time and space to ground herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would eventually become her critically applauded sophomore album Stand For Myself.

Some of the album’s material was written several years previously and inspired by deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic isolation, and as a result they reflect on her personal and collective moments of longing and awakening — inspired and informed by Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and other movements. 

Tracks were also cowritten with Ruby AmanfuJohn BettisPat McLaughlinNatalie HembyJoy OladokunPaul OverstreetLiz Rose, Aaron Lee TasjanHannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood. But importantly, the album’s material was written to specifically connect with those who have experienced the feeling of being an “other” or a token, while simultaneously urging the listener to challenge the basis and assumptions that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism — all of which have had impacts on her personal life and career. “It’s a collection of stories of allyship, black feminine strength through vulnerability, and loving connection from the sexual to the social. All celebrating a change in thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press notes. “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.”

Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

Stand For Myself continues Yola’s ongoing collaboration with acclaimed producer, singer/songwriter, musician and label head Dan Auerbach. Recorded late last year at Easy Eye Sound, the album sonically is inspired by the seminal albums in her mother’s record collection and the eclectic mixtapes she recorded while listening to British radio as a teenager. Those mixtapes featured neo-soul, R&B, Brit Pop and other styles.  

Featuring a backing band that included Nick Movshon (bass), best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars alongside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is a noticeable shift from her debut, with the album’s aesthetic meshing symphonic soul, disco and classic pop while occasionally hinting at the country soul of her critically applauded debut. 

In the buildup to the album’s release, I wrote about three of the album’s released singles:

  • Diamond Studded Shoes,” a woozy yet seamless synthesis of densely layered Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound pop, country, 70s singer/songwriter pop and late 60s/early 70s Motown soul centered around the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals and some of the most incisive sociopolitical commentary of her growing catalog. “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it,” Yola explained in press notes. “This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity.”
  • Stand For Myself,” a bold and proudly feminist anthem written from the perspective of a survivor, who wants to do more than just survive; she wants to thrive and be wholly herself — at all costs. While featuring a rousing, shout-along worthy hook. a clean pop-leaning take on the famous Nashville sound and a the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals, the song, much like its immediate predecessor is undermined by incisive social commentary: Essentially, the track reflects on Yola’s belief in the possibility of paradigm shift beyond the mental programming that creates both tokenism and bigotry. “The song’s protagonist ‘token,’ has been shrinking themselves to fit into the narrative of another’s making, but it becomes clear that shrinking is pointless,” Yola explains. “This song is about a celebration of being awake from the nightmare supremacist paradigm. Truly alive, awake and eyes finally wide open and trained on your path to self actualisation. You are thinking freely and working on undoing the mental programming that has made you live in fear. It is about standing for ourselves throughout our lives and real change coming when we challenge our thinking. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life.”
  • Starlight,” a sultry and lush, Quiet Storm-inspired song featuring twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, a soaring hook, strummed guitar, shuffling rhythms paired with Yola’s vocals expressing vulnerability and longing for human connection and touch. “‘Starlight’ is a song about looking for positive physical, sexual and human connections at every level of your journey towards love,” Yola explains. She adds: “The world seems to attach a negative trope of cold heartlessness to the concept of any sexual connection that isn’t marriage, this song looks through a lens of warmth specifically when it comes to sex positivity. Understanding the necessity of every stage of connection and that it is possible for every stage of your journey in love, sex and connection to be nurturing. Temporary or transitory doesn’t have to be meaningless or miserable. In the right situations every connection can teach us something valuable about who we are, what we want and what is healthy.”

Last night, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay was on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to perform Stand For Myself‘s fourth and latest single, the glittery, disco meets country soul ballad “Dancing Away in Tears.” While subtly hinting at Donna Summer‘s “Last Dance,” the song thematically focuses on having that sadly profound last romantic moment with a soon-to-be ex lover before you part forever. From the perspective of the song’s narrator, while the breakup is heartbreaking, they have an adult acceptance of it: while they’re glad to have met this particular lover, but they both know that the relationship has come to the end of its road — and that it’s time to say “farewell” and “good luck.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Robert Finley Returns with a Soulful Plea for Empathy and Kindness

Robert Finley is a 67 year-old Winnsboro, LA-born, Bernice, LA-based singer/songwriter and JOVM mainstay, who was one of eight children in a family of sharecroppers. As a child, a young Finley was unable to regularly attend school and often worked with his family in the cotton fields. When he was a teenager, he briefly attended a segregated school; but he dropped out in the 10th grade to help the family out financially.

As an adult, Finley has lived a full, complicated and often messy life: he’s an army veteran and a skilled carpenter, who has survived house fires, a bad auto accident and a divorce. Sadly, the Louisiana-born and-based JOVM mainstay lost his sight in his early 60s as result of glaucoma. And although, he was forced to retire from from carpentry, Finley realized that he now had an opportunity to purse a lifelong dream — becoming a professional musician and singer.

Finley believes that his sight was improved by the power of prayer — and that his faith has also helped him focus on launching a music career in his 60s. According to Finley “losing my sight, gave me the perspective to see my true identity.”

Finley’s rise has been rapid: As the story goes, Dan Auerbach immediately saw Finley’s potential, quickly proclaiming that the Louisiana-born and-based artist is “the greatest living soul singer.” As Auerbach recalls in press notes, “He walked in like he was straight out of the swamp.” He adds, “He had leather pants, snakeskin boots, a big Country & Western belt buckle, a leather cowboy hat and a three-quarter-length leather duster. The final touch was the folding cane the legally blind Finley wore on his hip, in a holster. Basically, he was dressed for national television.” 

Auerbach went on to produce Finley’s 2017 breakthrough sophomore album Goin’ Platinum, an album released to widespread critical acclaim from the likes of the Associated Press, who praised Finley’s ability to lend “instant credibility to any song” and The Observer, who wrote “Finley’s versatile voice ranges from prime Motown holler to heartbroken falsetto croon.” The Louisiana-born and-based singer/songwriter went on to support the album with international touring across 10 countries — with his live show drawing praise from a number of publications, including The New York Times and several others. Finley was also profiled on PBS NewsHour, which led him to becoming a contestant on the 2019 season of America’s Got Talent, eventually reaching the semi-finals. 

Finley’s third album Sharecropper’s Son was released earlier this year through Easy Eye Sound. The album continues the Louisiana-born and-based JOVM mainstay’s successful collaboration with Auerbach and features songwriting and cowrites from Finley, Auerbach, Bobby Wood and Pat McLaughlin. Much like other Easy Eye Sound releases, the album features an All-Star backing band that includes Auerbach (guitar); Kenny Brown (guitar), a member of R.L Burnside‘s backing band; studio legends Russ Pahl (pedal steel) and Louisiana-born, Nashville-based Billy Sanford (guitar); Bobby Wood (keys and as previously mentioned songwriting); Gene Chrisman (drums), who’s a Memphis and Nashville music legend; as well as contributions from The Dap Kings‘ Nick Movshon (bass), Eric Deaton (guitar); Dave Roe (bass), who was member of Johnny Cash‘s backing band; Sam Bacco (percussion) and a full horn section. 

Sharecropper’s Son may arguably be the most personal album of Finley’s growing catalog, drawing directly from his life and experience. “I was ready to tell my story, and Dan and his guys knew me so well by then that they knew it almost like I do, so they had my back all the way,” Finley says in press notes. “Working in the cotton fields wasn’t a pleasant place to be, but it was part of my life. I went from the cotton fields to Beverly Hills. We stayed in the neighborhood most of our childhood. It wasn’t really all that safe to be out by yourself. One of the things I love about music is that, when I was a boy growing up in the South, nobody wanted to hear what I had to say or what I thought about anything. But when I started putting it in songs, people listened.”

In the past few months, I’ve written about three of the album’s released singles:

  • Country Boy,” a swampy and funky bit of country soul featured a tight, strutting groove, bluesy guitar lines, shimmering organ and Finley’s soulful and creaky falsetto paired with autobiographic lyrics, which were improvised on the spot with the tape rolling. “When we play live, I always leave room in the show for lyrics I make up on the spot while the band hits a groove,” Finley explains. “I guess the younger generation calls it free-styling, but for me, it’s just speaking from my mind, straight from my soul.” While lyrically, the song touches upon classic blues fare — heartbreak, loneliness, being broke, being a stranger far away from home and the like, the song is fueled by Finley’s sincerity. He has lived through those experiences, and you can tell that from the vulnerable cracks in his weathered croon. 
  • Album title track “Sharecropper’s Son,” a strutting blues holler featuring James Cotton-like blasts of harmonica, shimmering Rhodes, a chugging groove, a classic blues solo, and Finley’s creaky and soulful crooning and shouts. And much like its predecessor, the song is fueled by both the lived-in experiences of its writer and the novelistic details within the song: you can feel the hot sun on Finley’s and his siblings’ skin, the sore muscles of backbreaking and unending labor in the fields. But throughout the song, its narrator expresses pride in his family doing whatever they could do legally to survive and keep food on the table. 
  • Make Me Feel Alright,” is a swampy boogie that’s one part John Lee Hooker barroom blues, one part Mississippi Delta Blues centered around a twangy blues guitar line, a shuffling rhythm and Finley’s expressive crooning. While being the sort of song you want your bartender to play loudly on a Friday or Saturday night, as you try to spit some game to some pretty young thing, the song as Finley explains in press notes “is about not looking for love, but for companionship. Sometimes you want to find someone to have a good time, You meet someone, have a fun night and then go on your separate ways with your own problems at the end of the night but still experience love in the moment.” 

Sharecropper’s Son‘s latest single “I Can Feel Your Pain” is an old school soul ballad centered around twinkling Rhodes, Finley’s expressive crooning, a two-step inducing rhythm, bluesy guitar blasts and a soaring chorus. But at its core, the song is an earnest expression of empathy for everyone who has had a difficult time of things, during this most unusually difficult period. And it comes from the deeply lived-in place of someone who’s experienced profound difficulties and inconsolable loss.

From my own experience, sometimes you just need someone to say to you, “I’ve been there. I know how that feels. Grief and heartache come in waves but somehow, some way, life will push and shove you forward.” And this song says exactly that — and at a time when we all really need it.

“‘I Can Feel Your Pain’ relates really to what is going on today,” Robert Finley explains in press notes. “From people losing loved ones to the pandemic, all the marches going on, people being slaughtered by the police. Even if you don’t really know about the situation from a personal perspective you feel sympathy for that person who had to go through those things and this song is for them.”

Directed by Tim Hardiman, the recently released video for “I Can Feel Your Pain” is shot with a hazy and nostalgic-tinged filter but makes far larger, more powerful points: the righteous struggles for justice and equality of Finley’s youth sadly still go on. Life is a struggle. Heartache and loss are constant. But choose empathy and love, and you’ll get by.

Live Footage: Yola Performs “Diamond Studded Shoes” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

With the release of her critically applauded, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, 2019’s Walk Through Fire, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a breakthrough year that year with a series of career-defining highlights including:

making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a buzz-worthy, breakout performance at that year’s SXSW
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, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors
playing a YouTube session at YouTube Space New York
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 not only quickly became a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John, who praised her and her cover

Last year, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon 2019’s momentum with a handful of opportunities that came her way last year that many artists across the world would kill for: Early last year, it was announced that she was casted as 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, much like with everyone else,the COVID-19 pandemic threw a series of monkey wrenches into her hopes and plans: Tom Hanks wound up contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia and because of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, filming was delayed. During breaks in the Elvis filming schedule, 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, which also got postponed until later on this year. (More on that below.) 

However, Yola managed two finish her first Stateside headlining tour, a tour that included a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a few weeks before the world went into lockdown.  In lieu of actual touring, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay wound up making a virtual tour of the domestic, late night television show circuit that saw her playing bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and gospel-tleaning cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers. 

But besides that, much like the rest of us Yola had a lot of time on her hands. The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay used the unexpected gift of time and space to ground herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would become her highly-anticipated sophomore album Stand For Myself. Some of the album’s material was written several years previously and inspired by deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic isolation, and as a result they reflect on her personal and collective moments of longing and awakening — inspired and informed by Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and other movements. 

Tracks were also cowritten with Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood. But importantly, the album’s material will make a connection with anyone who has experienced feeling as though they were an “other” while urging the listener to challenge the biases and assumptions that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism — all of which have impacted her personal life and career. “It’s a collection of stories of allyship, black feminine strength through vulnerability, and loving connection from the sexual to the social. All celebrating a change in thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press note, adding, “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.” Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

Continuing her ongoing collaboration with acclaimed producer, singer/songwriter, musician and label head Dan Auerbach, the album which was recorded late last year at Easy Eye Sound is inspired by the seminal albums she initially discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes she created while listening to British radio that featured neo soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others. Featuring a backing band that includes Nick Movshon (bass), best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars alongside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, with the album’s aesthetic meshing symphonic soul and classic pop while occasionally hinting at the country soul of her critically applauded debut.

In the buildup to the album’s release last month, I’ve written about three of Stand For Myself‘s singles: 

“Diamond Studded Shoes,” a woozy yet seamless synthesis of densely layered Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound pop, country, 70s singer/songwriter pop and late 60s/early 70s Motown soul centered around the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals and some of the most incisive sociopolitical commentary of her growing catalog. “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it,” Yola explained in press notes. “This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity.”
“Stand For Myself,” a bold and proudly feminist anthem written from the perspective of a survivor, who wants to do more than just survive; she wants to thrive and be wholly herself — at all costs. While featuring a rousing, shout-along worthy hook. a clean pop-leaning take on the famous Nashville sound and a the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals, the song, much like its immediate predecessor is undermined by incisive social commentary: Essentially, the track reflects on Yola’s belief in the possibility of paradigm shift beyond the mental programming that creates both tokenism and bigotry. “The song’s protagonist ‘token,’ has been shrinking themselves to fit into the narrative of another’s making, but it becomes clear that shrinking is pointless,” Yola explains. “This song is about a celebration of being awake from the nightmare supremacist paradigm. Truly alive, awake and eyes finally wide open and trained on your path to self actualisation. You are thinking freely and working on undoing the mental programming that has made you live in fear. It is about standing for ourselves throughout our lives and real change coming when we challenge our thinking. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life.”
“Starlight,” a sultry and lush, Quiet Storm-inspired song featuring twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, a soaring hook, strummed guitar, shuffling rhythms paired with Yola’s vocals expressing vulnerability and longing for human connection and touch. “‘Starlight’ is a song about looking for positive physical, sexual and human connections at every level of your journey towards love,” Yola explains. She adds: “The world seems to attach a negative trope of cold heartlessness to the concept of any sexual connection that isn’t marriage, this song looks through a lens of warmth specifically when it comes to sex positivity. Understanding the necessity of every stage of connection and that it is possible for every stage of your journey in love, sex and connection to be nurturing. Temporary or transitory doesn’t have to be meaningless or miserable. In the right situations every connection can teach us something valuable about who we are, what we want and what is healthy.”

Last night Yola performed a slightly stripped down and jammy version of her chart-topping single “Diamond Studded Shoes” on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Yola Releases a Gorgeous and Tender Visual for Smoldering New Single “Starlight”

With the release of her critically applauded, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, 2019’s Walk Through Fire, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a breakthrough year that year with a series of career-defining highlights including:

making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a buzz-worthy, breakout performance at that year’s SXSW
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, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors
playing a YouTube session at YouTube Space New York
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 not only quickly became a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John, who praised her and her cover

Last year, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon 2019’s momentum with a handful of opportunities that came her way last year that many artists across the world would kill for: Early last year, it was announced that she was casted as 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, much like with everyone else,the COVID-19 pandemic threw a series of monkey wrenches into her hopes and plans: Tom Hanks wound up contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia and because of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, filming was delayed. During breaks in the Elvis filming schedule, 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, which also got postponed until later on this year. (More on that below.) 

cluded a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a few weeks before the world went into lockdown.  In lieu of actual touring, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay wound up making a virtual tour of the domestic, late night television show circuit that saw her playing bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and gospel-tleaning cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers. 

But besides that, much like the rest of us Yola had a lot of time on her hands. The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay used the unexpected gift of time and space to ground herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would become her highly-anticipated sophomore album Stand For Myself. Some of the album’s material was written several years previously and inspired by deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic isolation, and as a result they reflect on her personal and collective moments of longing and awakening — inspired and informed by Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and other movements. 

Tracks were also cowritten with Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood. But importantly, the album’s material will make a connection with anyone who has experienced feeling as though they were an “other” while urging the listener to challenge the biases and assumptions that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism — all of which have impacted her personal life and career. “It’s a collection of stories of allyship, black feminine strength through vulnerability, and loving connection from the sexual to the social. All celebrating a change in thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press note, adding, “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.” Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

usician and label head Dan Auerbach, the album which was recorded late last year at Easy Eye Sound is inspired by the seminal albums she initially discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes she created while listening to British radio that featured neo soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others. Featuring a backing band that includes Nick Movshon (bass), best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars alongside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, with the album’s aesthetic meshing symphonic soul and classic pop while occasionally hinting at the country soul of her critically applauded debut. 

In the buildup to the album’s July 30, 2021 release through Easy Eye Sound, I’ve written about two of Stand For Myself’s singles:

“Diamond Studded Shoes,” a woozy yet seamless synthesis of densely layered Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound pop, country, 70s singer/songwriter pop and late 60s/early 70s Motown soul centered around the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals and some of the most incisive sociopolitical commentary of her growing catalog. “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it,” Yola explained in press notes. “This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity.”
“Stand For Myself,” a bold and proudly feminist anthem written from the perspective of a survivor, who wants to do more than just survive; she wants to thrive and be wholly herself — at all costs. While featuring a rousing, shout-along worthy hook. a clean pop-leaning take on the famous Nashville sound and a the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals, the song, much like its immediate predecessor is undermined by incisive social commentary: Essentially, the track reflects on Yola’s belief in the possibility of paradigm shift beyond the mental programming that creates both tokenism and bigotry. “The song’s protagonist ‘token,’ has been shrinking themselves to fit into the narrative of another’s making, but it becomes clear that shrinking is pointless,” Yola explains. “This song is about a celebration of being awake from the nightmare supremacist paradigm. Truly alive, awake and eyes finally wide open and trained on your path to self actualisation. You are thinking freely and working on undoing the mental programming that has made you live in fear. It is about standing for ourselves throughout our lives and real change coming when we challenge our thinking. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life.”

“Starlight,” Stand For Myself’s third and latest single is a sultry and lush, Quiet Storm-inspired song featuring twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, a soaring hook, strummed guitar, shuffling rhythms paired with Yola’s vocals expressing vulnerability and longing for human connection and touch. Certainly, if you’ve been single over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, this song will resonate in a much deeper and intimate way.

“‘Starlight’ is a song about looking for positive physical, sexual and human connections at every level of your journey towards love,” Yola explains. She adds:
 “The world seems to attach a negative trope of cold heartlessness to the concept of any sexual connection that isn’t marriage, this song looks through a lens of warmth specifically when it comes to sex positivity. Understanding the necessity of every stage of connection and that it is possible for every stage of your journey in love, sex and connection to be nurturing. Temporary or transitory doesn’t have to be meaningless or miserable. In the right situations every connection can teach us something valuable about who we are, what we want and what is healthy.”

by Ford Farichild, the recently released video for “Starlight” is set in a late-night and noir-ish neon cityscape. We follow our protagonist — Yola — walking through the streets full of longing and desire, until she meets her equally beautiful object of desire in a wonderful moment of tenderness and connection. It’s simple yet very beautiful and completely human moment. “I wanted to put something into the world that showed people what my dating life is like now,” Yola says of the video. “I’m currently single, yes, but I’m not neglected or some soulless sex robot. The volume of media dedicated to showing dark skinned Black women having a nice normal time in romantic situations, be it true love or just dating, is still lacking in my opinion.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Yola Releases a Rousing, Feminist Anthem

With the release of her critically applauded, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, 2019’s Walk Through Fire, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a breakthrough year with a series of career-defining highlights including:

making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a buzz-worthy, breakout performance at that year’s SXSW
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, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors
playing a YouTube session at YouTube Space New York
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 not only quickly became a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John, who praised her and her cover

Last year, the JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon the momentum of the previous year with a handful of opportunities that came her way that many artists across the world would kill for: Early in the year, it was announced that she was going 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, much like with everyone else,the COVID-19 pandemic threw a series of monkey wrenches into her hopes and plans: Tom Hanks wound up contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia and because of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, filming was delayed. During breaks in the filming schedule, she was supposed to open for a handful of dates 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, which also got postponed until later on this year. (More on that below.)

However, Yola was able to finish her first Stateside headlining tour, a tour that included a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a few weeks before the world went into lockdown.  In lieu of touring, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based artist wound up making virtual stops across the domestic, late night television show circuit: She played album bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and she played a gospel-tinged cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers. 

The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay used the unexpected gift of time and space to ground herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would eventually become her highly-anticipated sophomore album Stand For Myself. Some of the album’s material was written several years previously and inspired by deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic isolation, and as a result they reflect on her personal and collective moments of longing and awakening — inspired and informed by Black Lives Matter and other movements.

Tracks were also cowritten with Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood. But importantly, the album’s material will most likely make a connection with anyone who has experienced feeling as though they were an “other” while urging the listener to challenge the biases and assumptions that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism — all of which have impacted her personal life and career.

“It’s a collection of stories of allyship, black feminine strength through vulnerability, and loving connection from the sexual to the social. All celebrating a change in thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press note, adding, “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.” Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

Continuing her ongoing collaboration with acclaimed producer, singer/songwriter, musician and label head Dan Auerbach, the album which was recorded late last year at Easy Eye Sound is inspired by the seminal albums she initially discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes she created while listening to British radio that featured neo soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others. Featuring a backing band that includes Nick Movshon (bass), best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars alongside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, with the album’s aesthetic meshing symphonic soul and classic pop while occasionally hinting at the country soul of her critically applauded debut.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Stand For Myself’s first single, “Diamond Studded Shoes,” a woozy yet seamless synthesis of densely layered Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound pop, country, 70s singer/songwriter pop and late 60s/early 70s Motown soul centered around the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals and some of the most incisive sociopolitical commentary of her growing catalog. “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it,” Yola explained in press notes. “This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity.”

Interestingly, Stand For Myself’s second and latest single is the album title track “Stand For Myself.” Centered around a rousing, shout-along worthy hook, Yola’s powerhouse vocals and a clean, pop-leaning take on the Nashville sound, the song was cowritten by Yola, Dan Auerbach and Hannah Vasanth — and features The McCrary Sisters contributing backing vocals. The track manages to be a bold and proudly feminist anthem written from the perspective of a survivor, who wants to thrive and be wholly herself — at all costs. And yet much like its immediate predecessor, there’s incisive social commentary underpinning the whole affair: Essentially, the track reflects on the JOVM mainstays’ belief in the possibility of paradigm shift beyond the mental programming that creates both tokenism and bigotry.  “The song’s protagonist ‘token,’ has been shrinking themselves to fit into the narrative of another’s making, but it becomes clear that shrinking is pointless,” Yola explains. She adds “This song is about a celebration of being awake from the nightmare supremacist paradigm. Truly alive, awake and eyes finally wide open and trained on your path to self actualisation. You are thinking freely and working on undoing the mental programming that has made you live in fear. It is about standing for ourselves throughout our lives and real change coming when we challenge our thinking. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life.”

Directed by Allister Ann, the recently released video visually is indebted to Missy Elliott’s classic videos of the ’90s and ’00s but with strobe lights and a motorcycle to symbolize, the JOVM mainstay’s escape — and freedom — from those forces that have been oppressing her. And most importantly, depicting a much more nuanced definition of Black female strength — a strength thats balanced with vulnerability. r”My school years were during the 90s and 00s, and Missy Elliott’s videos were always aesthetically superior to me,” Yola says of the video. “I feel that the video is set in the antechamber to freedom. The feeling of escaping something truly oppressive and heading towards an unknown with a sense of hope and choice you haven’t felt in a long time. We all have the capacity to go through this process in our own minds, I kinda look like a superhero at times, but I’m not. I’m just a person trying to be free.”

New Video: Robert Finley Releases a Swampy Boogie Blues

Robert Finley is a 67 year-old Winnsboro, LA-born, Bernice, LA-based singer/songwriter, who was one of eight children in a family of sharecroppers. As a child, a young Finley was unable to regular attend school and often worked with his family in the cotton fields. When he was a teenager, he briefly attended a segregated school; but he dropped out in the 10th grade to help the family out financially.

As an adult, Finley has lived a full, complicated and often messy life: he’s an army veteran and a skilled carpenter, who has survived house fires, a bad auto accident and a divorce. Sadly, the Winnsboro-born, Bernice-based singer/songwriter lost his sight in his 60s as a result of glaucoma,.and although he was forced to retire from being a carpenter, Finley realized that he had an opportunity to pursue a lifelong dream — becoming a musician and singer. Finley believes that his sight was improved by the power of prayer — and that his faith has also helped him focus on launching a music career in his 60s. According to Finley “losing my sight, gave me the perspective to see my true identity.”

Finley’s rise has been rapid: As the story goes, Dan Auerbach immediately saw Finley’s potential, quickly proclaiming that the Louisiana-born and-based artist is “the greatest living soul singer.” As Auerbach recalls in press notes, “He walked in like he was straight out of the swamp.” He adds, “He had leather pants, snakeskin boots, a big Country & Western belt buckle, a leather cowboy hat and a three-quarter-length leather duster. The final touch was the folding cane the legally blind Finley wore on his hip, in a holster. Basically, he was dressed for national television.” 

Auerbach went on to produce Finley’s 2017 breakthrough sophomore album Goin’ Platinum, an album released to widespread critical acclaim from the likes of the Associated Press, who praised Finley’s ability to lend “instant credibility to any song” and The Observer, who wrote “Finley’s versatile voice ranges from prime Motown holler to heartbroken falsetto croon.” The Louisiana-born and-based singer/songwriter went on to support the album with international touring across 10 countries — with his live show drawing praise from a number of publications, including The New York Times and several others. Finley was also profiled on PBS NewsHour, which led him to becoming a contestant on the 2019 season of America’s Got Talent, eventually reaching the semi-finals. 

Finley’s third album Sharecropper’s Son was released last week through Easy Eye Sound. The album continues the Louisiana-born and-based singer/songwriter’s successful collaboration with Auerbach and features songwriting and cowrites from Finley, Auerbach, Bobby Wood and Pat McLaughlin. And much like other Easy Eye Sound releases, the album features an All-Star backing band that includes Auerbach (guitar);Kenny Brown (guitar), a member of R.L Burnside‘s backing band; studio legends Russ Pahl (pedal steel) and Louisiana-born, Nashville-based Billy Sanford (guitar); Bobby Wood (keys and as previously mentioned songwriting); Gene Chrisman (drums), who’s a Memphis and Nashville music legend; as well as contributions The Dap Kings‘ Nick Movshon (bass), Eric Deaton (guitar); Dave Roe (bass), who was member of Johnny Cash‘s backing band; Sam Bacco (percussion) and a full horn section. 

Sharecropper’s Son may arguably be the most personal album of Finley’s growing catalog, drawing directly from his life and experience. “I was ready to tell my story, and Dan and his guys knew me so well by then that they knew it almost like I do, so they had my back all the way,” Finley says in press notes. “Working in the cotton fields wasn’t a pleasant place to be, but it was part of my life. I went from the cotton fields to Beverly Hills. We stayed in the neighborhood most of our childhood. It wasn’t really all that safe to be out by yourself. One of the things I love about music is that, when I was a boy growing up in the South, nobody wanted to hear what I had to say or what I thought about anything. But when I started putting it in songs, people listened.”

In the buildup to the album’s release, I wrote about two of the album’s released singles:

“Country Boy,” a swampy and funky bit of country soul featured a tight, strutting groove, bluesy guitar lines, shimmering organ and Finley’s soulful and creaky falsetto paired with autobiographic lyrics, which were improvised on the spot with the tape rolling. “When we play live, I always leave room in the show for lyrics I make up on the spot while the band hits a groove,” Finley explains. “I guess the younger generation calls it free-styling, but for me, it’s just speaking from my mind, straight from my soul.” While lyrically, the song touches upon classic blues fare — heartbreak, loneliness, being broke, being a stranger far away from home and the like, the song is fueled by Finley’s sincerity. He has lived through those experiences, and you can tell that from the vulnerable cracks in his weathered croon.
Album title track “Sharecropper’s Son,” a strutting blues holler featuring James Cotton-like blasts of harmonica, shimmering Rhodes, a chugging groove, a classic blues solo, and Finley’s creaky and soulful crooning and shouts. And much like its predecessor, the song is fueled by both the lived-in experiences of its writer and the novelistic details within the song: you can feel the hot sun on Finley’s and his siblings’ skin, the sore muscles of backbreaking and unending labor in the fields. But throughout the song, its narrator expresses pride in his family doing whatever they could do legally to survive and keep food on the table. 

“Make Me Feel Alright,” Sharecropper’s Son’s latest single is a swampy boogie that’s one part John Lee Hooker barroom blues, one part Mississippi Delta Blues centered around a twangy blues guitar line, a shuffling rhythm and Finley’s expressive crooning. While being the sort of song you want your bartender to play loudly on a Friday or Saturday night, as you try to spit some game to some pretty young thing, the song as Finley explains in press notes “is about not looking for love, but for companionship. Sometimes you want to find someone to have a good time, You meet someone, have a fun night and then go on your separate ways with your own problems at the end of the night but still experience love in the moment.”

Directed by frequent visual collaborator Tim Hardman, the recently released video follows Finley as he tries to get a woman to spend a little time with him. While on his property, the video reveals Finley as a fun old guy looking for a little bit of fun — because life is short after

New Video: Robert Finley Releases a Soulful and Bluesy Holler

67 year-old, Winnsboro, LA-born, Bernice, LA-based singer/songwriter Robert Finley was born into a family of sharecroppers, and was one of eight children. As a child, a young Finley was unable to regularly attend school and often worked with his family in the cotton fields. When he was a teenager, he attended a segregated school, but dropped out in the 10th grade to help financially support his family and himself. 

Finley is an army veteran and was a skilled carpenter, who has lived a full, complicated and often messy life: he’s survived house fires, a bad auto accident and a divorce. Sadly, Finley lost his sight in his 60s as a result of glaucoma, and although he was forced to retire, the Winnsboro-born, Bernice-based singer/songwriter realized that he had an opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a musician. Finley believes that his sight was improved by the power of prayer and his faith has also helped him focus on launching a music career in his 60s. According to Finley “losing my sight, gave me the perspective to see my true identity.”

Robert Finley’s rise has been rapid: As the story goes, Dan Auerbach immediately saw Finley’s potential, quickly proclaiming that the Louisiana-born and-based artist is “the greatest living soul singer.” He walked in like he was straight out of the swamp.” Auerbach recalls in press notes, adding, “He had leather pants, snakeskin boots, a big Country & Western belt buckle, a leather cowboy hat and a three-quarter-length leather duster. The final touch was the folding cane the legally blind Finley wore on his hip, in a holster. Basically, he was dressed for national television.” 

Auerbach went on to produce Finley’s 2017 breakthrough sophomore album Goin’ Platinum, an album released to widespread critical acclaim from the likes of the Associated Press, who praised Finley’s ability to lend “instant credibility to any song” and The Observer, who wrote “Finley’s versatile voice ranges from prime Motown holler to heartbroken falsetto croon.” The Louisiana-born and-based singer/songwriter went on to support the album with tours of 10 countries — with his live show drawing praise from a number of publications, including The New York Times and several others. Finley was also profiled on PBS NewsHour, which led him to becoming a contestant on the 2019 season of America’s Got Talent, eventually reaching the semi-finals. 

Finley’s third album Sharecropper’s Son is slated for a May 21, 2021 release through Easy Eye Sound. The album, continues the Louisiana-born and-based singer/songwriter’s successful collaboration with Auerbach and features songwriting from Finley, Auerbach, Bobby Wood and Pat McLaughlin and an an All-Star backing band that includes Auerbach (guitar); Kenny Brown (guitar), a member of R.L Burnside‘s backing band; studio legends Russ Pahl (pedal steel) and Louisiana-born, Nashville-based Billy Sanford (guitar); Bobby Wood (keys and as previously mentioned songwriting); Gene Chrisman (drums), who’s a Memphis and Nashville music legend; as well as contributions The Dap Kings‘ Nick Movshon (bass), Eric Deaton (guitar); Dave Roe (bass), who was member of Johnny Cash‘s backing band; Sam Bacco (percussion) and a full horn section. 

Sharecropper’s Son may arguably be the most personal album of Finley’s growing catalog, drawing directly from his life and experience. “I was ready to tell my story, and Dan and his guys knew me so well by then that they knew it almost like I do, so they had my back all the way,” Finley says in press notes. “Working in the cotton fields wasn’t a pleasant place to be, but it was part of my life. I went from the cotton fields to Beverly Hills. We stayed in the neighborhood most of our childhood. It wasn’t really all that safe to be out by yourself. One of the things I love about music is that, when I was a boy growing up in the South, nobody wanted to hear what I had to say or what I thought about anything. But when I started putting it in songs, people listened.”

Sharecropper’s Son’s latest single is album title track “Sharecropper’s Son,” a strutting, blues holler featuring James Cotton-like blasts of harmonica, shimmering Rhodes, a chugging groove, a classic blues solo, and Finley’s creaky and soulful crooning and shouts. And much like its predecessor, the song is fueled by both the lived-in experiences of its writer and the novelistic details within the song: you can feel the hot sun on Finley’s and his siblings’ skin, the sore muscles of backbreaking and unending labor in the fields. But throughout the song, its narrator expresses pride in his family doing whatever they could do legally to survive and keep food on the table.

Directed by Tim Hardman, the recently released video continues Hardman’s collaboration with Finley and Auerbach and was shot in Finley’s hometown of Bernice, LA — and it’s an intimate tour of small-town life: the cotton and corn fields where a young Finley and his family toiled, the local movie theater, the barber shop and what not. And while has lived a tough life, his joy and pride have never been taken from him.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Yola Releases a Surreal and Hilarious Visual for Her Most Politically Charged Song to Date

With the 2019 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 breakthrough year with a series of career-defining highlights including:

making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a buzz-worthy, breakout performance at that year’s SXSW
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, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors
playing a YouTube session at YouTube Space New York
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 not only quickly became a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John, who praised her and her cover

Understandably, last year, the JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon the momentum of the previous year with a handful of opportunities that came her way that many artists across the world would kill for: Early last year, it was announced that she was cited 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 COVID-19 pandemic threw a series of monkey wrenches into her hopes and plans: Tom Hanks wound up contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia and the rest of the shooting schedule was delayed for the better part of a year. 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, which also got postponed indefinitely as a result of the pandemic.

However, Yola was able to finish her first Stateside headlining tour, a tour that included a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a few weeks before the world went into lockdown.  In lieu of touring, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based artist wound up making virtual stops across the domestic, late night television show circuit: She played album bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and she played a gospel-tinged cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers. 

The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay used the unexpected gift of time and space to ground herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would eventually become her highly-anticipated sophomore album Stand For Myself. Some of the album’s material was written several years previously and inspired by deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic isolation, and as a result they reflect on her personal and collective moments of longing and awakening. Tracks were also cowritten with Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood. The album’s material will likely make a connection with anyone who has experienced feeling as though they were an “other” while urging the listener to challenge the biases that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism, which have deeply impacted her personal life and career.

“It’s a collection of stories of allyship, black feminine strength through vulnerability, and loving connection from the sexual to the social. All celebrating a change in thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press note, adding, “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.” Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

Continuing her ongoing collaboration with acclaimed producer, singer/songwriter, musician and label head Dan Auerbach, the album which was recorded late last year at Easy Eye Sound is inspired by the seminal albums she discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes she created while listening to British radio that featured neo soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others. Featuring a backing band that includes Nick Movshon (bass), best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars alongside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, with the album’s aesthetic meshing symphonic soul, classic pop.

“Diamond Studded Shoes,” Stand For Myself’s first single is a woozy yet seamless synthesis of densely layered Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound pop, jangling and twanging country soul, 70s singer/songwriter pop and late 60s/early 70s Motown soul centered around the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals and some of the most incisive sociopolitical commentary of her growing catalog, as it focuses on the powerful, who have beaten down and cheated folks, who are desperate to survive with their dignity intact. “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it,” Yola explains. “This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity.”

Directed by Kwaku Otchere, the recently released video for “Diamond Studded Shoes” places the JOVM mainstay into a brightly colored, surreal world in which the mundane, the fantastic, the shitty and the flat-out terrible all meet to often hilarious results. And of course, throughout Yola’s larger-than-life personality, sense of humor and decency can’t be denied.

“The video is in part inspired by The Truman Show and is about being trapped in a false construct,” Yola explains. “It is supposedly perfect, but you’re trapped in a life that wasn’t meant for you. I wanted to convey the feeling that everything you know to be true is not quite working the way it’s supposed to. The island at the end is a paradigm of mental conditioning, we are all trapped on an island of our own thinking, until we change it.”

Stand For Myself is slated for a June 30, 2021 release through Easy Eye Sound. Along with the album announcement and video, Yola announced a series of tour dates that included spots at Newport Folk and Newport Jazz Festivals, making her one of the few to play both in the same year. She’ll be opening for Chris Stapleton on his rescheduled 2021 tour. She’ll also play a headlining show at The Ryman Auditorium next year. Of course, you can find those dates and ticket information at her website: https://www.iamyola.com.

New Video: Rapidly Rising Early James Releases a Southern Gothic-Influenced Visual for Brooding “It Doesn’t Matter Now”

Early James is a Birmingham, AL-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and frontman of the Birmingham-based act Early James and The Latest. Along with bandmates James Mullis and Adrian Marmolejo, the act seamlessly meshes roots rock, the blues, early rock and classic country.  The band is Dan Auerbach’s latest singing to his Easy Eye Sound Records — and as the story goes, Auerbach decided he needed to produce James’ work after watching roughly two seconds of the Birmingham-based singer/songwriter and guitarist performing. “Every line has to mean something to him, personally. It’s not good enough to just write a good song, it needs to have a deeper meaning,” Auerbach says of working with James. “He’s unlike any person I’ve ever worked with. He’s not writing a song to be universal; he’s writing a song for him.”

Singing for My Supper, Early James’ full-length debut is slated for a March 13, 2020 release through Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch Records.  Reportedly, the Dan Auberach and David “Fergie” Ferguson-produced debut features ten-wide ranging songs that span across blues, folk and old-timey pop crooning that are influenced by Fiona Apple, Tom Waits and the Southern Gothic poets — while being deeply personal, full of world weary wisdom and informed by lived-in experience.  

Singing for My Supper’s second and latest single “It Doesn’t Matter Now” tells a tale of a bitter breakup of a dramatic and dysfunctional relationship with recriminations and accusations and deliberately hurtful actions coming from both sides. Musically, the song is centered around a cinematic and brooding Chris Issak “Wicked Game” meets Mississippi Delta Blues arrangement — reverb drenched guitars, gently padded drumming, a sinuous bass line and James’ incredible vocals, which express the heartbreak, bitterness, pride, longing and ambivalence at the core of the song. 

Directed by Tim Hardman, the recently released video is a Southern Gothic-influenced visual that recalls Deliverance, A Time to Kill and others, as it stars James, his backing band and a collection of sideshow freaks and primarily set in and around a creepily beaten up cabin in the middle of nowhere. But the video’s protagonist are the sideshow freak couple, who inflict pain on each other — and gleefully enjoy it. “The subject matter for this song is pretty heavy. I felt there needed to be some aggression on screen but didn’t want it to play out like a typical break up,” Hardman told Billboard. “For some reason, Sideshow Bennie, whom I worked with several years ago, popped in my head. I looked him up and learned he was now working with a sidekick, Anna Fiametta. When I read how they met, I thought it was a funny story that would fit the song. The thought of them inflicting pain on each other, and the pleasure they receive from it, was intriguing. I pitched the idea to Early and I’m grateful he got it and trusted my vision for his song.”

Live Footage: Yola on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Throughout the course of the past year, I’ve written quite a bit about the Grammy Award-nominated Bristol, UK-born, London-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola. The Grammy Award-nominated JOVM mainstay has led a remarkable life — the sort that I’ve long thought should be made into an inspiring biopic, like What’s Love Got To Do With It: She grew up extremely poor — and fascinated by her mother’s record collection. And by the time she turned four, she knew she wanted to be a performer. Unfortunately, she was banned from making music, until she left home. She has also overcome being in an abusive and dysfunctional relationship, stress-induced voice loss and literally walking through fire, as a result of a house fire. All of this inspired and informed her Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut Walk Through Fire, which was released earlier this year through Easy Eye Sound.

2019 has been a breakthrough year for the Bristol-born, London-based JOVM mainstay with an incredible array of career highlights that included:

playing a breakout performance at this year’s SXSW
making her New York debut earlier this year 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
and of course, as I mentioned earlier, the JOVM mainstay recently received a Grammy nomination for Best Artist, along with fellow JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas. 
Adding to a big year, Yola made her late night national television debut last night, performing the swooning and gorgeous album single “Faraway Look” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!  Interestingly, over the past year, the country soul singer/songwriter has made a soulful — and just flat out amazing — cover of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” one of my favorite Elton John songs, a staple of her live show. Yola performed that as well. I think the live footage will serve as a great taste of her live show.