With the release of 2019’s Walk Through Fire, her critically applauded Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, the the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a breakthrough year, which included:
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
year, the JOVM mainstay had a massive year ahead of her. Early in the year, it was announced that she was cast to play 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, the pandemic threw an enormous monkey wrench in her plans: Tom Hanks wound contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia. Pandemic-related lockdowns, quarantines and restrictions added further delays to the filming schedule.
or country superstar Chris Stapleton (at Madison Square Garden!) and for Grammy Award-winning acts The Black Keys and Brandi Carlile. Those dates were eventually postponed with some dates rescheduled for later this year. (As always, tour dates will be below.)
Luckily, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay was able to finish her first Stateside headlining tour, a tour that included a Music Hall of Williamsburg a few weeks before the pandemic wrecked havoc across the globe. With the pandemic putting everything on pause, Yola managed to remain busy: She made virtual stops across the domestic, late night television circuit, which included playing album bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden and a gospel-tinged cover Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers.
With the unexpected gift of time and space, Yola founded herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would eventually become her soon-to-be released sophomore album Stand For Myself. Interestingly, some of the album’s material was written several years perviously and was inspired by some deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic quarantine and isolation, and as a result, they reflect on personal and collective moments of longing and awakening, inspired and informed by Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements. Album tracks were cowritten with an incredibly diverse array of collaborators including Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood.
Thematically, Stand For Myself’s material will make a connection with anyone who has ever experienced the 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 Yola’s personal life and career in some way or another.
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.”
ngside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, inspired by the seminal albums she discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes featuring neo-soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others that she created as a young person listening to British radio. Aesthetically, the album frequently is a mesh of symphonic soul and classic pop that occasionally hints at the country soul of her breakthrough debut.
For Myself” is a bold feminist anthem written from the perspective of a survivor, who boldly asserts her desire to thrive and to be wholly herself — in her own terms and at all costs. While reflecting on the JOVM mainstay’s belief in the possibility of paradigm shift beyond the noxious mental programming that creates tokenism and bigotry, the song is centered around a rousingly anthemic, shout-along worthy chorus, Yola’s soulful, powerhouse vocals paired with a clean, modern Nashville meets symphonic pop sound.
“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.”
Last night, the JOVM mainstay performed a subtly stripped down version of “Stand For Myself” accompanied by a guest spot from Jon Batiste that managed to retain the song’s anthemic nature and powerfully necessary message.