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Yola on the Importance of “Seeking to Connect” Through Music and Art

The Grammy-nominated artist also discusses her Music Unites Us campaign with Guitar Center

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yola interview
Yola, photo by Ford Fairchild for Guitar Center

    Yola is not one to exist in a state of complacency.

    “I love being in the company of artists and writers who are capable of bringing it fifty different ways on a tour,” she explains to Consequence by phone. “That energy that says, ‘I’m going to kill it, and I’m going to kill it a new way each night.’ That’s real skill.”

    The Grammy-nominated artist is currently on tour with country star Chris Stapleton (“He sings his ass clean off every gosh darn night”) and, without naming names, recalls being around performers who might not thrive in such an environment. There are people who are intimidated to be around inventive, experimental artists who push everyone around them to be better. Then there are people like Yola.

    Yola is an effervescent personality, intentional with her words, quick-witted, and brimming with energy. Her album Stand For Myself, released in July, is a genre-fluid collection that recalls big names of the 1970s. There are moments that feel like Fleetwood Mac, others that signal Dolly Parton, making it all the more interesting that Yola hails from Bristol, England. She says that this album was influenced by her mother’s record collection, one Yola spent plenty of time with growing up.

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    She pulled from the retroism of the ‘70s as much as she did the sampling of the ‘90s. “I really wanted to tell that story because that was the entirety of my musical landscape,” she says, “and both of those eras were extremely crossover and experimental and explain exactly why the record is the way it is — and why I am the way I am.”

    Yola remains booked and busy. Next, she can be found playing Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic, which also stars Kelvin Harrison Jr. as B.B. King and Austin Butler in the titular role. Additionally, she’s working with Guitar Center on the Music Unites Us campaign, a series of artist videos speaking to the unifying power of music.

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