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Sunday, August 1st, 2021  

Self-Portrait: Yola

Retaining Her Voice

Jul 30, 2021 Photography by Yola Web Exclusive
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For our recurring Self-Portrait feature, we ask musicians to take a self-portrait photo (or paint/draw a self-portrait) and write a list of personal things about themselves, things that their fans might not already know about them. This Self-Portrait is by Yola.

Yola (full name is Yolanda Quartey) is from Bristol, England and got her start singing with local heroes Massive Attack, among others. Her debut album, Walk Through Fire, was released in 2019 on Easy Eye Sound, the label run by Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys), who also produced the album. Walk Through Fire received much critical acclaim and garnered Yola four Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist.

Yola had big plans afoot for 2020, including stadium tours with Chris Stapleton and The Black Keys and flying to Australia for an acting role as Sister Rosetta Tharpe in the new Baz Luhrmann-directed Elvis Presley biopic that also stars Tom Hanks. Alas the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted all that and instead she wrote and recorded her sophomore album, Stand For Myself, which comes out today via Easy Eye Sound and was again produced by Auerbach. The album draws inspiration from seminal records of the ’70s, British radio, R&B, classic pop, and ’90s neo soul.

“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 said of Stand For Myself in a press release announcing the album. “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.”

Above is Yola’s self-portrait photo. Read on as she writes about the ill effects of stress, an allergy she has, and taking tests while drunk.

1. I lost my voice for 18 months. I found out that stress can induce voice loss as much as being a professional singer that works a lot. In my case it turns out my voice is very affected by my mood.

2. I used to lecture in universities. After losing my voice I decided to get some measure of power over knowing what had happened. So I read a lot about voice pathology and developed some techniques to make sure I could build in my speech therapy to the way that I sang. After trying this and bringing my voice back it slowly got stronger than before I lost it. Some universities in the city I live in became interested and that became my lecture subject. It was loosely the voice science and therapy for professional singers but I wrote a lot about it

3. I have one leg an inch shorter than the other. If you see me standing on one leg and then the other leg you’ll notice I am 5’5” on one leg and 5’6” on the other.

4. I once drank so much milk that I had an allergic reaction that made my eyes swell shut. From that point I’ve never been able to eat an abundance of dairy that is sweet. Thankfully I can still eat cheese.

5. I did my GCSE exams drunk. In the UK we have this thing called secondary school but you go from age 11/12 to age 18/19. About age 16/17 you do this exam called the GCSE’s. At this time I was doing a lot of jazz gigs, a lot of dance music gigs and sometimes I would come back a little hungover or a little drunk from the night before. I was unable to say no to free stuff and dammit, the rider was free! Thankfully I was an A student so I got by well enough but I think I could’ve turned those Bs into As if I was sober. I realized after a while I’d be a complete lush if I pounded every rider.

6. My favorite movie franchise is still Harry Potter and I watch at least one of the movies every Christmas.

www.iamyola.com

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