Album of the Week: Yola, 'Stand For Myself'

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For Yola's second full length record, Stand For Myself, the British musician once again went to Nashville to work with producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys who she previously worked with on her debut Walk Through Fire, which earned a number of nominations and awards.

Describing the album title to Jill Riley, Yola says that Standing for Myself "is as much about standing in my power as much as it is deciding that minimizing myself is not going to win me anything," and, "that title is, for anyone who's listening to it, is to be fully yourself and to satisfy your spirit's will to manifest and be in this world." Watch Yola's full virtual session with The Current below, including an interview with Jill Riley.

Interview Highlights

Edited for clarity and length.

JILL RILEY: That song "Diamond Studded Shoes," it's the song that we've been playing here on The Current from the new record Stand For Myself. And like I said, due out July 30. So it's great to be talking with you, and I'm sure it's great for you to kind of prepare for this album cycle.

YOLA: Yeah, it's really exciting. Having "Diamond Studded Shoes" out there in the world as the first offering from this album is really exciting because it's wonderfully misleading and I enjoy the moments where people have that, "Oh! So that's what it's about." After they're done kind of jamming to it really hard for like a good few times round. Then the lyrics start chiming in and they're like, "Oh, wow, okay, this isn't quite what I was thinking." I do enjoy that. It makes me laugh.

Well, since we just watched the video--which, thank you for making those for The Current audience, because those videos just look great. For "Diamond Studded Shoes," now, when you say it's wonderfully misleading. Can you expand on that just a little bit more and some of the inspiration for that song?

Well, the inspiration was very specific. It was the ex Prime Minister of the UK, Theresa May. And some diamond studded shoes she was wearing that we bought her, as people, at the same time, as her telling us, there's no money left. And there seems to be like a causation or correlation and causation situation--so this whole outfit cost this much, you're saying we don't have this much everyone is in the cabinets dressed like this. They also used to ridicule one of the politicians from the opposition for not spending money on clothing or not claiming many expenses. And I was like, there seems to be a whole flow of narrative going on here, where you're spending our money, and you're trying to convince us that the one that isn't spending our money is the bad guy. But we're being told we're all in it together, and it's all okay, so that's where we know it came from. Because I was like, okay, we're feeling that they're going to spend a lot of our money, and they're going to really just try to convince us that it's someone else's fault, other than them, because they're not gonna want to change their spending habits. If you've managed to ride people for years, it's gonna be a hard habit to break, I suppose.

Well, you went back to Nashville to make the new record Stand For Myself, which is a great title. It's a strong title. Do you want to talk about that title and what it means to you?

It speaks on the entirety of the narrative. The narrative is, across the record, about this journey towards actually not minimizing myself. I think it's very easy for people to be fascinated and drawn to the narratives of everyone around like, women of color outside of her herself. It's also very common that we play supportive roles or even in our fronting roles, and I used to be a front woman for hire a lot like how that can be even in that state a role of service. So standing for myself is as much about standing in my power as much as it is deciding that minimizing myself is not going to win me anything and any kind of attempt to acquire I don't know, like a model minority status or any kind of trying to homogenize is doing myself out of the opportunity to self actualize and that's really what that's that title is, for anyone who's listening to it, is to be fully yourself and to satisfy your spirit's will to manifest and be in this world before you know it's too late and we will shuffle off this mortal coil.

I wanted to talk about you playing Sister Rosetta Tharpe [in Elvis] because I remember reading about a year ago that you had announced that you were going to play this role. It's one thing to play a character in a movie, but it's quite another to play a real person, and to step into that role. I wonder, when you started preparing for the role, what was the first thing that you did did to really kind of dig in? Or how much research did you have to do? Were you familiar with her before this opportunity came up?

Yeah, I was familiar with Sister Rosetta Tharpe from quite a young age. So probably the environment of my mid teens, I was aware of her, and I was aware that she created rock and roll at that, so many things that we now take for granted because she influenced and discovered artists, and showcased them her night and gave us Little Richard, because she discovered him and gave him a showcase. Then you realize such a flamboyant camp made up guy, even in his hetero-ness was very, very made up and glamorous in the way that he presented himself. I'm like, a straight white guy from the 50s doesn't discover this guy. A queer woman from the 50s who's of color does, it makes so much more sense when you think, how does that guy even exist in that era? It's so Prince, you know?

It's always very--like opening his shirt. So you can really see that, "Oh, that makes sense." Why rock and roll is the way that it is or was certainly in, you know, the 50s and 60s and 70s. We owe so much to her. So the first thing I did was learn guitar because I knew that was going to be the longest arc. I was familiar with her, but I had never soloed in my life. I was only a rhythm player, so I knew I was gonna have to get a real early start on that.

I bet, and artists like Sister Rosetta Tharpe--for me, I didn't even hear her name until there was discussion around her getting this early influencer award for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It wasn't that many years ago, but it was a handful of years ago, and I found myself thinking, you know, if she's the godmother of rock and roll, and the story you're telling of, you know, she's the one discovering the so-called founders of rock and roll music. I found it very frustrating that her story wasn't told in the way, that even in the movie that Elvis' story is told or Jerry Lee Lewis or even Little Richard or Fats Domino. I mean, you name them. I find this frustration that her history was almost lost with time or forgotten. But then at the same time, just glad that finally somebody was telling that story.

Yeah, and it was a real mission of Baz to shine a light on the origins of Elvis's life, and inspiration, and where the music came from so there to be a clear narrative of this is where it started. This is who birthed this theme and the sound and everyone looked to her, you know? Everyone was like, "Wow, this is the way to go. We're gonna start playing like this." Now we've had someone do the distorted guitar for the first time. We've heard someone shred for the first time. People were noodling, but that shred vibe wasn't a thing. The distorted guitar shred was not a thing until Sister Rosetta. Which is a central element to the rock and roll sound. Everything that we then attribute to everyone else was learned from her. It is really important to be part of this movie to redress this balance.

External Link

Yola - official site

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