Yola performed new songs from her album Stand for Myself and defined the differences between American and British music-listening habits during an appearance on Rolling Stone’s Twitch on Tuesday. Stand for Myself, Yola’s second album for the Easy Eye label, will be released July 30th.
Speaking with interviewer Tia Hill just a couple of days after her appearance at Newport Folk Festival, Yola discussed the variety of influences that go into composing her music. There’s a genreless aspect to English fandom she enjoyed as a child of the Nineties.
“The way we absorb music is that we get everything at once,” she told Hill. “We get Beck, we get Nirvana, we get Brownstone, we get Tribe Called Quest, we get Björk. We get everything at once from everywhere.”
Yola also discussed what it meant to be a British singer-songwriter primarily working in Americana, particularly as a black woman, when it’s still a genre largely dominated by white men.
“Being cross-genre, I’m in everybody’s club,” she said. “I’m coming into your house. I’m making myself a cup of tea. I might swipe something off your nightstand, I might go into your fridge. Everything’s mine. That’s the level of white-boy entitlement that I’m embodying as a black lady, and that’s what I need to do in order to be in these spaces. I need to own these spaces. You can’t be creeping in, like, ‘I’m sorry I’m here.’ You have to enjoy the space you’re in. Drink in everything, the influence that diaspora gave birth to.”
Later in the segment, Yola showed off her spectacular voice with a trio of new songs, including the protest anthem “Diamond-Studded Shoes,” the groove-heavy “Starlight,” and the fierce “Stand for Myself,” with keyboard accompanist Ray Jacildo. Yola and Hill discussed how she had composed the song and what it said about her claiming her own agency.
“I want to be in situations where I have the most agency possible,” she said. “Because I don’t want control over anyone else’s life. I just want control over my own. And that can sometimes, when you’re a black woman, still be too much to ask. It’s bloody ridiculous.”
In addition to releasing her new album and playing some supporting dates with Chris Stapleton, Yola is also set to portray rock & roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrman’s musical film Elvis.
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