Fri 6/12


Yola's debut album Walk Through Fire, produced by Dan Auerbach, is a genre-bending release from one of the most powerful emerging British voices in music today. The singer/songwriter first came to the attention of Auerbach after a chain of people, starting with her manager, forwarded a video of her performing in Nashville that eventually found itself in Auerbach's inbox. For a girl raised on the coast of Southwest England, where she did not fit in and life was hard, finding herself in the easy camaraderie of Dan Auerbach's studio was the realization of a childhood dream. Yola's mother's choice to raise her daughter in a small town outside of Bristol, where she could play outside, meant that Yola was "other" from the start. Between the isolation of being the only black family around, the family's poverty, and a turbulent home life, Yola needed refuge, which she found in her mother's record collection. Inspired by those records, at age four she told her mother, "'I'm going to write songs and sing'. I don't know how I knew that, but I did." Even with such clear ambitions from an early age, though, Yola has lived a life of challenges: perhaps the first being her mother "banning" her making music in her teens. She also was homeless for a time, sleeping in a bush when she ran out of money or friends to turn to. Yola shares, "I was 20-21 and two months behind on my rent in London, then my housemate had to move out. I was just waiting for a job to confirm. I wound up on the street of east London. I begged for money, so I could call friend after friend. Eventually one friend from Somerset drove all the way to London, welcomed me into their home, and literally saved my life." Growing up in poverty gave Yola the confidence to take risks and embark on her first musical adventures, such as singing live over tracks for deejays in the clubs of Bristol. She later joined Bugz in the Attic, became a featured member with Massive Attack, and performed at festivals all over the world. Yola explains, "I wouldn't say I never fear being without, it's stressful being vulnerable. I was raised on very little, on benefits as a young adult and on the other hand, I toured in some very privileged environments, so I've seen both sides which made me aware that life is made rich by the company you keep and the risks you take." Title track "Walk Through Fire" is inspired by a time when Yola was literally engulfed in flames in a house fire, and found a higher truth in the experience. "I was laughing my ass off while I was burning," she explains. "The first part of my life had been pretty heinous. I was a few years into a good place, and I was thinking, 'Even on fire, I wouldn't trade my life now for what it was.'" Yola concludes, in what could be a mission statement for her life, "To be vulnerable is terrifying but to walk through fire with a smile on your face is about as liberating as anything can be. In some ways, I was reborn in that fire."