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Pocketmags Digital Magazines

FIRE WALK WITH ME

From poverty and homelessness to destructive band environments and a very real brush with death, Yola had quite a journey on the way to the Nashville studio where she created her debut album with Dan Auerbach. We sit down with the Bristol-based singer and guitarist and find out why the guitar became a powerful symbol of creative independence that helped her shape her own destiny…
PHOTOGRAPHY ELEANOR JANE

Birth! The birth canal motivated me to start singing!” Yola – aka Yolanda Quartey – is a one-off, as her answer to the question ‘What first inspired you to make music?’ shows. It’s accompanied by a booming, staccato laugh that will frequently pepper our hour-long chat in her rehearsal space in a quiet cul-de-sac just north of Bristol.

The laugh is a constant, even when the 35-yearold is getting into some of the dark places in which she’s found herself. But it never feels forced – she comes across as someone who laughs now because she’s genuinely grateful and delighted to be out of the other side. And not just out of it, but thriving – creatively fulfilled for the first time ever, having just made her debut album with Dan Auerbach.

But anyway, back to the birth canal… “I came into the planet and the second I could form any coherence of sound, singing seemed as obvious as talking,” Yola elaborates. “It’s like asking, how long have you been eating? How long have you been breathing?”

TAKING RISKS

Yola’s voice is one that you might well have heard without even realising it – her pipes have been featured on pop hits by Katy Perry and Will Young, and EDM chart-toppers from Chase & Status and Duke Dumont… but that’s never been the music that she wanted to make.

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