British-born singer Yola fully embraces a multi-genre style on her new album "Stand For Myself."
As the daughter of immigrants from Ghana and Barbados, the young Yola (full name Yolanda Quartey) felt pressure to assimilate and tamp down her Blackness.
"Like that was a lot of my life, was the put up or shut up and assimilate please," said Yola, from Nashville, Tennessee, where she now lives.
The Grammy-nominated singer's new album addresses that journey through inequalities and tokenism as she spreads her musical branches across classic pop and '70s era R and B and soul.
Yola worked with several Nashville hit makers including The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach as producer and songwriters Natalie Hemby, Liz Rose and Ruby Amanfu. She wrote the opening track "Barely Alive" with fellow Nashville singer Joy Oladokun about the experience of feeling like she was diminishing herself early on her life and career.
"I'm going to try and smile and I'm like, I'm really going to try and, you know, just try and make things easy for myself as humanly possible," said Yola. "And actually, you make it as hard as possible because you can't self actualize if you don't have any self."
One of the most energetic songs of the album is called "Break the Bough," which she wrote after the funeral of her mother.
"You should never drive a motorcycle to a funeral," Yola said. "This is what I realized because you can't cry and ride a motorcycle. You will crash. Anyway, so I'm trying not to crash and (crying). And the bassline jumps into my head and I'm like, well, this is actually quite fortuitous because I think I'm going to die if I don't think about this bassline."