Stand for Myself isn’t just an album title – it represents what British singer Yola achieved during the past several years, as she has come into her own as a songwriter and vocalist. It’s a step forward from her previous work, which stayed more closely within the Americana guardrails.
Stand for Myself also wound up on numerous lists of 2021’s best albums – including ours.
Born Yolanda Quartey in Bristol, England, Yola made a splash in the music world with her first album, Walk Through Fire, produced by Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach. Yola was nominated for four Grammys in 2020.
Yola recently spoke with with Margot about the album (also produced by Auerbach), her career, and her experience coming into her own. Topics they also covered include Theresa May (the inspiration for Yola’s song “Diamond Studded Shoes”), self-actualization, Britpop, being a ‘90s kid, working around peoples’ preconceived notions of her music, and ‘standing for herself.’ It’s an intense conversation and covers a lot of ground!
Below are some highlights:
- On watching Theresa May’s speech that inspired “Diamond Studded Shoes”: “Are you kidding me? Look at her shoes. We pay you, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. We just don’t have any money. [Then] I bought these really fabulous shoes.’ And I was just like, ‘Yeah, no.’”
- On working with singer/songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan: “He’s a true sweetheart…an empath as well. I adore writing with him and hanging out.”
- On dealing with people trying to over-direct her career: “I’ve learned in a Yoda style way, Yola meets Yoda, to not fight in this scenario, but to just be the architect of my rise in a way that you didn’t even realize that it was happening.”
- “If I don’t do me, who the hell else am I going to do? At what point do I go, ‘I’m going to self-actualize. I’m going to live my dream.’ How do I get there? It took me a long time to get there and it took a while to mourn and then to be emotionally available to do that. And it took a while to find a space that would allow me to do it. And then it took a while to get to know everyone well enough to know that I was safe to do that, to talk about my truth and my life, and to give away songs that felt like you’re giving them into the ether because they’ve become everybody’s.”
- On Stand for Myself: “I can tell you categorically it’s an exciting listen. I’m still excited when I listened to it. And it’s because not only am I just trying to speak my truth, I’m speaking to people through it, speaking of our shared experience. I think I’m purging in a way that I wasn’t ready to do on the first record. And I’m representing aesthetics that you wouldn’t know that I would experience unless you grew up in southwest England when I did.
- “I am a ’90s kid, and you might not be acquainted with how much Britpop was on television at the time, or on the radio. But where I grew up that was massive. And so in songs like ‘Whatever You Want,’ you can hear Britpop.”
- “We were also very exposed to hip-hop and R&B. You can hear a bit of that in ‘If I Had To Do It All Again.’ But again, Brits always can write a way of mixing things. And some of the most well-known Brits were known for being across genre. When I’ve talked about doing ‘Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road’ and things like that, these are conversations I’ve had. People are actually going to have to listen.”
- “All I want is for anyone who’s been an other to not wait. To do them. And if I can inspire that in somebody then I’ve won. Then I’ve really done exactly what I planned. And in that way, and it’s not at the expense of other people, it’s just to honor yourself. And when you love yourself and you honor yourself, you are far less disparaging about what other people are doing. You are empathetic about how hard it is for other people to do what they’re doing. And being satisfied with yourself and what you’re doing and self-actualizing can just lead so much to being a more positive member of society.”
Stand for Myself is available now. Yola is currently on tour in the U.S. and U.K.
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