YOLA

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Yola first came to the attention of Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) 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. 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 then." She later discovered Crosby, Stills & Nash and the Band's Music from Big Pink as well as The Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo. These iconic records shaped her writing and helped her find her own unique voice--equal parts Mississippi mud, honeyed sunshine, and midnight musk. 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. Yola says, "I used to pretend I was going to sleep over at school friends houses in Bristol then go out and do gigs. Kids normally do that so then can get high for the first time. My drug of choice has always been music." She also was homeless for a time, sleeping in a bush when she ran out of money or friends to turn to. 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. Title track "Walk Through Fire", which traces a broken line from Laurel Canyon to Appalachia, sees Yola comfortable with her vulnerability. The song 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."