Photo: Daniel Mendoza/Recording Academy
Yola Ascends To 'Walk Through Fire' & Become The Queen Of Country Soul | Newport Folk 2019
Backstage at her Newport Folk Festival debut, Yola talks her new Dan Auerbach-produced album, transcending genre, her love for Elton John and more
The spirit and soul of Yola's breakout album Walk Through Fire was nothing if not well-earned. Even the title came from overcoming hardship, as her kitchen literally caught fire before the project, a symbol of the adversity the Bristol-born singer/songwriter faced—and overcame to create her own masterpiece.
Yola graced us with her infectious energy backstage at Newport Folk Fest after her show-stopping set and opened up about her breakout album, working with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and what it means to be the Queen of Country Soul.
Congratulations on your album, Walk Through Fire. What are you most proud of in how this album came out?
I think how people are connecting with it. One of my specialist subjects is that connecting to what I'm saying. And I hope by doing that then that helps people connect as well with what I mean. And that gives us a relationship across airwaves, across oceans, across an arena.
And so, that's the most important thing, for people to be connecting and for things to be going crazy. We're not into six months yet and things are going super crazy.
But that's not just a hype machine situation. It's so down to people connecting in a real way and I think it's very easy for that to not happen. For people to get swept away with hype.
What can you say about the collaboration with Dan Auerbach? It sounds like you guys wrote a ton of songs together.
Yes, we did.
How was it working with Dan on this album?
He's just a machine. I always thought I was kind of a quick writer once I got into my flow, my flow state, if you will. Yeah, he's a machine and his sonic palette, his kind of delicacy in the mix is unrivaled, it's unbelievable what he can do.
I was actually a fan of his album that came out, his solo album that came out, "Waiting on a Song." When I listened to just all the layers and I was like, "I love this, wouldn't it be amazing if I could do an album like this with him?"
Anyway, that's what Dan and his people bump into me in '17. I must've just put that into the Ether or something, that was serendipitous at the very least.
He's a complete machine and the upside, especially when it comes to things like production means, I could be hands-off. I don't have to be concerned and idea of what you going to come across is going to be turned into something other than something utterly beautiful and so yeah... It's the most relaxing production experience I've ever had because you deliver your vocal and you know everything is going to sound beautiful.
It's in good hands.
Very, very, very capable hands indeed.
"Faraway Look," I think that was the first song that I heard of yours. Can you tell me about how that came together in the studio with Dan?
When we were writing, Dan and I would be in the room and we'd invite a third party, if you will. And that third party would be the spice, so me and Dan had talked about our common ground musically. The things that we loved, even the things that we loathed. So, then that would form the kind of people he would invite.
And Pat McLaughlin is a dreamy kind of guy and so yeah, it became... we had, obviously Pat came in with this song and that we had Dan Penn and Joe Allen and Roger Cook. So, really kind of stellar writers and so the idea was to kind of bring in the spice would occur. And allow me to explore the range of things that I'm into like classic pop music, classic country, classic soul music.
And so, the way that lyrics tend to come with me... and thankfully with both Dan and Pat is, what I like to call the mumble write. Where you're kind of dowsing for the vibe and I think most of the songs came like this.
In this case, maybe Pat is strumming something and going [mumbling] and starting to mumble something and so then out of the mumble... and then you carry on, you pick up that mumble [mumbling], making no sense at all. But trying to decipher a more elegant meaning out of their aesthetic, out of the shapes that are coming to you. And really they're actually batting around the idea in the back of your mind.
And there's some deep meaning there that you're trying to discern through the fog and that's how much the songs came together, it was Dan or Pat strumming of the 30 songs and in some cases, me strumming. And just feeling out what we were doing. And then obviously something salient-like comes forward.
So, in this case it was the chorus melody, that was the first thing to come. And then we're starting to try to figure out where that goes but this whole process was like we were trying to unveil it, more than going in with a preconceived idea of the genre that we are going to have a look at that day or what the whole album was going to be. It was like we were going to write a whole bunch of songs and then we're going to figure out what the hell we'd done.
And see whether there was a sense of continuity through it, which there was. And so, that was the kind of saving grace with the writing of that song. I think of this record it was very open because people have been describing this as a country soul record. But then you listen to "Faraway Look" and it's not country or soul. It's classic pop.
While I think Queen of County Soul is really a perfect moniker for you, it captures a lot of what you do, but there's always so much more. How do you feel about genre today?
It's like you're trying to help people understand something they just need to listen to. And it's feels like we are dissecting to understand like we're in Biology and we're doing the frog dissection. And in that dissecting of the thing where it separating out, all of everything. Putting that over there, that over there, that over there. And they didn't start that way. They all started together.
And we're separating it out to be able understand the constituent parts and so that feels like the opposite of what I'm trying to do with music. I'm trying to find the common ground. I'm trying to bring all those constituent parts and show how they were linked to all the tissue all the fascia. And, so that's what I'm passionate about in music, is that gray area, that's why I love the band, that's why I love Little Feat, that's why I love staple singers, that's why I love Aretha. They didn't stick... that's why I love Elton John. C'mon, right?
There constantly listen to Honky Chateau, right? It's got this and then it's got this. Everyone I love, Bee Gees- Man, that early Bee Gee stuff, that "Run to Me." That's a bowl of soul. And I was thinking disco and I'm like, "Boo, there's more." "Run to Me" is a massive tune.
For sure. So, how does it feel to experience this type of accelerated rise to success, and did you ever think that was possible when you were going through some of the harder times in your life, dealing with homelessness and loss of your mother.
Well when I was four I saw this [passion for music]. I was like, "Yep. This is entirely feasible. Sure, why not? I feel ready. Let's do this." And so I'm kind of my 4-year-old self right now and I went kind of... I grew up and moved away from that person, which was a mistake. 4-year-old me was on point.
Yeah, instincts like that are usually correct.
Yeah. I nailed it, and I just got talked out of being that person. You should be ashamed of your dark skin, you should me ashamed of your natural hair. You should try and sing more R&B. You should drop some weight. All the kind of things that are shaming and the number of times that I get pulled up by women of color, certainly people darker than Oprah kind of, which is the line in the sand.
"Thank you, thank you for being upfront, thank you for not being in the back, thank you for just being, not being apologetic about it or shrinking in some way." And yeah, that's been a journey, that's been a long road to get it to that point.
So, in that process of being talked out of this willingness to just be myself, I went through bad company. And that bad company pushes you into that realm and when I was in that moment of homelessness, the thing that was making me sad was that, the bad company. Was that sense of lack of connection with the people around me, the people I was working with. People that I was social with who were also people I was working with. That's always been the thing, that has been the heartbreaker, as much as the loss of my mother.
That whole sense and period of neglect, so this period is very much been about that rise to accepting yourself and that's been reflected in how quickly this has risen that's what people want to see. They want to see love, love and connection, to people, to the people you're working with, to yourself.
Maybe it took the 30s to get to that, but yeah. It's been unreal and all the sparkly stuff aside, which there's lots of sparkly things. I didn't think I would be playing Bridgestone or Ryman multiple times or whatever. All of this stuff is mind blowing to me but the connection has always been top, that the most self-actualization.
You mention the Bridgestone, Kacey Musgraves, Maggie Rogers gig. Can you talk a little bit about preparing for that big of a show and playing an arena?
When I was early 20s, late teens, I had a little bit of arena experience but as kind of fronting other peoples' outfits. So, I was that fronting gun for hire. And so you'd have to learn to prowl the stage and all your gestures had to be super massive because people might not see you. If you're just doing this, no one is seeing that ten rows back kind of thing.
So, yeah that was one massive thing that I had to pick up that I'm going to be able to draw back on for this show and yeah and we got the full band, so we should be ready to kick booty.
Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More
The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'
In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.
"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.
Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.
"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."
Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American.
"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."
Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors
Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it
Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.
McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award.
The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.
"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."
With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.
Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images
Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show
Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion
There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.
The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.
This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.
"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."
Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.
Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards
Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category
The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.
Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville
Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.
Championships – Meek Mill
In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.
i am > i was – 21 Savage
Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.
IGOR – Tyler, The Creator
The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.
The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae
Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.