Bristol-born country star and UK Americana Award-nominated artist discusses her Dan Auerbach-produced debut album ahead of upcoming UK dates
Most, if not quite all, country roads lead to Nashville, home to a thriving music network of writers, producers and performers. So it makes sense that one of the rising British stars of country music, Bristol-born Yola, should find a home there – in fact, she's just made it official by moving over to the country capital.
'You're put on the world stage here in a way few other places can,' she says. 'You can almost sneak up on people here. Word of mouth counts for a lot, still. The city is so cavalier, it's somehow more casual to be a badass here. I like that.'
Yola's soulful roots songs have made connections in high places, with artists such as Brandi Carlile, Molly Tuttle and Vince Gill queueing up to praise her and play with her. But her country coronation only came after a decade of sofa-surfing and genre-hopping in London and Bristol, where she wrote and sang for artists as diverse as Katy Perry and Massive Attack, and fronted rock and jazz bands before finding her country soul crossover niche on her 2016 debut EP Orphan Offering.
'Creatively I came here to find like minds but my journey to country music was more shaped by being British,' she says. 'I worked in those other genres because I couldn't do exactly what I wanted to do. I was told to settle, and I almost did. I honestly didn't know where to turn. I was writing some songs I believed in but who could do them justice was a big question mark til I met Dan.'
Dan is Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach, producer of her acclaimed debut album Walk Through Fire. 'He's a great sounding board for ideas that are already there, an elevator of ideas that are almost there and a generator of ideas when you're all jamming on a feeling,' she says of a kindred spirit who is as comfortable as she is at straddling styles.
Yola was brought up on the music of Aretha Franklin and Dolly Parton, as well as her latest champion, Elton John. 'I don't class myself as a country singer,' she says. 'I sit happily at the crossroads between several genres. But I'm not here to give a lecture in the common ground in music, I'm here to demonstrate it. This record is just one incarnation of the junction between pop, soul, country and rock.'
O2 Academy, Glasgow, Wed 6 Nov (supporting Greta Van Fleet); Oran Mor, Glasgow, Sat 30 Nov.
Inspired by country and soul from the likes of The Band, Gillian Welch, Gene Clark, The Byrds, Staple Singers, Emmylou Harris, Otis Redding and Dolly Parton, Yola Carter is a force of nature and an incredibly talented singer-songwriter. “She’s a powerhouse of a singer: she’s part Southern soul, she’s part gospel and she’s…