His voice is among the most powerful in pop music today. Raised outside Bristol, England, Yolanda Quartey knew at the age of 4 that she wanted to sing.
Now Quartey, known as Yola, is in the running for two Grammy Awards, most notably for her song “Diamond Studded Shoes”. It earned the British singer-songwriter a nomination for Best American Roots Song. His second album, “Stand for Myself”, a mix of country, disco, soul and rock and roll, is in the running for best American album.
Yola has joined country supergroup The Highwomen, and after opening for Chris Stapleton last year, she is embarking on her own headlining tour next month.
The song that helped Yola realize she wanted to be a songwriter was actually Jackson 5’s “ABC”, she said.
“Seeing it, I was like, ‘Wow, I could do that,’” Yola said.
Before the 38-year-old singer moved to Nashville, TN, she spent nearly two decades in music supporting other groups.
“I was told that no one would want to listen to an artist who looks like me. And so, I was just terrified,” Yola said. “There are so many programs that go anti-black in the UK and anti-black towards women… it can really hurt your self-esteem. And I think, I think it is. just the case. “
For years Yola worked as a freelance, performing live with DJs and with the influential electronic band Massive Attack at the Glastonbury Festival in 2008. Massive Attack ended up wanting Yola to join them.
“While this stuff is really iconic, it’s the antithesis of both my musicality, the way I write songs and my personality,” Yola said of the band. “But they never made anyone say no.”
In her song “Stand for Myself”, she calls herself “coward in the shadows”.
“I put on a badass frontage so I didn’t have to do it for real,” Yola said of the line. “… I just think I chickened out.”
Yola said she finally found the courage at the bottom of the chasm when her mother passed away.
“I really felt that I was no longer in love with music,” she said.
Her mother, a psychiatric nurse who immigrated to Britain from Barbados, died in 2013.
“It was, like, a really tough relationship. And she wasn’t, she never really managed to feel joy. And I was just, like, ‘if I’m not careful, it will be. me, ”Yola said.
“Anyone who has lost a parent will know that when they lose a parent they get this frightening clarity,” Yola said.
After her mother died, Yola drew up a business plan. She started building everything she does now at that time.
“It was like ‘this is where you are at. If you want this thing, this isn’t all going to work … These are the things you need’, and the strategy became clear, so I writes a business plan, ”Yola mentioned.
In 2018, Yola traveled to Nashville to record with producer Dan Auerbach, a member of The Black Keys. In the video for the song, they co-wrote “Ride Out In The Country”, Yola symbolically buries her old self.
In addition to the two Grammy nominations she received for her second album, her first solo album, “Walk Through Fire,” earned Yola four Grammy nominations in 2020.
“It feels really good. I feel super greedy and love it,” Yola said of her appointments.