Skip to main content

Yola: 2019

Yola in Studio A (photo by Alex Brennan/WFUV)

Yola in Studio A (photo by Alex Brennan/WFUV)



London, Tennessee? Memphis, England? If such a place existed, Yola would call it home — a place where country and soul music are such close neighbors, you can't find the fences. With a voice that can belt, swoon, and sing the blues, she quickly makes it clear that you're in rare company.

Yola Quartey's songs are the kind that can only come from a remarkable life. Her youth took her from living homeless in London to joining Massive Attack to opening for James Brown. She not only grew up in poverty, but was also banned from making music as a kid, and overcame experiences ranging from stress-induced voice loss to her home burning down.

This all brought her to Walk Through Fire (yes, a true story), which is also an FUV New Dig. The album is a collaboration with Dan Auerbach who brought in his crew of top Nashville session players — they know all about timeless, genre-free sounds.

In our session, I'll talk with Yola about songwriting, the making of the album, and the fire that changed her life. She also plays a special stripped-down acoustic performance.

[Recorded: 2/7/19; Engineer: Madison Pinto; Producer: Alisa Ali]