Getting To Know : Yola

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Whatever Yola wants, Yola gets.

To say that singer/guitarist/songwriter Yola’s (born Yolanda Claire Quartey in 1983) genre-fluid career has the trajectory of a rocket would be an understatement. Born in Bristol, England, her parents were not supportive of her musical dreams growing up. Actually, her father didn’t support her at all, leaving Yola and her mother when she was not even two years old. After dropping out of high school, she was homeless for six months, and had to beg to gather the money to get back home to Bristol.

She joined the band Phantom Limb in 2005, and this provided opportunities to record with other artists such as Massive Attack. When Yola’s mother passed away in 2013, she decided to put her all into a solo career. Her roots-influenced debut album Walk Through Fire was released on The Black Keys’ guitarist and songwriter Dan Auerbach’s label Easy Eye Sound in 2019 to much critical acclaim, with her powerful vocals being compared to Aretha Franklin and Mavis Staples.

Auerbach produced her debut album in his Nashville studio and brought in many talented players to play on it, including Vince Gill and Molly Tuttle who recorded backup vocals. With this bit of experience in the country world, doors opened and Yola recorded songs with all-woman country supergroup The Highwomen that included Brandi Carlile and Maren Morris for their debut album.  Not too shabby co-workers for a hot new artist!

Soon everyone wanted to work with Yola. When she performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 2019, she sang alongside artists including Dawes (who you may have seen in the Arvada Center's 2022 Summer Concert Series) to Dolly Parton. She has opened on tours for major names including Chris Stapleton, Orville Peck, and Kacey Musgraves. Her album Walk Through Fire earned her four Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist. The word is out - Yola is the real deal.


First the doors of Nashville opened for her, now the doors of Hollywood opened. Yola made her acting debut as rock’n’roll matriarch Sister Rosetta Thorpe in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, which earned her an NAACP Image Award nomination for “Outstanding Breakthrough Performance in a Motion Picture.” In theatre-related news, she is making her Broadway debut on July 2 as Persephone in Hadestown - wouldn’t that be great to see in our Black Box? Her second album Stand For Myself (2021) earned her another two Grammy nominations, proving that Yola is no one-trick pony, and is a talent to be reckoned with. Come see this force of nature at the Arvada Center’s Outdoor Amphitheatre on August 30th and see for yourself why all of your favorite artists want to work with her.

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