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If you’ve ever fought to pursue your dreams despite pressure from family or society, Yola’s inspiring story will resonate with you. Raised by a single mother in Bristol, UK, the guitarist and singer-songwriter fell in love with music at a young age, but her mother discouraged her from pursuing it as a career because it was too risky and impractical. She got her feet wet in the industry while at university in London, but she eventually dropped out of school, got evicted for not paying rent, and spent several months homeless before scraping together enough money to get back to Bristol. Back in her hometown, she joined the rootsy alternative-rock band Phantom Limb in 2005 and worked with other artists in various capacities—she wrote for Katy Perry, collaborated on a track with Ginger Wildheart (“Petit Mort”), and toured as Massive Attack’s lead vocalist in 2008. After her mother passed away in 2013, Yola finally focused on her own music and relocated to Nashville, where she could sink into her passion for country. In 2016, she released her stunning debut EP, Orphan Offering, which showcases her magnificent, soulful voice over emotionally rich country and folk arrangements. Soon she teamed up with Black Keys front man Dan Auerbach, who produced her breakout 2019 album, Walk Through Fire. Since then, Yola has crossed over with mainstream audiences while being embraced as an “artist’s artist”—songwriters such as Elton John and Brandi Carlile have sung her praises, and director Baz Luhrmann cast her as rock ’n’ roll originator Sister Rosetta Tharpe in the new Elvis. Yola’s most recent record, last year’s Stand for Myself, intertwines vintage soul and pop with her familiar Americana and country influences plus a hefty dose of rock—most notably on the hard-grooving title track. As beautiful as Yola’s songs are on her records, they feel subdued next to her live performances, and I expect she’ll blow some minds and shake the rafters at Thalia Hall.
Yola Jac Ross opens. Tue 9/13, 8 PM, Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport, $35, 17+