The six-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter kicks off The Schaefer Center Presents fall season on Friday, Sept. 16
BOONE, NC — The Schaefer Center Presents (SCP) series, presented by Appalachian State University’s Office of Arts and Cultural Programs, opens its 2022-23 season with six-time Grammy Award nominee Yola to Boone on Friday, Sept. 16 at 7pm. The genre-fluid singer-songwriter stops at App State on tour to celebrate her critically acclaimed 2021 sophomore release, Stand for Myself. The New York Timessaid, “Stand for Myself draws from the same Americana soundbook as Yola’s first record [Walk Through Fire], but it’s also shot through with disco and pop,” and NPR’s All Songs Considered anointed the album “the best soul record of the last 20 years.” Yola is a 2022 four-time Grammy Award nominee for Best New Artist, Best American Roots Song, Best American Roots Performance, and Best Americana Album. For tickets and more information, visit TheSchaeferCenter.org or contact the Box Office at 828.262.4046.
Occupying the intersection between country music’s roots and Americana’s hybrid of pop, folk and soul, the British superstar is at the forefront of a generation of Black female artists — including Allison Russell and Joy Oladukun — who are helping evolve Nashville, country music and American society. In a February 2022 article in The Tennessean about her tour’s kickoff at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, Yola said, “I’m making the statement now for women in music broadly, and women of color in music specifically, that you don’t have to be in service to someone else’s art or vision of yourself to be worthy of appreciation.”
Everything about Stand for Myself — musically, lyrically, spiritually — explores the epiphany that making decisive choices leads to freedom. The album seamless blends disco, funk, rock and country into a fluidity of sound that defies categorization, weaving elements of symphonic soul, mellifluous pop melodies, disco grooves, rootsy rawness, and ecstatic gospel power into a package that is as eclectic as it is groundbreaking.
“The album is like a window into my mind, my life experiences, my politics, my hopeful and sentimental sides, and my hope for humanity at large,” she says of the 12-track collection. At her most melodically and lyrically free, it is an album of both artistic freedom and subtle social commentary that Yola hopes will connect personally with anyone who has experienced being made to feel “other.”
Yola, who appeared on the big screen this past summer as Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic Elvis, makes exciting new vocal choices on Stand for Myself. While her gale force power remains undiminished, she probes the layers of both higher and lower registers, exploring new textures on songs like the transporting title track, the addictive “If I Had to Do It All Again,” and the slow-burning “Great Divide,” which deftly balances grit and light.
Lyrically, she explores the difference between surviving and thriving (the languid R&B soul-searcher “Barely Alive”); inventively imagines new outcomes grappling with mortality (the inventive “Break the Bough”); frolics in the intersection of sentimentality and sexuality (the deeply sensual “Starlight”); recognizes the value of allyship (“Be My Friend,” featuring vocal contributions from Brandi Carlile); and takes control of her own destiny on the anthemic title track. In examining and embracing the various elements of her identity: black, female, empathic, creative, erotic, bawdy, sophisticated, curious, intelligent, and more, Yola takes listeners on a journey to self-actualization that they might not even realize they’ve been on until the album ends.
On the title track, she urges the listener to stand for themselves and those around them by challenging biases that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism which have deeply impacted her personal life and professional career. “It is about how people continue to bury their heads in the sand to hide from inconvenient truths that create a profound need to change how they think,” she says.
Yola was able to record Stand for Myself as the person she has known herself to be for years. She wanted to show her vulnerability, her hope, her intricacies, and to ultimately uncover all of those things for the listener.
“I want people to feel like they know a dark-skinned black woman a little better,” she says. “I could be the first, and all with an English accent and a chocolate-bar skin tone. I will be an example of nuance that one can reference that someone might not have had, because the media does not want to portray us in a way that is nuanced.”
If, she says, the first record was about introducing a person who, at a low point, recognized the need to ask for help, this second one illuminates that “I’ve been proven through this fire and I’m back to where I started, the real me. I kind of got talked out of being me and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life.”
$35 Adults, $30 App State University Faculty/Staff, $20 Students
Tickets are available to purchase at theschaefercenter.org, in person at the Schaefer Center box office (733 Rivers Street), or by calling 828-262-4046.