Off The Record Live: Yola Talks Writing Process, Grammy Noms, “Diamond Studded Shoes” and More

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

“You’ve gotta be psychologically and biologically engaged with what you’re doing,” Yola said on a recent episode of American Songwriter’s Twitch show, Off The Record Live.

Sitting down to talk about her empowering new album, Stand For Myself, Yola dove into the more visceral elements of her craft, pulling back the curtain on how she brings her soulful tunes to life. Starting off by describing the musical landscape she grew up in—giving shout-outs to Brit-pop, new jack swing, Bjork, and more—she explained how, today, she likes to see her songs as a pure extension of herself.

“Every time I gravitate towards an artist, I’m obsessed with how they interact with music,” she said. “It’s never vocals for vocal’s sake or writing for intellect’s sake… there’s always something elemental about what they’re doing. They’re connecting to something, something that’s needed.”

To that end, Stand For Myself embraces that same quality—songs like the riveting single, “Diamond Studded Shoes,” demonstrate Yola’s ability to articulate an urgent artistic vision with universal consequences. Fittingly, that tune is up for the Grammy award for Best American Roots Song—Stand For Myself is up for Best Americana Album.

“When I saw that I [had been nominated for the Grammys], I literally flew out of my seat,” Yola said. “We drank bubbles and got emotional, mostly crying.”

Yola also spoke about how “Diamond Studded Shoes” came together, with help from co-writers Natalie Hemby and Aaron Lee Tasjan. “[Tasjan and I] were hanging—wine, PJs, talking crap; like a proper girl’s night in energy, you know?” she said. It was 2017 at the time and Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the release of the Paradise Papers, and more were all on Yola and Tasjan’s minds. “It dawned on me that there are so many songs that cajole you into this ‘Everything’s gonna be alright!’ mindset… but it’s not. It’s just not. That’s where the song idea came from.”

Beyond that, Yola spoke about her favorite dish to cook (spoiler alert: it’s “hella English”), her live shows, the universal need for kindness, and more.

Watch the full episode below:

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