- Tiana Speter
INTERVIEW: Yolanda Ingley II
There’s a defining old world charm to Melbourne songstress Yolanda Ingley II – equally wielding smoky vocals and impassioned heart, Yolanda’s songs dip into soul, blues and jazz with inherent sophistication that draw to mind the greats of eras passed. But while the songs hint at a lifetime of experience, Yolanda’s musical career only sprung to life properly in 2014, finally merging her love of words and music; and she's never looked back.
2018 finds Yolanda perched firmly on her third album release, with ‘Woman Got To Cry’ unveiled to the world recently. Marking her second original release since 2016’s ‘This Dangerous Age’ and amassing a cult following as she goes, there’s little doubt that Yolanda’s journey will continue to evolve in a way befitting her personality: honestly and with a side of drizzled charm, and this week we grabbed the woman herself for a chat about all things writing, influences and finding her way in the music world. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hi Yolanda! How’s it going? Thanks so much for your time, and I have to just get it out of the way straight away – I’m absolutely in love with your voice. Seriously.
YOLANDA INGLEY II: Wow! Thank you, that’s a good way to start isn’t it!
TIANA: I could’ve waited until halfway through, but figured I had to put it out there straight up. And there’s been more of it to devour lately with the recent release of ‘Woman Got To Cry’…your third album no less. What’s it been like this time round with this release?
YOLANDA: Well, the first album was sort of me doing jazz because I used to sing jazz. So it was me doing jazz and a couple of other songs. And they were the songs we were performing at the time. And then my partner and I, he plays the saxophone – we’d met and we’d started performing together. And then I just had met a few people because I'd started doing music again, I'd met a few people who were more "folky" kind of people. I started picking up the guitar and mucking around and they kept saying to me “why don’t you write a song?!” - and I was thinking "I couldn't, I couldn't, I couldn't!". Mind you, I had done a bit of writing, I used to like writing poems when I was younger, and I'd written a few stories, short stories and things like that, so I was a bit of a writer. But I didn't think I could put it into song form, and that's what I'm kind of more proud of, in a way. I used to fret a little bit about my singing and worry if I was good enough, but now that I've started writing it's kind of more about the songs, you know what I mean? And I’m not worried about the singing so much – I just hope that people like my songs!
TIANA: And how fortunate that you do also happen to have an awesome voice! It doesn’t always go hand in hand with songwriting!
YOLANDA: Yeah, I suppose that’s true! But for me now, it’s very much the combination. And it took me a little while when I started writing to realise that I actually sing them quite well because I wrote them for me (laughs). You don’t kinda write a song that doesn’t suit your voice, in a way. It was good, I started to explore that, we went over to London and it really inspired me to write because I love London. I started writing over there and came back and pretty much wrote the whole second album, ‘This Dangerous Age’. But that was really my first album of "me". And I continued writing, so – it’s been terrific!
COME BACK IN MY ARMS (YOLANDA INGLEY II)
TIANA: It does sound like you have this very rich backstory with the whole writing side of things especially…and by the sound of it a slight dalliance away from the music world and then coming back to it. With curating this most recent album, did any not make the cut? Are you now just armed to the teeth with songs these days as a result?
YOLANDA: (laughs) Yeah, I am! I’ve always remembered songs, I’ve always been really good at remembering songs and lyrics, because I love words. I mean, I know every lyric to every Beatle song, I’m one of those sort of people. And I’ve always been able to muck around and do that, but then when I started picking up the guitar and writing, I was thinking “well, I don’t have to make it complicated”. Some of my favourite songs, like Dylan songs and Neil Young songs – all those people, they don’t necessarily write heaps of complicated chords, it’s really about what they’re saying and the message. And I knew that that was my, kind of, strength. It’s very enjoyable, and I have been continuing to write, so I’ve got enough probably for another album!
TIANA: Good to hear! You did touch upon your previous release too ‘This Dangerous Age’, and I remember reading this amazing story about it gaining such a cult following at Basement Discs in Melbourne…
YOLANDA: Yes! They sold heaps and heaps. I took it in there and just said “I’m an independent, produced it myself with just my friends”…and I took it in to her, and I was so fortunate that she liked it. She put it on in the store, after she took it somewhat reluctantly (laughs). And she called me a couple of days later and said “oh my god, I love this album, it’s so fantastic! Can you bring me another 30?”. And from then on for the next six months she was just constantly ringing me saying “can I have another 50? Can I have another 100?”. And she was just playing it and saying “every time I put it on, people come and play it!”. But it’s really hard to get other stores to do that, JB Hi-Fi aren’t gonna play my music in-store, you know what I mean?
TIANA: It’s funny on that note though, I find that there are only a certain few types of music that seem to connect and transcend people with pretty different tastes…and somehow the whole “old school/jazzy/blues” stuff…that seems to be the stuff that does it more often than not??
YOLANDA: Thank you! Thank you, I agree!
TIANA: I reckon if they played it in JB, people would actually love it!
YOLANDA: I know! I mean, you’ve got to cater to everyone, but honestly at my gigs…I mean, I know what my demographic is, it’s people who like Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell…and jazz, any of the bluesy, R&B people, the old-school ones. 60s kinda black American music, they’ll like my music, I know that. But! I get equally 20 year-olds, all the age groups coming up to me at gigs saying “I really, really like your music”. And it’s because, I think, there’s not a lot of music out there at the moment with a lot of content! Or something? I don’t know, the music that I hear when I’m walking around the shops…makes me want to slit my own throat (laughs).
TIANA: It’s a great deterrent to going shopping isn’t it!
YOLANDA: Exactly (laughs).
TIANA: I think one of my favourite descriptions about your songs and your voice is that it’s a “massage for the soul”. And I think it is so accurate, but how did you actually arrive at this, did you grow up always listening to this sort of music?
YOLANDA: Yes, yes I did. You can probably hear in my speaking voice, I’ve got quite a deep voice. And I always just loved singing and I always wanted to be a singer, and I can’t believe that I’m at an age when most people are thinking about retiring! And I’m suddenly going “no, I’ve got a new lease of life. I’m actually enjoying what I’m doing more than anything else that I’ve done!”. It’s fantastic for me, I think a lot of people would’ve had a career and perhaps by the time they’re 50 or 60 they’re starting to go “Oh, what am I gonna do?”. And for me it’s not like that, it’s like “I’m just beginning! I’ve just started doing something fantastic”. Fantastic for me, spiritually, for my spirit. But I’ve always wanted to sing, since I can remember! Like a 2 year-old, 3 year-old, I remember standing on boxes and pretending I was singing to people. And then I just got into black American music, just good music when I was quite young. I listened to Odetta and Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald…all those people.
TIANA: Interestingly, they’re all bands and artists still resonating so heavily to this day, so there’s something there! And it’s also seemingly that old adage that it doesn’t matter how long it does take you – you eventually end up where you’re meant to be, and you can only resist those creative urges for so long. And thank goodness you are doing it!
YOLANDA: Thank goodness! Yes, me too, I feel exactly the same way. Thank you so much, it means so much to me. I haven’t got to the point where I take it for granted, I’m just enjoying so much that I’m giving anybody any pleasure as well as myself! It’s awesome.
TIANA: Authenticity can be a rarity, it’s a nice change of pace!
YOLANDA: I used to fret a little bit about my singing and worry if I was good enough, but now that I've started writing it's kind of more about the songs, you know what I mean? And it’s such a collaborative thing, you’re putting things out and people are listening and enjoying it at that same moment with you – and they can hum along, or sing with you or not, play with you or not. Even if they’re just sitting receiving it, you’re both experiencing it in that same spiritual moment. And I can’t think of anything like that really!
TIANA: It’s that amazing moment in time that you can’t really recapture, but you can continue to enjoy after it.
YOLANDA: Yes, it is, it very much is about that moment. I guess I have had all those influences which has helped me. And if you enjoy my singing, it’s because I’ve listened to so many good singers, and I’ve tried really hard to put the message across the best way, and praise things in a certain way. And to let the music hang in space, just to be there. I think about all those things, how that word should be in that line, you know? I think a lot about the actual expression of the words.
TIANA: And being Melbourne based, there is such a rosy tinge of cultural bliss seemingly surrounding you all down that way…do you find it is inspiring and supportive? I know you’ve also performed in London….but is Melbourne a positive spot, creatively?
YOLANDA: Yes it is, very much so! And music has led me to so many different people, I’ve made lots and lots of lovely friends, people that come to my gigs just to listen come up and speak to me. I don’t know if it happens to other people, but I have lovely people coming up to me all the time just saying “oh my god, I love your music, it means so much to me, it brought this up for me”. There’s actually one I wrote about my sister who died a few years ago, the last track on that album called ‘Backroom of My Dreams’ was written for my sister. Who I often dream of. And I’ve started introducing it and saying that to people, to acknowledge her. And invariably people come up and say things about that that has brought something up for them – because everybody’s lost someone. And that just means a lot to me, and I make friends that way, I talk to people and they keep coming back. Or different musicians that I’ve played with. Melbourne is, as you just said, very, very rich culturally. But equally London, I love going to London because there’s a different culture there. When I’m over there I can play with all the Jamaicans, and there’s a whole West Indian thing going on there which I really love with the reggae and the ska and all of that. So I really enjoy going to London as well and playing there.
YOLANDA INGLEY & BAND PERFORMING 'BACKROOM OF MY DREAMS'
TIANA: You’ve got the best of both worlds! And transcending all of those little worlds within those worlds at the same time! Well it sounds like the future ahead is going to be pretty exciting, but in the meantime it’s so awesome to be hearing ‘Woman Got To Cry’ out and about in the world, so thank you for your time and cannot wait to see what’s next!
YOLANDA: Thank you very much, a pleasure to talk to you!
YOLANDA'S LATEST OPUS 'WOMAN GOT TO CRY' IS OUT IN THE WORLD NOW, FOR MORE INFO HEAD HERE
BY TIANA SPETER