Yola says she feels Tina Turner did “more squats than everyone else” in a “gym for bulls***”.
The UK-born multiple Grammy nominee, 39, who portrayed “Godmother of Rock ’n’ Roll” Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ biopic, added the late ‘Private Dancer’ singer – whose death aged 83 from natural causes was announced on 24 May – was such an inspiration for her musically and personally she idolised her approach to life as well as her voice.
Yola told Variety in a lengthy tribute to her idol about how she admired Tina fighting through her tough life – which included an abusive marriage to Ike Turner and having to battle to get concert promoters to give her gigs as a solo act when they divorced: “It’s easy to convince people there’s no other way to operate and you have to conform. But if that isn’t the hardest thing you’ve had to deal with, then you just do it.
“Whoever those people were, they weren’t the pinnacle of her life challenge, or the toughest people to freaking negotiate with in her life.
“It’s almost like she’d been to the gym for bulls***, and she’d just done more squats than everyone else!”
Before becoming a recording artist and Grammy nominee, Yola – born Yolanda Claire Quartey – taught music students in Britain and was a teacher and lecturer in vocal biomechanics who would instruct young singers in how to emulate Tina’s voice.
She added: “Tina always went down big-time for us over in the UK. (Her hit) ‘River Deep Mountain High’ was huge there, even though it was a flop in the States. Of course she moved to Europe.
“I’ve literally done the anti-Tina thing, coming from Europe to the States. She actually inspired me directly to come to Tennessee, just to understand the backdrop of how someone like her is born and made.
“I visited a few places in Tennessee and eventually found myself in Nashville, but I made sure I got myself over in Memphis.
“There was something that out of her journey that drew me here. There’s not really a moment of her narrative that I can’t have some empathy for and be inspired by.”
Yola went on: “I spent a lot of time analysing her voice – I was a voice scientist. If I want to be technical, she’s using parts of her voice that are often used in the operatic field. Opera singers always sound like they’re in full tears.
“It’s a technique called the crying tilt – a reflex in the musculature of your face that is designed to make babies loud and be able to cry forever without undue stress to the voicebox.
“It is highly favourable to recording and performance, and it’s been known to make people’s hair stand up on end, because of its proximity to crying, which is like a human alarm system that we are biologically predisposed to react to. Singers can put that on, but some people are more predisposed to that sob being heavy or being effective, and she had the bone structure to access that at such an extreme level.”