The Secret of Yebba’s Debut Album? Big Sound and Lots of Time.

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Singer and songwriter Yebba He has a story to tell from the moment he realizes that he is destined to continue his music career.

It was the summer after his freshman year in college, and he was smashing laptops in a warehouse. She had started posting clips of her singing on Instagram, and they started gaining attention online. One day after work, he was jogging by a bean field near his childhood home in Arkansas and wondering when the future would be.

In a recent video interview, he was reflexively aware of how this might sound. “I’m going to say it the way I know how to say it, because I don’t speak much in church language anymore,” she said, her eyes roaming her room before making direct contact. “But I really felt like God was saying ‘I want you to be a singer’ in my stomach. I had a moment when I stopped running and I sat and prayed, just laying on the ground. ”

What followed was not unique among singers who debuted in the digital age. Virality attracted surprise attention from famous stars like Missy Elliott and Timbaland, which led to invitations to collaborate with other famous stars and move to New York where dreams come true. while singing. But what Yebba, now 26, did next is unusual: He didn’t rush a debut album with a group of young writers and producers. He waited.

After nearly five years of focusing on her mental health, navigating the traps of the music industry, and recording continuously until listening to her sing again became what she calls “so embarrassing,” she will release her first LP, “Dawn,” on Friday. And Yebba. The spiritual connection that led to his career has helped him take the time no matter how many people say, “Hurry up.”

“I just don’t care,” he said about the expectations expected of him as his career slowly took shape. During the two meetings, Yebba spoke thoughtfully and purposefully, often pausing for a few seconds to gather a thought. He would occasionally burst into tears when the conversation got serious, only to break a joke a moment later. At one point, she displayed some of the artwork hanging in her Chelsea apartment: an abstract painting. by artist Shawn Shrum, and a green print that he jokingly covers up as “a simple prostitute purchase from Anthropologie.”

“They can’t fool me because I didn’t sign up for a sorority,” she said. “But I signed up to create something with other people’s money, and that’s all anyone can ask of me – that’s all I can ask of myself, to stick with what I’ve agreed to do so far. And the moment I’m called to do something else, I’m gone.”

“Dawn” producer Mark Ronson said Yebba stayed true to his own taste. “You will never get a sound, color or tone from Yebba that you don’t like,” he said. “He trusted me, but only to fulfill his vision.”

Although Yebba has had high-profile collaborations with artists like Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith and appeared on Drake’s latest album “Certified Lover Boy” – “Dawn,” it doesn’t sound like the beginning of a burgeoning pop sensation leaping into trends. The album has a rich retro palette, draws heavily from jazz and R&B, and is set in a dark recording that lets Yebba’s flexible sound room roam. (In the cathartic “October Sky,” the melody lines flutter slightly and then suddenly rise in an explosion of pyrotechnics.) The LP was inspired by D’Angelo’s “Voodoo,” one of Yebba’s artistic touchpoints, and was recorded at Electric Lady Studios. . with Several members of the “Voodoo” group.

“In my head I wish I was a rapper but actually I just write folk songs,” he said.

Yebba was born Abbey Smith in West Memphis, Ark. His father was a preacher and grew up singing in church, becoming a worship pastor at the age of 15. ‘Abigail, who is your favorite singer?’ he would say. I would say ‘Aretha Franklin’ too. “And what did Aretha do before she became Aretha Franklin?” “She sang at her father’s church.”

Shortly after the moment of divine intervention, Yebba dropped out of college and moved to New York City, where she played a show for the event company SoFar Sounds in 2016 and sang a hypnotic song called ‘Hypnotize’. “My mind.” When the video of the performance was finally uploaded to YouTube that December, it had a bigger boom than he could have imagined. “This song was really a moment of worship rather than being performative – I felt God’s presence was there,” she said.

However, just weeks after the SoFar show, Yebba’s mother died by suicide. He went to his home in West Memphis, where he was grappling with his emotions. “A lot of people around me encouraged me to ‘quit’ – like, what happened? [expletive] does that mean?” said. “all me HaveThere’s plenty of time to think as an artist. ”

After “sitting at home like a robot in Arkansas,” Yebba returned to New York, where she thought hard about the next step in her nascent career. HE He sang for A Tribe Called Quest. He went to London to meet potential labels. But nothing was appealing. Even more worrying was the potential perception of his mother’s death. contentsin some rooms. At a Grammy event, she said that a record label president introduced her to another artist. “Her mother died by suicide, but it’s all good because she’ll be able to write really good songs out of it.”

In response, “I dropped my bag and ran,” Yebba said, scribbling a look of transparent disbelief on his face. He needed more time.

A major turning point came in 2018 when she met Ronson as she gathered collaborators for the business that would become hers. “Night Night Feelings” album. Their relationship was cemented, Ronson said, when he said he “tried hard” by making bona fide mockery of a jacket Yebba was wearing on their second day together. (“I don’t care,” he said of the dig, when an artist has the talent and warmth to support him.) Their sessions led to three songs on Ronson’s album and the music that would eventually become “Dawn.” ”

Some parts took years to complete. Originally written after her mother’s death, “October Sky” required around 300 vocal shots. “When I lost my mother, I felt like I had lost everything that had meaning to me before,” Yebba said. But over time, the process got easier with Ronson’s support. With a burst of harmonies and a brilliant string arrangement, the last song “All I Ever Wanted” written for the record came together in just a few days.

Pianist James Francies, a friend of Yebba’s playing on the album, said that he took care to surround himself with the right people. “He’s always saying, ‘If this doesn’t feel right, I don’t want to do this,'” she said. “And I’ve always respected and loved that side of him because he always put music first and always put his own well-being first.”

The album was completed before the pandemic began, but Yebba has decided to prioritize its release and mental health. “I don’t want to glorify the bottom but I was sitting on my couch doing my daily smoking routine,” she said. “I said, ‘I can either be a professional smoker and a professional smoker or I can be a professional singer. I don’t agree that art should be miserable, because that goes against every reason I’m committed to music.”

But after giving herself time, she’s finally ready for the next step. The name of the album does not only talk about the holiday; It was also his mother’s name. “I always feel like I’d be 26 instead of sinking into this much grief,” she said. “I no longer feel that my life is an unfinished chore—that my mother is hanging over my head. There are new ways to honor him.”



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