Yola Ktwo Talks Travel, Classic Rock and Evolution
“You know, everybody talking about getting tired of their day jobs. I know that’s one job I’m never gonna get tired of.” When talking about his occupation, there is no stopping. No 9-5. Minimal sleep. Just mind over matter. Pursuit, persistence, and perfection. These three characteristics are sewed and arranged into every one of Yola’s songs. It doesn’t matter what it is—whether it's the calculated mixing and mastering that is completely done by him, or the constant vocal performances and bars that are developed to perfection in each song—consistency is what Yola is all about.
Yola gathers influence anywhere he can. He is like a chameleon—adapting and assimilating to any environment he is thrown into. He twists and contorts every influence he comes across into his unique and vivid style. It can be the homegrown Austin roots that he holds with great pride. It can be the first-time visit to LA where he locked himself in the studio for hours on-end, not letting anything distract him from his goal. Or, hell, it can be at his home studio in Hempstead. No matter where he is, Yola will scratch, claw, and ponder like a hungry lion anxious to attack prey for days on-end to create a fluid and beautiful track. That’s what separates him from the rest of the pack.
I had the luxury to interview the Austin native Yola Ktwo and pick his brain about various topics like Stevie Ray Vaughan, food from all over the country, and Netflix. Read down below to tap into the creative mind of Yola Ktwo!
Marty Gross: Well, the first question I have to ask you is, how do you pronounce your last name?
Yola Ktwo: K-Two.
Alright, I just want to make sure for the rest of the interview (laughs). You were raised in Austin, right? And you live in New York now?
Musically speaking—which city do you think had a bigger impact on your musical trajectory: Austin or New York?
Definitely living in Austin; it’s my roots. The city has a pretty good history of good music and good underground music. So, I had to start there first before I could believe in going anywhere else to do this shit.
The roots are essential! I'm not too familiar with Austin’s scene, is it pretty good out there?
I love Austin. Austin has 6th Street, which is filled with nothing but bars, music, and fun, bro. And also, artists come through for South by Southwest.
I was actually supposed to go there to work for my cousin at that festival this summer, but shit fell through. I was so hyped to go because so many good artists go there.
Hell yeah! Well, I live in Roundrock, which is like 10 minutes from Austin.
Yeah, I live in Milwaukee right now because I go to school there, but I live 30 minutes out of Chicago, so it’s a train ride away to hang out and have fun.
My homie is from Milwaukee, so I be hearing about it a lot.
It’s a lot of fun. If you ever come out here, let me know. We got some good bars out here and we got The Rave.
I saw you dropped a bunch of music videos. Whether it's “Toxic,” “Hush It Up,” “Mix That,” “Tellin Ya,” or “Dammit I Said,” what do you think is the importance of putting visuals to your music?
We only got so much as far as creating music in the studio. With these visuals, we are trying to paint what comes out. That visual has gotta capture the most of it. If it's not exactly on it, we're trying to just make sure the visual is rocking with the song. The visual has gotta make a good movie or a scene behind the song.
First off, awesome. I watched a bunch when researching and they were awesome. They do a good job of matching the song to the visuals. Speaking on that, are you a big fan of movies at all?
Oh, okay. So, I grew up in a place where I didn't really have TV and cable like that, but as I got my own crib, I got into a situation where I started just doing the Netflix thing a little. It’s been music since I’ve been born, in a way; TV was like was one of those things where I just didn't really give it that much attention.
Both of my parents are really big into movies, so we always use to do Redbox movies.
Okay, I lied. My family used to have a tradition every Friday, where we would get three Redbox movies and we had to stay up and finish them! Yeah, that was the best family game to play.
Do you have any favorite Austin artists besides yourself?
Yeah, I have some favorite Austin artists. A lot of them I’ve known for a while, and I know a bunch where I met them through music and I just fucked with their music heavy. There’s an artist out there named Kie That Wierdo. Yeah, I know it’s a weird name, but it’s unique. She got some sauce; she goes hard. She was just like me—doing it from a young age and has gotten way more serious as she has gotten older. Once you start from a young age and you basically breathe it, you are going somewhere, for sure.
There is not enough respect for female artists. They can go hard as shit. I love Rico Nasty, Amaria, Kali—all of them.
My bro loves Rico Nasty. He plays her music over and over.
I see you rolling up right now... Are you big into strains and stuff?
My favorite strain?
Yeah, what is it?
Blue Dream, right off the rip!
You can't go wrong.
Hey, Blue Dream right off the rip! I went to LA and smoked LA Blue Dream; I’ve been all over Texas and smoked Texas Blue Dream. It ain’t never did me wrong!
I bet. What’s your favorite piece to smoke out of?
I roll papers to toke, but I love Backwoods.
You can put the most inside of it; it’s efficient. So, I saw on Twitter that you said you sampled Stevie Ray on a song, right?
There are certain waves and sounds that I'm hearing throughout other genes; I'm like, “Damn, that’s beautiful.” And so, Stevie Ray is from Austin and I learned about the city legends and shit. I really loved his story and how he played the guitar, so I’m definitely going to listen to more of him.
Both of my parents are huge Stevie Ray Vaughan fans, so I told them about how I’m interviewing this guy who sampled Stevie and she told me a fucking crazy story. So, my uncle was a guitarist and he was in Muddy Waters’ band and he would go on tour with them. He opened for Stevie on the day he died in the crash! I was talking to her and was like, “How have I not heard about this?!”
Wow. That’s crazy, bro.
You listen to any other classic rock artists?
I want to learn the best classic artists and learn more about them. I just need do more research and listening; I need to have an answer that’s valid before I answer that question. But speaking on the sample, if you know Stevie Ray Vaughan, it’s got a little taste in it. If you know Stevie, then you will recognize the sample.
I saw that, sadly, because of COVID and everything, your tour got cancelled. What destinations were you looking forward to?
Austin, and definitely doing some shows up here in New York. I would love to do some little shows up here, but mostly Texas because that's where my people are. I got a lot of people from school and from growing up realizing that one kid who was doing music is now making some noise.
That must be so cool to go back home and see all of the friends at your show.
When I look back to one of my first shows, I was just like, “I have to keep doing this every day.” That’s one reason that keeps motivating me to make music—just to perform every night. You know, everybody talking about getting tired of their day jobs. I know that’s one job I’m never gonna get tired of.
I feel like performing must be such a surreal experience. Doing shows must be so electric.
At my first show, the people were loving the music, so I felt like I was there with them. It was a little taste of what it's gonna be like.