Dan Auerbach: Producing Yola’s Grammy-Nominated Album Was ‘Meant To Be’

Yola and Dan Auerbach
Erika Goldring / Getty Images for AmericanaFest
– Yola and Dan Auerbach

Dan Auerbach is probably best known as one-half of the Black Keys, along with drummer Patrick Carney, but he’s also been making a serious mark as a producer and owner of Easy Eye Sound studio and record label, too. Among his producer credits are records with Cage the Elephant, Dr. John, Lana Del Rey, Ray LaMontagne, Jake Bugg, and the Pretenders.

He won the Grammy Award in 2013 as Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, along with Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance for “Lonely Boy” and Best Rock Album for El Camino. 

Auerbach is in the Grammy spotlight again with a return nod for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical for Yola’s Walk Through Fire and Best American Roots Song, for the single “Faraway Look.” 

All told, Auerbach has won eight Grammy Awards from a total of 16 nominations. 
POLLSTAR: You’re an in-demand producer already, yet you sought out Yola, who was barely known at the time in the U.S.?

Auerbach: It felt like it was meant to be. She just spoke to me and as soon as I heard her, I knew. The first time I heard her voice it was on a video that someone showed me. And as soon as I saw it I thought, “I want to meet her.” She’d been coming to Nashville for a couple of years, to the AmericanaFests, playing all the shows, trying to get anybody to listen. But as soon as I heard her, I dunno … I just knew. And when I met her, that sealed the deal.
It sounds like it was pretty much love at first sight when you finally met.

I loved her spirit, and I loved her energy in the room. Then she sang in front of me in person and she just knocked me out. Hearing and seeing her on video was one thing, but hearing her in front of you in a room in person is just a whole other thing.
What was the recording experience like on Walk Through Fire?
We spent a few weeks writing before we even got into the studio, and we wrote for a while. That was very fruitful, and very fun. We were going places we didn’t expect to go.
By the time we were ready to record, we had all these songs and it took us just three days to record. Then we had a couple days to redo some things but it was mostly recorded live.
Rumor has it you’re already working on the next record, and she’s joked it might be a jazz/funk album.
We definitely started working on music for the next record. I honestly don’t know what we could call it. I wouldn’t even want to try to say. You never really know what you’ve got until you start to record. Then you can tell what the story is going to be. It’s too early to say.

This record has generated six Grammy nominations, including two for you. How gratifying is that?

I think I’ve only got one. She’s got four. I’m not really sure. Oh shit! I guess I do have two! [laughter
I am her biggest fan. I’m just excited to be there. I’m thrilled for her, because she deserves it. I just want to be there to support her. Yola is the real deal. Those feelings she has and those songs she wrote from them are genuine.