Born in Oshawa, Ontario, Yates grew up in Downsview, a working-class suburb of Toronto, under the shadow of the Yorkdale Mall. She's the kid who at 8 years old proclaimed to the world she was going to be a singer and the same kid who left school at 15 to work in a gas station while taking singing lessons and secretly pursuing her dream. The kid who listened to Tanya Tucker, Patti Smith and Dolly Parton while dreaming of a career in music. The kid who’d never been on a plane until Sony Music bigshots sent her a ticket. Her scrappy spirit has carried her through the peaks and valleys of the music business, she kept singing, writing and performing no matter what life threw at her. Lori’s a lifer.
Her first major recording “Can’t Stop the Girl” (Sony Nashville) would prove prophetic. She’s an artist who battled and overcame her own personal addictions and quietly moved on to help others. She’s planted graveyard flowers, painted houses, worked in record stores and homeless shelters, sold her paintings and photographs, and somehow found time to add stand-up comedy to her resume. A writer, singer, poet, storyteller, funny person, coach, mentor, partner and mom.
Lori has the same determination as to when she burst onto the Toronto Queen West roots/cowpunk scene of the late 80s as the “cowgirl singing her heart out in the punk clubs.” This enigmatic, rebellious veteran adeptly blends country, roots and rockabilly to create her own sound, eventually getting her signed to Sony Nashville.
Drawn to the post-industrial steel city of Hamilton, Ontario because of its rich musical heritage, Lori relocated with her baby son and partner in 2002. That’s where Ronnie Hawkins and The Band cut their teeth in whisky-soaked bars like the Flamingo and the Golden Garter. Where Conway Twitty wrote "It’s Only Make Believe" in a Herkimer Street apartment, and where the famous Washington family (Jackie Washington and his brothers) opened their home to Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Mississippi John Hurt when they gigged in town. And, where she played with the late and beloved Brian Griffith when he wasn’t touring with Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson.
Hamilton lovingly embraced Lori, awarding her with "Songwriter of the Year" and "Alt-Country Recording of the Year" at the 2007 Hamilton Music Awards for "The Book of Minerva."
But when it came time to record "Sweetheart of the Valley" she called in old bandmates, friends, and roots heavyweights of Hey Stella - Bazil Donovan (Blue Rodeo), David Baxter (acclaimed producer and guitarist), and Michelle Josef (Prairie Oyster). They recorded live off the floor in three whirlwind sessions. The results of which are pure magic. They have the confidence and maturity to leave holes, keep it sparse, and let the song do the talking. Not many artists come up with the best work of their career three decades in, but Lori Yates and Hey Stella! did just that with "Sweetheart of the Valley which has been "Longer Listed" for the Polaris Prize.
Her words, from her song Angels with Bloody Knees have recently been immortalized in Hamilton's Gore Park. Artist Dave Kuruc created "Music City Markers" which included lyrics from prominent Hamilton and Hamilton influenced artists; Robbie Robertson, Terra Lightfoot, The Arkells etc. Look for Lori's "Concrete rises hits you like a kiss".
2015 - Sweetheart of the Valley - Laly Music
2007 - The Book of Minerva - Laly Music
2001 - Hey Stella! - Independent
1996 - Untogether - Virgin Music Canada
1993 - Breaking Point - Virgin Music Canada
1989 - Can't Stop the Girl - Sony Music Nashville
1987 - Rang Tango - State of the Heart Records
FOR MORE INFORMATION, SEE LORI’S CHRONOLOGY