Singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata rediscovers her soul with her long-awaited third album, Chesapeake.
ISSUE: Fall 2011
STORY: Janice Jann
Those accustomed to hearing singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata’s smoky voice breaking from all the pain and heartbreak she endured in her first two albums, Happenstance and Elephants…Teeth Sinking Into Heart, will need to take a second listen to Chesapeake, her first studio album in three years. “This record [has] a sense of humor, looseness and spontaneity,” says the Japanese-Caucasian American. “There’s still depth to these songs, but there’s sort of a jovial sense about them — it’s new for me.”
Yamagata, 33, credits her fresh outlook with the way the record was produced. “We were literally sleeping on air mattresses; I’ve got a tent pitched up outside, and we’re grilling food together,” Yamagata recounts. “It was a very camp-like, home-style situation.”
Recording in the bathtub of a friend’s house may seem like something a novice would do, but Yamagata, who
was previously with two major record- ing studios, has sung duets with Ray Lamontagne and Mandy Moore, and finds her songs taking up airtime on Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, and the new Muppets movie, is already a music industry veteran.
Though Yamagata is grateful for all the creative people that have championed her career, she found herself splitting with Warner Bros. Records about a year ago. “I think the pressure these labels are under to find ways for the music business to survive, it just was not the right envi- ronment for me anymore,” says Yamagata. The urge to reconnect with her fans and get new music out led Yamagata to re-team with her Happenstance producer, John Aliaga. Yamagata assembled a “dream team” of a band and began to make music right out of Aliaga’s house. Financial support for the album came through PledgeMusic, a leading online platform for musicians and fans to help raise funds. “It’s nice to know that there are people out there waiting to hear new music,” she says. “The [fans are] so supportive and the comments rolling in are mind-boggling sweet.”
Though Yamagata’s sultry vocals are the selling point of her music, the songstress’ first love is songwriting, which she picked up when she started touring with the funk-fusion band Bumpus in the mid-’90s. “The way somebody gets the acting bug and needs to delve into a character, I got it through songwriting,” says Yamagata. “You can see metaphors all over the place if you’re paying attention.”
After Yamagata self-releases Chesapeake on her own label, Frankenfish Records, she’ll begin touring October 24. Some of the places Yamagata hopes to hit are Asia, Australia and Hawaii. “I love to travel,” says Yamagata with a laugh. It sounds like Yamagata will have much to sing about.
— Janice Jann
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