I remember the first time I saw Rachael Yamagata perform. I fell in love with her smoky, sensual voice; to this day I think she and Cat Power's Chan Marshall have the two sexiest voices of any singer. This show was at the Moore Theater and she was opening for my dearest Elizabeth Phair. This was probably in 2003 – her EP was out at the time – but it was prior to the release of her 2004 album Happenstance.
When Happenstance came out, I was completely smitten. Her songs were personal but still accessible – and that voice! When I interviewed her in 2004, after her first headlining tour and back when I was a writer at ROCKRGRL magazine, we talked a lot about songwriting. I really like this exchange (which is odd because I like zero percent of stuff I've written during that time):
Many of your songs are about relationships. Are they mostly based on your personal experience?
Probably 90 percent have a direct link to something that's happened or that I'm going through, even if it's not about me. I write about other people or dynamics I see within their relationships. I'm not always writing from the first person and I'm not always the central character. I'm fascinated by the different roles you get in every relationship, the happy couple, the other woman or the outside friend. There are so many shades of gray in a love story that I have an endless supply of inspiration and turmoil.
Happenstance is refreshing because the songs deviate from the "whiny singer with an acoustic guitar" stereotype.
That's the danger of writing relationship songs. Everyone's been in those situations. They know the heartache part of it. You don't need to highlight the heartache. People automatically go there. They automatically feel it. They editorialize it themselves without having to take your version of it. As soon as you start whining about it, they'll be like "Whatever."
It's been four years since her first LP but there will (finally!) be another record coming out in early October (the 7th, to be exact) on Warner Brothers. In that time she switched labels (going from RCA to WB). It's a two-part album called A Record in Two Parts: Elephants / Teeth Sinking Into Heart. You can stream two songs from her forthcoming album(s) here: "Elephants" and "Sidedish Friend".
She'll also be heading out on the road for a tour beginning in mid-September and that includes a stop in Seattle on October 4 at Chop Suey.
September 20 – Asbury Park, NJ – The Wonder Bar
September 21 – Pittsburgh, PA – Diesel
September 22 – Washington DC – Birchmere
September 24 – Philadelphia – Johnny Brenda’s
September 25 – New York, NY – Joe's Pub (two shows that night)
September 29 – Boston, MA – Café 939 @ Berklee College of Music
October 1 – Chicago, IL – Lakeshore
October 2 – Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line
October 4 – Seattle, WA – Chop Suey
October 5 – Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom
October 6 – San Francisco, CA – Café Du Nord
October 7 – Los Angeles, CA – Largo at the Coronet