Artist Spotlight

Catching up with Rachael Yamagata

No Comments 5 October 2014

Catching up with Rachael Yamagata

[This profile written by guest contributor Angela Ambrosini] It’s all about, “straight-up love,” says Rachael Yamagata, singer-songwriter and pianist from Arlington, Virginia. “Love” is how Yamagata described her life, her music and now her pledge to a new album funded in part by a new campaign through the PledgeMusic platform.

Yamagata, who began her musical career in a Chicago band called Bumpus, is a solo independent artist who has had a number of songs placed in film and television projects, including 30 Rock, The L Word and How I Met your Mother. Over the past decade, she has also collaborated as a guest vocalist with a who’s who list of artists including Ryan Adams, Toots and the Maytals, Rhett Miller, Jason Mraz and Ray Lamontagne, among others.

Yamagata’s lyrics and music run deep with emotional layers and a vulnerable resiliency, highlighted by her husky, blues-inflected vocals. It’s that undercurrent of emotion, conflict and vulnerability that vibrates from the ground up in her material. Motivated by “beautiful surprises” of ‘70s singer-songwriters, she finds inspiration by listening to Elton John, Cat Stevens, Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Tom Waits, Rickie Lee Jones, Rufus Wainwright and modern lyricists outside her own genre like Kanye West.

Her first full-length album, Happenstance, was released to great critical and radio success in 2004. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, Yamagata is re-releasing the album with new acoustic versions of the songs, personal letters, notes from demos, handwritten lyrics and much more on beautifully crafted and produced vinyl. “Vinyl is a whole other experience. I understand the new age of music we live in, but as an artist I want to create a total package. The experience, the transition of music and you should feel during, before and after,” describes Yamagata.

Setting the stage (and setting an example for other independent artists), Yamagata is on the horizon of touring and releasing a new album. This release, and new single “Tightrope Walker,” is part of her current campaign on PledgeMusic, which allows fans to be a part of making of her album. “It gives a platform for fans to be included in the process and anything behind the scenes – getting a view from the artist from beginning to the end,” describes Yamagata.

Through this campaign, 5% of collected funds will benefit Music Heals, a nonprofit group of music enthusiasts and music lovers who have come together to help raise awareness of the healing powers of music. The campaign also provides visibility for her new album and full artistic control as an independent artist. She explains, “It’s amazing in a lot of ways, you can provide a lot of incentives to your fans while having the total creative freedom to make decisions.”

While fans wait for more of Yamagata’s material, she tells us what to expect for her newest work. “I woke up and had an image of a sweat lodge; a sort of harmonic experience to remove the pain from the past and leave cleansed and refreshed,” describes Yamagata. 

Her new tunes carry a different vibe than what fans are used to. And Yamagata allows herself to dive into producing, writing, singing and creating a mystical soundtrack. The new songs feature banjo, saxophones, French letters, rains to chains and so much more. It was a chance to let go and really start from a fresh source of inspiration.

“It’s empowering and it’s my life.” 

Rachael Yamagata PledgeMusic

Find out more about Rachael’s PledgeMusic campaign (and pledge!):

More about Music Heals:

Rachael’s website:

Catch her on tour this fall performing special sets of Happenstance in a city near you!

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