Rachael Yamagata has been called ‘the troubadour of heartbreak’ by the press and fans are drawn to her ability to ‘turn emotion into song’. She’s got the old soul singer songwriter essence that calls upon Todd Rundgren, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, The Carpenters and Elton John and sonically gravitates towards the darker stylings of Nick Cave, Tom Waits, P.J. Harvey and Danny Elfman. Supporting her new EP ‘Heavyweight’ we is soon stopping by on her tour in our hometown of Austin, Texas where we caught up and talked about her lyrics, performing on stage, Asian films, and more! Read below for the full Q&A…
Your new EP is similar to other artists like Adele and Taylor Swift who pour aspects of their relationships into their music. While recording new music for this release did you have a sense of vulnerability coming into it?
Rachael: I’ve always relied on my vulnerability in songwriting actually. I think by drawing from your own personal wealth of emotion specifically, you get closer to something that resonates universally. I truly believe we are all very connected and go through the same challenges. I love strong women who aren’t afraid to dig deep into their pain and understand it. It helps others who may not have the words and becomes a healing really.
Was infusing personal aspects of your life into your music a fear you had to overcome?
Rachael: Not really. I’ve always written as a very selfish thing. It’s like a language translation for me. I’m trying to figure out what my own heart is feeling and it becomes the lyric of the song. I’m compelled to get through things and learn from them. It’s always been this internal drive rather than any fear I had to face doing.
How is the summer tour coming along? As a woman who grew up on the East Coast, what is it like coming to places in the South and performing?
Rachael: Fabulous. I will never complain about getting to swim in an outdoor pool while home is experiencing another snow storm. The summer tour will be the first one in a while actually. I always seem to be in the studio in the summer and touring in the winter. This will be a great change.
We are a website based in Austin and know you are coming to us at the end of June. Any surprises you could let us in on? Any pranks?
Rachael: Only the ones Austin will play on me. I’ve been through a fire, a missing cat, and two breakups in Austin. I never knew about the bats until I was lying under the bridge and got freaked out one sunset. I always approach Austin with a ‘what’s gonna go down this time’ anticipation (as I wrote that a ladybug literally just fell on my shoulder…)!
[Laughs] As a songwriter yourself, what is the creative process like when you have a thematic idea and having a person like Mike Viola co-write a record? How do you achieve a good balance to make sure you record a song that keeps the integrity of the message in tact?
Rachael: It’s not easy, but with Viola it is. We just ‘connect’ when writing. He loves the 70s and that’s where I feel I come from in a writing style. We have so much fun and literally can write endlessly together. We even wrote a song about a dying puppet once just because. We have high standards for a song and don’t quit til we discover the perfect thing for it. He’s a great editor as well for me and really pushes me to get to the next level.
Of all the lyrics on your new EP Heavyweight, which resonates the most with you at the moment?
Rachael: Lately, it’s been ‘Keep Going’. Every day the news is so heart wrenching and sometimes you can feel so powerless. If I could say anything to world right now, that would be it.
I know you expressed a bit of interest in producing music as well. How has that been coming along and after your summer tour is that something you will spend a lot more time doing?
Rachael: I’m definitely trying to learn as I go. As soon as this touring cycle winds down I’m really going to get into it.
Do you have any favorite Asian films you could share with us?
Rachael: Eat Drink Man Woman and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon definitely.
You once said that it is sometimes tough performing live because, even if you’re in a dark mood or a happy mood, the show must go on. How does this relate to your recording process? Do you need to be in a certain frame of mind to write and record?
Rachael: Sometimes it’s tough to combat life in recording situations so you try to channel it. All the intensity of any situation can come out in a performance and you can feel it. Writing is definitely easier when I’m fresh in the moment of something…
Lastly, aside from the tour dates, do you have anything else you’d like to promote or give us something to look forward too?
Rachael: More new songs of course 😉 Also, I’m really keen on figuring out some Youtube, video blog schtuff. I love touring Asia and it’s harder to stay connected with the time difference so I think I may have to do some video connects soon! Xoxo R
Want to stay up to date on all things Rachael? Follow her cookie crumb trail below:
Get her new ep ‘HEAVYWEIGHT’ directly from her store: