A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of conducting a phone interview with Virginian indie singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata. Yamagata is embarking on a world tour in support of her fourth major album “Tightrope Walker,” which will be released Sept. 23. Her debut album “Happenstance” in 2004 was a huge success, landing her songs several spots in TV shows and movies, and even establishing a cult following.
When I asked about “Tightrope Walker” coming out in just a couple weeks, Yamagata expressed excitement, saying that the release process was “like a huge birthing.” The singles “Nobody” and “Over” were released earlier this summer. They feature a “wide spectrum of sounds” and instrumentation new to her style. She is primarily a singer and pianist, so those have naturally been the most prominent instruments on her past albums. The slow, piano-driven songs contrast greatly to the new singles, which are a bit more upbeat and feature many new instruments that are seldom heard throughout the rest of her discography.
“We had the luxury of really experimenting,” she went on to say. “We added a lot of new sounds like banjo and saxophone, we recorded things in the woods and we had our drummer, Ben Perowsky, hitting metal ladders and chairs and ironing boards. We got a lot of interesting textures.”
While Yamagata is currently known for her smooth, emotional piano-ballad style of music, she describes the new album as “more positive and anthemic.”
“Typically, I’m the ‘delve into the heartbreak’ songwriter, and that’s been my calling card for a long time,” she further explained. “This one has a much different approach.” If the rest of the album is anything like the catchy singles “Nobody” and “Over,” “Tightrope Walker” should be a really fun album. “It’s a very encouraging record, and that mixed with this new tone of production has been a really interesting thing,” she asserted.
I made a remark about how charismatic her stage presence is, to which she immediately replied, “Oh, that’s just tequila.” She even went as far as to say that she actually has stage fright, which people are often surprised to hear. “I am the most uncomfortable human being, even in public,” she admitted. Clearly, she has figured out a way to make it work because she truly does seem totally in her element when she’s performing onstage.
Rachael Yamagata will be playing a show at Union Transfer Sept. 23, the day of the release of “Tightrope Walker.” I asked if there was a reason she chose to play Philadelphia on the same day as her album release, and she said it was in fact intentional because she lived in Philly for a little while so it “feels like a home base” to her. “And it’s also my birthday,” she revealed emphatically, “so it’s like this big perfect storm of dates.”