Rachael Yamagata on new album ‘Chesapeake,’ relationships, keeping inspired

So I got to interview an artist I absolutely love – Rachael Yamagata! I loved talking to Marc Anthony, Paul Sorvino, Gilbert Godfrey, Buddy Valastro, Blake Sennett, Peter Bjorn and John, and some of The Walton kids, but this interview has meant the most to me fangirl-wise. A bunch of my other friends, like Sarah Rose Villafuerte and Katie Colaneri were also super-psyched.

My actual article on Yamagata, who will perform at Maxwell’s in Hoboken on Dec. 19, was published today on NJ.com. Here is a transcript of my interview with her.

Rachael Yamagata on new album ‘Chesapeake,’ relationships, keeping inspired

Summer Dawn Hortillosa: I just listened to “Chesapeake” and it’s great! How would you describe it lyrically and musically?

Rachael Yamagata: I don’t know, my God. It’s very much about connecting with other people and saying goodbye and all of those, I think, different stages of relationships. Musically, I think it’s just about having a great time with people, being very spontaneous in a live setting in the studio. We recorded a lot of the stuff live and just tried to keep it energetic and inspired.

SDH: How is it different from your previous work?

RY: I think it’s a little bit more freeform, more spontaneous. There are a couple songs with a sense of humor to them that are a a little lighter in tone.

SDH: I was looking at some videos for your songs on YouTube (like “Even If I Don’t” and “Starlight“) and some commenters said they thought this album sounded a lot like “Happenstance.” I know you’re working with John Alagia again, who produced “Happenstance” – do you think that might have something to do with it? And do you agree that the two have similar sounds?

RY: I think that in terms of the full package, the full body of work, there are similarities. The one before this record (“Elephants…Teeth Sinking Into Heart”) was definitely different, more cinematic. This has similarities in that energy behind it.

With Alagia and I, the combination of us has a similar flair to what we had before, so I think some of that will resonate. But it doesn’t quite feel like “Happenstance” to me. It’s more an evolution of the two (previous albums).

SDH: Do you have a favorite track?

RY: It changes every day, I don’t know! “Full On” has a special place for me, so I gravitate toward that song and “Dealbreaker” I really love.

SDH: Is it hard writing such honest, deep lyrics?

RY: I don’t think so. I think it actually energizes me. I think it’s harder to try and make up a storyline. But when you’re banking on your own experience, your own interpretation of something, the material is right there. It’s nonfiction versus fiction. It’s harder to present (that emotion) on stage and be that vulnerable, but not in the studio.

SDH: Has that ever affected your relationships? Do people ever go, “Oh, no! She’s going to write a song about this someday and I’ll cry and regret everything I did” and get scared or something?

RY: Fortunately not yet! I think the people who are attracted to me in any kind of relationship know that they’re up against whatever I feel is the reality of a situation. And I’m just as harsh on myself as I am on the other person as far as relationships. It has to do with my willingness to be honest about those things – if they’re up for it, it works out. It’s more after the relationship ends when it’s like, “Oh, shoot. There’s a song about it!”

SDH: Okay, that’s good! Now did you try anything new on this album?

RY: The biggest new thing was recording very quickly. We tracked most of the band in seven days – the fastest that I’ve ever worked. We worked in a house recording and tracked a lot together. There was not as much isolation like in others kind of studio. It gave a live energy to things, which is new.

SDH: Did it feel more like performing?

RY: Yeah, much closer to it, absolutely. It was very collaborative, something where when we got the take, everybody knew we got the take.

SDH: Is there anything you want to try that you still haven’t done yet?

RY: I’m pretty open. I don’t plan too far ahead in terms of making records – whatever I plan usually gets turned on its head anyway. But I’d love more orchestral instruments or to try my hand at producing something.

SDH: What about the near future? What plans do you have?

RY: I’ve got an EP in the works with songs we didn’t get to do during the record. It will be released in a few months and I’m on tour right now ’til September. Staying on road as much as possible is big thing right now and trying to get the EP out.

SDH: One last question – what keeps you inspired?

RY: Oh, that’s hard! Just trying to be in the moment every day. I think people are so interesting – they’re fascinating to me! It’s daily life and even when you want to pull your hair out, there’s something beautiful to it. Just being a keen observer keeps me inspired.

Rachael Yamagata will perform at Maxwell’s, 1039 Washington St., Hoboken, on Monday, Dec. 19 at 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit RachaelYamagata.com. For tickets, visit MaxwellsNJ.com.

Check out one of my favorite songs off her new album “Chesapeake,” a track called “You Won’t Let Me.”

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About Summer Dawn Hortillosa

Summer Dawn Hortillosa is a journalist specializing in arts and entertainment. Among other things, she is also an award-winning playwright, director, singer-songwriter and actress. Her work has been seen in The Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal and other publications.
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