I have been a fan of Rachael Yamagata since the start of her career and photographed her several times as well – so when we got on the phone this week for an interview, I felt like I was talking to an old friend. That was probably a bit presumptuous, but Rachael turned out to be just as friendly and open as you would expect her to be. We talked about the shifts in career, her lovely videos and the new tour she is mounting, “Songs. Stories. Solo.” (It comes to Denver’s Globe Hall on February 28th.)
Interview With Rachael Yamagata
So, by the title of the tour, it seems like it will be a more intimate affair. Tell me about it.
Yes, I’m playing small rooms and creating almost a living room style. Trying to take away the barriers between me and the audience. Some rooms will be seated, depending on the setup. And I will have real pianos brought in when possible. I’ll be playing songs across all the records and some that I don’t usually play. There will be videos behind me with bonus footage. It will be a much more personal show than I’ve ever done. But it’s also more produced rather than off the cuff – so it’s a totally new thing for me.
Do you preferred this kind of show?
I’m liking it. It’s very different – I’m traveling alone so it shows you what you’re made of! There’s a physical challenge of hauling everything and handling all of these things by yourself on the road. And this is also my only US tour this year before going into the studio for a new album.
Oh, that’s great.
Yeah, I have about 10 songs already and then I’m looking forward to going home and diving into only working on them and focusing on writing. Usually can’t write and tour at the same time.
The music industry has radically changed over the last decade or so. How is it affected you?
What a journey. It’s insane. The whole spectrum of my career has been a wonderful eye-opening college education on business. I was very lucky to start on a major-label and I worked hard, but they put me on the map … and that led me to sustain myself all this time. I learned the ropes there for sure. Then I became self-managed in 2011 and had to decide how to delegate pieces, what things other people should do and what I do. I’ve been doing talks about how to be a DIY artist and I hope that being on the front end of this model – perhaps I can help others. I’d like to investigate teaching how to do it in this new world of music. I count myself lucky to have been on both sides of the industry. It’s given me street smarts.
So, how do you relax?
You won’t believe this, but I mow the lawn! I bought a house on 12 acres and when I’m not touring, I am a domestic hermit. I love just walking around and plugging into nature. Interior design is another great creative outlet for me at the house.
You have some really beautiful videos. Do you enjoy that aspect of music?
On the artistic side, it’s fun to create those types of things. There’s also a lot of work! For “Nobody,” I was lucky to have dancer friends involved in the choreography, but that was a massive undertaking. Then with “Over,” we’re in the woods with one camera, so it was very different and meant to be – but it had many limitations but those limitations lent themselves to the video. And then, of course, with “Let Me Be Your Girl,” we were lucky to have the incredible Allison Janney appear in the video, and it was much more Hollywood style. I love mixing the mediums of video and music – it’s like creating a third thing out of them and experiencing new ways present the music. And then tour is a whole ‘nother layer to that.
Who are your current favorite artists to listen to?
I’m all over the place but I love Emily King, Elizabeth & The Catapult, Keren Ann. I’ve always loved Rufus Wainwright. And Lucas Nelson, who is Willie Nelson’s son.
I’ve seen you play in Denver several times … any memorable visits to Colorado?
Actually, up at the Fox Theater in Boulder, I opened for David Gray. It was my first big show really, playing for that many people. I was so nervous. And I didn’t understand at the time that it was actually a test. David was testing me. Because of how well it went at the Fox, he ended up giving me an opening slot on his Madison Square Garden show. And of course, it’s so beautiful there in Colorado, I always try to go running. But (laughs) I can never breathe.
Many thanks to Rachael for her time and I look forward to seeing her again at the end of the month.
Hemming is opening the show for her at Globe Hall, so get there early.