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Interview: Rachael Yamagata - 09.23.11
 

Rachael Yamagata - 09.23.11

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Rachael Yamagata - 09.23.11The title of your newest album is Chesapeake. What drew you to that title?

It was better than Frankenfish, thatís what I originally wanted to call it. (Laughs) All of the guys in the band were like, ďYou cannot name your record Frankenfish. Youíll regret it for the rest of your life. These songs are classic.Ē And so I sort of got a little talked out of it. And I called my indie record label Frankenfish so I got to use both names. But Chesapeake literally won out just because it sounds more graceful than Frankenfish.

Speaking of Frankenfish, are you going to be signing some other artists or is it just for your work?

I would love to eventually. I mean, if I can kind of work it so that I can be self-? and be able to tour and do records. I certainly have enough friends and people that I believe in who donít have support that Iíd love to do that for. Thatís probably a couple of years down the road but itís definitely in my head for later.

For this album, you used Pledgemusic to help fund the album. What made you go that route?

I had a couple of friends who had done campaigns before and I knew a little bit about them through those folks. I also couldnít deny their enthusiasm. They sort of recruited me. The head of the company and the people who work there were sending me these amazing and really artistic e-mails that just spoke the right language to me about how they ran things and why they did it. It was a combination of really wanting to work with them, because they seemed like such amazing people, and involving fans. Involving fans step by step through the process was really the right move for this direction Iím now going in. It worked out really, really great.

Did that put any extra pressure on you?

No, itís just definitely a lot of work to keep things updated and making sure Iím taking video footage in the studio and making little videos so people can see whatís going on. A lot of the incentives that you offer, sort of as a trade, have a lot to do with things that Iíll be either making personally or releasing. So the workload adds a bit of pressure but itís all worth it. It gets people things that they wouldnít be able to see or get their hands on in any other way. Just managing my time has been a bit nutty, but other than that I think itíll be great.

How did you decide what to offer people who pledged?

I definitely tried to think of myself and what I would love to see from an artist that I was a fan of. As much personal interaction as possible. Weíve got some VIP passes and some Skype question and answer sessions. I do some really strange note taking when Iím writing songs so I thought that that might be interesting for people to see. Sort of the originals of some of my most popular songs scribbled on paper or a napkin or whatever. My favorite thing is these mystery boxes where I get to create a gift box for people. Iím always collecting things from the road or laminates from a special show. Just things that have inspired me. I think itíll be fun to put them together. So yeah, it was just from my perspective of what I would find interesting about someone I really liked and trying to figure out what I had to offer.

I read on your website that the musicians you worked with on Chesapeake were your dream team. What vibe did that create in the studio?

It was like summer camp. Pure hilarity and joy. Sort of like a master class in musicianship because everybody who took part in this record are stellar players and if theyíre not producers in their own right, they certainly have a producerís ear. I have a relationship with all of them and Iíve played with them over the years so it was like my favorite people coming together and making music. There was a lot of laughing, a lot of hilarity, and a lot of fun.

Will they be going on tour with you?

Iím going to sneak in Mike Viola, who co-wrote a couple of songs on this record and played a lot of keyboard and some piano. Heís going to open the tour and also play in the band. Everybody else is booked up with their own tours or doing some other things. A few have families, so itís harder for them to tour. So Iím collecting a different group for the road.

Also on your website, you wrote that someone mentioned to you that the new songs sounded as if you are in more control of your life and you said that you agreed with that. Could you elaborate on that?

On a business level, Iíve had a history of many, many years within the major label structure. One of the frustrations that Iíve experienced is not being able to have a timeline that was where I really wanted to be, in terms of releasing records more frequently and touring all the time. Now that Iím calling the shots, I just feel like I get to guide that more. Thatís what makes me happier on a creative level.

I think on a personal level, Iíve become a bit more solid in who I am and what I require and my standards. Iím following my instincts a lot more and insisting that things go a certain way. I think Iíve come into my own in that respect about music. With aging and growing up, you get a better take on your relationships and what youíre looking for when you have a relationship and the deal breakers and what you wonít deal with. I feel really good about it.

Was making this album a different kind of fulfillment than your past albums?

Theyíve all been great experiences. I wouldnít trade any of the records that Iíve done or any of the experiences no matter how difficult they were. This one was probably the most carefree experience. It was really about just having fun. Thereís nothing to lose. It really became about our own self-imposed standards for the music and not having to pass it through anyoneís approval really gave it a lot of spontaneity and freedom. We werenít trying to impress a label or get a particular release date or anything like that. It was just weíll get it when we get it and weíll record whatever we feel inspired to record.

What was your timeline like for Chesapeake?

I knew that I didnít want to spend forever on it because part of my journey, up until now, has been big sections of time in between records and then going in and doing them fairly quickly. The songs were ripe enough to go in and record them quickly. I feel like if we had waited another six months, they wouldíve been less fresh for me and I donít think we wouldíve gotten something great.

Part of it was the financial aspect and what I was able to do, which made us stick to a schedule where we had the whole band together for about seven days and thatís what we had to work with.

It came together very quickly. I remember talking to the producer, John Alagia, and calling him and asking if he wanted to do a record. Without submitting songs or having him listen he decided to go in and make it happen and started scheduling flights for musicians very quickly.

How does it feel to have a producer get on board without hearing any of the songs?

Awesome. Itís a testament to how much we know each other and the way we know each otherís work. I didnít need to have conversations with him about how he would do certain things with certain songs and make decisions based on that. He didnít need to have any conversations with about the songs. I think we just instinctually knew that it was time to work together again and weíd both been wanting to do so for a while. It was certainly a fun testament to how much we both believe in each other.

A few years ago, you co-wrote the song ďLadiesí ChoiceĒ with Mandy Moore. As a huge fan of both of you, I was wondering how that came about and what the experience was like.

Sheís awesome. Sheís extremely driven and has a super knowledge of music. I met her several years ago and we had repeated sessions of hanging out and talking. We really connected on analyzing relationships and delving into peopleís motivations. We both have this sense of empowerment that we like to get across in our songs and express within a relationship. Part of that is being vulnerable, but really feeling empowered. ďLadiesí ChoiceĒ is really about being strong enough to be vulnerable in relationships and that we have the choice to be in them or not be in them. Thatís how the song came about, but sheís absolutely lovely. Everything you hear about her in terms of being a great person is absolutely true.

Do you think youíll work with her again in the future?

Absolutely, I would love to. I think sheís an amazing artist. Sheís a really great editor and songwriter as well. Sheís got this ear for choruses and hooks that are really cool. Iíd often find myself ready to quit for the day and she would want to keep going. She would definitely be good for me to hone in on things as well.

Before we were talking about the musicians going on tour with you. When is that tour going to start?

It starts on October 24th in Portland, Maine. Itís going to go straight through December 22nd. Thatíll be the US tour. Weíre doing a couple of dates before then for promotional stuff. Then early next year weíre going to try and do some European and Asian dates.
 
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