Rachael Yamagata (The Interview)

On Wednesday evening in Saint Louis, Rachael Yamagata will be bringing her new songs to Blueberry Hill (purchase tickets here), including the stellar “Even If I Don’t,” a tune you need to hear right now. Seriously, right now (the video is cool, too). 

The last time the singer-songwriter was in town, she thrilled us with an solo set at The Pageant, opening for the Swell Season. This time around, she’ll be with a full band, hopefully delivering most of Chesapeake, and older tunes like “Worn Me Down,” “Elephants,” and “Be Be Your Love.”

We recently had the chance to catch up with Rachael over the phone. Enjoy!

How are you, Rachael?

I’m good, I’m good. We’re just leaving a station in Kansas City, and we’re going to Denver. We’ve got a big drive today.

Well, we’re waiting for you in St. Louis.

Excellent. Yeah, we’re going to circle back!

So how’s the tour going so far?

It’s kicking our butt actually! It’s amazing. A lot of travel, living off of very little sleep, the shows have been awesome. We’ve been experiencing as much as we can in each city, and we’re having a blast.

Are you with a full band?

I am, we’re a total of six all together. Five in the band, and then one doing sound and tour managing.

Well, your new album hits the listener right away with a  flood of sound. It makes sense that you would want to flesh out the sound a bit on tour. Is that what has been going on?

Yeah, I mean, I’ve been gone so long in terms of my touring routes that I felt like I wanted to initially to come out with big, splashy arrangements of the full production to showcase this record and its full glory. But, I definitely want to do the next round as maybe a stripped-down acoustic string production, something to change it up creatively would be nice. But the first go-around, I wanted to give it all I had.

If there’s one thing I wanted to tell you…the first song on each of your albums…you have to break my heart each time.

(laughing) I love it! That’s so good. So, you’re a romantic at heart, I guess? All right!

(laughing) Well, I think with the last record, I think it was more of a darker record. And the new one, I don’t want to call this one a happy-go-lucky kind of deal, but…

Yeah, you’re right, though. Elephants, I think, was the first record after the new life of kind of getting signed as an artist, going through all the loneliness that comes with all the touring, being away from home, personal relationships, some people really close to me passing away — it’s me processing a lot of what happened. And with this one, more time has passed, I’ve gotten older. I think I’ve gained more experience in terms of what to expect, so there is a little bit of lightheartedness I think that comes with sort of not being so surprised anymore — things hit you differently. The greatest pain — you’ve calmed to it a little bit, it becomes just a fact of life, in a way.

You know, when I listen to these songs, and I hear a line like “Even if I don’t, I wanted to,” is there a sense of relief in being able to communicate something like that?

There is, actually, That particular song is a message I hope somebody hears. Because I think when somthing ends, the hurt or the anger or the sadness, it gets very black and white because it’s revolving around fear and pain and all that stuff. Whereas that song is really like a message of…it’s so much more complicated — I may not come back, but I need you to know how much I wish I could have. So, there is a relief to that. At least it’s out there in the world, and maybe it will get back to that person.

That’s what I got from that. Maybe some people might overlook it as being a simple song, but that’s not what hit me.

I’m glad you said that, because I had a writer do a sort of reflective piece on that song as well, and give it some credit as far as some maturity to the lyric and that it is an important lyric. For me, when I wrote it, and I got to that line, I thought, “Okay, there’s the core issue.” I’ve never said it in that way before. It is a layer of something that is very meaningful to me, so I’m glad you picked that up, too. It’s certainly what I inteded, yeah.

And also, it’s one of the first messages on the album. It’s a strong way to begin the album.

Yeah. Oh, thanks!

And it’s almost foreshadowing the rest of the album.

I like that. It’s always a tricky…sequencing is tricky for me. It’s great when you sort of discover a through line that makes sense, and also musically makes sense in the track order. But there is a sort of a bookend thing that happens with that song, and then “Dealbreaker” is the last song, and it kind of has a bookend effect to it, too.

How are these transforming onto the live environment?

It’s been really fun, because there’s a lot of strings and keyboards (in these songs), and we don’t have any strings with us. It’s working really well. And the harmonies — all of these guys on the road can sing, and I’ve never had a choral harmony effect on stage, and there’s so much of that in the record. And weaving in some of these older songs as well, because I like to play some of the favorites from the last record. That’s been pretty fun forming that. It’s sort of strategic, too, to introduce new material to an audience.

Is that difficult for you?

We make it work. I think there is a craft to it. I think there’s a way to do it that is effective, but it’s always changing. It’s fun for me. Touring really is fun. But, it’s also kicking my ass. It’s both at the same time. I think I’m still enjoying it enough to be doing it. As things go on, we’ll see how it goes. Right now, we’re driving nine hours in a van, so we’ll see when we get there.

What could possibly go wrong, right?

Yeah, right! (laughs)

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