Rachael Yamagata is not your ordinary singer/songwriter. Yes, she has released numerous albums; had record label deals; toured the world multiple times with sell-out concerts; built a loyal and ever-growing fan base; earned her place as a media ‘darling’; made appearances on Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, Carson Daly, 30 Rock, One Life to Live and The O.C.; been an NPR profiled artist; made a cameo appearance as herself in Sony Pictures To Write Love on Her Arms; had song placements in hit TV shows including NCIS: New Orleans, Vampire Diaries, Grey’s Anatomy, Alias, How I Met Your Mother, and in and Hollywood movies including Hope Springs, Prime, Monster-in-Law, and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants; been nominated Best Female Vocal by the Chicago Music Awards (2012); opened for artists including Patti Smith, David Gray, and Pete Townsend; and performed at venues including Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, SXSW, Austin City Limits, Glastonbury, and Bonnaroo. But there’s so much more…
Her latest album, currently titled ‘Tightrope Walker,’ is slated for a fall 2015 release. It showcases her calling card ability to articulate humanity’s struggles within relationships and the freedom that comes from celebrating that which we face alone and head on. The production is riskier and cinematic – think Tom Waits meets Roberta Flack, Nick Cave hanging with Rufus Wainwright. Rachael confounds a labeled genre and instead embraces the production that serves the story. The paradox of her art mirrors that of her career and proves that we are never simplistic, but always full of surprises.
Easton, MD -- Front porch of producer John Alagia's house on the Chesapeake Bay.
I've just woken up from another end of the world dream where Bon Jovi was an alien planting explosive devices in cupboards that eventually cause massive flooding when I decide I need to do a morning coffee run (ok, I need cigarettes) so I grab my keys and head to town. E-Rob (Eric Robinson), our engineer, is just going to bed after working late on a vox comp for 'You Won't Let Me' and it occurs to me how I've truly lucked out with the people involved in "Chesapeake."
I am in the studio. And when I say studio, I mean Alagia's house that we've spent weeks converting into a studio. We shipped gear, borrowed microphones, amps, guitars, and a grand piano that's living in his bedroom (because that's where we get the best sound). We housed vox mics in his shower for some natural reverb and of course the porch where I write this -- a past scene of pre production jams complete with drums made out of cardboard beer cases and recycling bins -- cellos stuck in wads of duck tape so as not to slip on the floor, a wurly set up by the table of receipts I'm calling 'my office' etc.
I packed my car what seems like months ago chock full of air mattresses, giant breakfast skillets, keyboards, snow boots (unusable) and of course my diva tent -- an 8 person banana yellow monstrosity that I've been sleeping in for some time now to carve out a little private space for moi as well as leave room for the house full of amazing musicians that have come to play. There have been rounds of plumbers and air conditioner technicians, trips to Target for the inflatable pool that has since garnered a crop circle impression on the lawn for a mere $79.95, and thank you dad for the grill donation -- let there be burgers.
The players are my dream team, the kinds that have taken years to find and make history with. We've been saying 'there's a lot of love in the room' and there must be because schedules have been routed, carpools arranged -- anything to help a girl now financing her own career full throttle. Victor Indrizzo has a week off from Sheryl Crow's tour and when he's not doing the dishes has laid down some of the most bad-ass drum tracks that I've ever heard. Mike Viola (Candy Butchers, Walk Hard, Get Him To The Greek) has already tracked harmonies to rival The Beach Boys and The Carpenters and truth be told, wears sunglasses while in his pajamas. Michael Chaves (John Mayer, Five For Fighting) is the guru of vibe on guitar, only wears black and insists on sleeping on the couch as if it's the best room in the house. Kevin Salem (Dumptruck, Yo La Tengo) is still doing additional tracks he dreams up between producing underground Pakistani superstars as well as shuttling English cellist Oli Kraus (Sia, Duffy) down from NYC -- the same cellist I once leaned over to my friend at a Beth Orton concert 8 years ago saying 'someday I'll have strings like that', but that's another story... And of course Tom Freund who will forever be known as Starfish for the way he spreads out in a bed -- not that grown men are sharing beds here or anything. He can make you cry when he plays upright.
There is no label -- only my own -- and I'm pretty sure the artwork for this record will come down to Camera+, the iPhone app that works wonders on pictures. The stash of cash that Dad put away for my wedding has been put to use here along with whatever frequent flyer miles I knew I'd use someday. I launched my PledgeMusic campaign, which a psychic recently told me was karmic. I quickly reached my goal thanks to my incredible fans, and formed my own independent team of folks to get this record out. I must say it is all going along swimmingly.
The reunion with Alagia and the people in the room have been on instinct the best contribution I've made to this entire process. Viola, Kevin and Chaves have all been in the driver's seat for some of my recordings and who knew you could get multiple producers in the room with no trace of ego whatsoever. It is 'Big Pink' and the drums are set up in the kitchen, it fulfills every idea of 'camp' and when the band decides one track out of ten didn't feel at the right tempo they will recut it 3 hours before their morning flight because they care so much. I am in a constant state of verklempt and the looseness of this whole shebang made a perfect transition into creative spontaneity that I think is going to surprise many.
The songs are deep but not sorrowful and there is a sense of humor in some that can only come out when you are sleeping in a tent and considering the name 'Frankenfish' for the album title, but "Chesapeake" won out and Frankenfish became the name of my label. Midway through recording the album, we had a listening party bbq tonight where one person said to me that the songs sound like I'm in control of my own life now and I think she is right. "Chesapeake" has been made with a lot of love in the room (and tequila) and like the Franken fish that can swim and walk on land is surprising the hell outta me.