Sounds of a scatterbrain: catching up with singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata before Clockenflap

Sounds of a scatterbrain: catching up with singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata before Clockenflap

Singer Rachael Yamagata is packing as many shows as possible into her tour. We got caught up in the whirlwind

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Rachael Yamagata remains calm despite the ominous clouds.

Having written many heartbreaking songs, Rachael Yamagata may come across as a tearful balladeer. But as Clockenflap goers will soon learn, she's a fun, spontaneous performer. Young Post caught up with the US singer before she gets to Hong Kong to play new songs from her upcoming album, Tightrope Walker.


Hello, Rachael, is this a good time to chat?

RY: Oh hi! We just finished a show in Nashville, so I just gotta check into the hotel. I'm sorry, I didn't know this interview was happening. I'm trying to find a credit card …

Oh dear. I hope you didn't lose it!

If I lost it, someone is going on a shopping spree. That's cool, no problem. I'm sure we'll find it in the morning. Welcome to touring life! Late-night check-ins, the "What time do we meet tomorrow?"s, and then it all starts over again.

You're doing a show almost every night for your US tour. That must be hectic …

Tomorrow we have a day off but we'll be driving about 12 to 13 hours to Washington DC. It's pretty intense, so I watch DVDs to relax. Right now I'm into Project Runway, Scandal, and True Detective. Being in a van is like being stuck in a plane's middle seat for 12 hours a day.

How did you end up in a men's toilet this morning?

Haha! I walked in and I was like, what are these urinals doing here? You become very disoriented on tour. This morning I was in the hotel lobby - I had lost my room key - and I was in my pyjamas. [The hotel staff] was putting me through this rigorous test of like, are you actually our guest, because you look crazy. So I'm like, well you can look me up on the internet. There's my name and my pictures … Walking into a urinal is not that odd compared to what I'm always doing!

What are fans' reactions to your new songs?

Surprisingly good! It's a bit of a risk with some of the soundscapes I'm creating. It's much more angular and electric and in-your-face. Most people think of me as this soft-spoken ballad girl, and this is not that record. It's Arcade Fire meets Rufus Wainwright, with a little bit of Led Zeppelin thrown in; there's something really cool about the sound we've created and people are loving it.

Your new album seems far more chipper than your previous work

These songs are compassionate towards the world in a different way. It's more like, I understand the heartbreak that happens when life challenges you and makes you question who you are. There's something angelic about it, yet the music is really daring.

Tell us something interesting about the recording process

For Easy Target, I wanted to capture that feeling of being caught off-guard with a jarring and angular sound. So we sat drummer Ben Perowsky in the middle of the woods with an ironing board, a ladder, chairs … this collection of metal items. We gave him a mic and he drummed along to the song using these different items.

That was one of my favourites moments because I thought it was so appropriate for the song. I feel bad because my neighbours must hate me because it's really loud.

Was there a random source of inspiration for the record?

Before I wrote any of the songs, I had a weird dream, where a bunch of strangers go into this teepee, and confront their demons together - letting out pain that has plagued them - and leaving refreshed. That's what started the idea of connecting people through trauma. On this new record there are these angelic background harmonies that weave through, like a healing force.

What music have you been listening to recently?

Father John Misty a lot. And Emily King, who has an incredible voice. We actually crossed paths in New Orleans. She's fantastic.

Thanks for chatting with us. Don't forget your room keys!

I know. Oh my god, my room key. I gotta find my room.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Sounds of a scatterbrain

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