Singer-songwriter and pianist Rachael Yamagata just released her third studio album, “Chesapeake,” and kicks off a 45-city tour with a show at Port City Music Hall on Monday night.
“Chesapeake” is home to 10 gorgeously crafted songs, all anchored by Yamagata’s smoky vocals. NPR chose the first single, “Even If I Don’t,” as its “Song of the Day” on the day the album was released.
When we spoke by phone, “Chesapeake” had only been out for three days, which begged the question: How is Yamagata feeling about it?
“I think it’s probably similar to somebody promoting a movie,” Yamagata said from Woodstock, N.Y. “You did it so long ago and everything gets so crazy, and I’m a little bit in the ‘hasn’t it already been out for four months?’ stage.”
One reason for this is because Yamagata runs her own independent record label and plays the part of both artist and business person.
“My days have been insanely busy, so I almost have to be reminded of, ‘Oh right, it just came out,’ and I’m extremely excited but I’m also such a juggler right now it sort of protects me from the greatest or the worst reactions because I’m full-steam ahead in other ways right now. I’m leaving it up to the universe a little bit to see what happens with it.”
I opined to Yamagata that bands used to aspire to getting signed to a big label, but now, not so much. She agreed, and said it speaks to the larger issue of music industry flux.
“It’s certainly in a huge state of transformation right now, so for me, it’s extremely liberating to not be on a record label anymore,” she said. “And I’ve already seen the evidence of what I’ve accomplished by being at the helm of this ship, and I’m lucky enough to have a great team that’s working with me.”
In addition to “Even If I Don’t,” standout tracks on “Chesapeake” include “Miles on a Car” (“I was excited about that one, because I can be such a wordy person, and it just sort of said it in this way that I really was grateful to get,” she said), and “Full On,” which is Yamagata’s favorite.
“It holds a special place because the strings are so beautiful on it and also because it was a one-take,” she said. “I was in the back room in the middle of the night recording and all the guys were in the control room, and a candle went out mysteriously at the very end of the take. It was a magical kind of a thing.”
The moody tune “Starlight,” meanwhile, is a song that’s begging to be remixed.
“We’re in the works of maybe doing just that,” she said. “I think it would lend itself really well to that. For me, it feels like a club song, and I can completely see it in some big dance hall in Europe.”
Of course, being a business owner on top of being a professional musician also means that things are more hectic. Yamagata said that days leading up to this big tour are not for the weary.
“My loft is filled with all my instruments and the business sides of things, so my physical space is a little nutty right now, and then I’ve got a section of the garage where I’ve got possible stage decor items set up so I can see what it might look like on stage,” she said. “I’m such a crazy person in that I wish I could control all of the details.”
She also needs to figure out tour clothes, interview clothes and merchandise. And then there are the all-important rehearsals.
“I have to rehearse every night, and the band itself is showing up in two days. It’s going be a five-piece band with drums, bass and guitar, and I’ll be on piano and guitar.”
The Facebook posts on Yamagata’s page have been pouring in since the release of “Chesapeake,” and she says she does keep an eye on it.
“I stayed off of it completely on the first day because it’s such a personal, sensitive thing,” she said. “I just remember that we found so much joy in recording it, and it really felt like it was special in the moment of doing it.
“And that’s what I take away from it, and I hope for the best with everybody listening.”
Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at: [email protected]