Don’t let Rachael Yamagata fool you. She may sing and write intimate, complex, moody songs that explore the soul, but she’s still a girl who wants to have fun. Really. With her husky voice (think a hoarse Scarlett Johansson), hearty laugh and adventurous spirit, she’s willing to play along with almost anything, even if the joke’s on her.
Now a Philadelphia resident and Phillies fanatic, she took time out before an October 28 tour stop in Washington D.C. to welcome the challenge … and think twice about the name of her new record.
How you know her
• The 31-year-old singer-songwriter (born September 23, 1977, in Arlington, Va.) attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., then Vassar, and released her second full-length album, Elephants… Teeth Sinking Into Heart, on Warner Bros. Records on October 7.
It’s actually an ambitious double album, with 15 songs split thematically into two separate parts. The first CD (Elephants) consists of nine tracks (plus one hidden). And while there are beautiful ballads with lush, orchestral arrangements, the subject matter is dark.
The second (Teeth Sinking Into Heart) rocks out, trashing long lost lovers behind the sounds of grungy guitars along with a few choice (and nasty) words (therefore the parental advisory sticker), while still showing her sly side. (Make sure to order up “Sidedish Friend.”)
Yamagata, who performed "Faster" from the second CD on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on October 9, is expected to make another national appearance later in November (stay tuned for details).
Where you can see or hear her
• After touring extensively with her own band for most of September and October, Yamagata, who plays piano and recently added guitar to her repertoire, has joined the all-women Hotel Cafe Tour, where she’ll remain until its conclusion on November 18 in Los Angeles. That includes a November 11 stop at the Bluebird Theater in Denver. The tour motto:
• Her songs have been featured in several movies (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Bella) and television shows such as Nip/Tuck, One Tree Hill and The O.C., on which she appeared as herself in 2005 (Season 2, Episode 11).
1. If you had to live your life on a TV show, which of these three would you pick: One Tree Hill, The Hills, Beverly Hills 90210 (now shortened to 90210)?
• Rachael Yamagata: “Oh, my God. I would say One Tree Hill because I think my bud [actor/singer] Tyler Hilton has actually been on that show or is on that show [playing Chris Keller], so I would live my life on that show so I could hang out with my bud.”
2. Super Bowl, NBA Finals or World Series?
• Rachael Yamagata: “I’m into the Phillies now [who were sitting on a 3-1 lead awaiting the resumption of Game 5 of the rain-delayed World Series before finishing off the Rays on October 29], that’s for sure. World Series. I might be the first act to actually have the TV on while I’m playing my set. (Laughs, pretending she’s onstage) ‘Hey, what’s the score?’ ”
3. American Idol, Dancing With The Stars or Don’t Forget The Lyrics?
• Rachael Yamagata: “Dancing With The Stars only because I can’t dance. I’m the worst dancer ever. So it would be good for me to learn how to dance. It would be fun.”
4. Folk, Pop or Rock?
• Rachael Yamagata: “Ummm. How about all three? Who knows? Too broad, too big of a choice. Just circle all three.”
5. Plane, train, automobile … or bus?
• Rachael Yamagata: “(Pause) … I would say bus because I have to go on tour. And because my car sucks. But car for everything else because I like having my own little box of space that I can throw my stuff in and feel free (giggles).”
6. The last one’s a trick question (knowing Yamagata’s album has Elephants in the title): Elephant or donkey?
• Rachael Yamagata: “Well, it’s Democrat/Republican, yeah? Elephant all the way. You can’t go wrong. Republicans are donkeys, yeah?”
Sorry, Rachael, it’s the other way around; remember, it was a trick question.
“Are Republicans elephants? Did I actually put out a record called Elephants during this election year? You’ve got to be kidding me. Why did I always think it was opposite? I mean, it wasn’t intentional. You know what? That sucks. That’s my timing in life. That’s my luck of timing for ya. Now I’m depressed.
“That’s so funny. Oh, God. How about, I pick donkey because I’m an ass for naming my record Elephants in this election year (laughs). Obama all the way.”
Check back at Blogcritics.org next week for a preview of the Hotel Cafe Tour and a chance to win Rachael Yamagata’s new double CD, Elephants… Teeth Sinking Into Heart, followed by a concert review of the Hotel Cafe Tour’s November 11 stop in Denver.
• Top photo by Hilary Walsh.
• For Rachael Yamagata news and concert dates, go to her Web site or MySpace page.
• See Rachael Yamagata's "Sidedish Friend" (Lyric Video) below and check out more at YouTube's RachaelYamagataTV.