Rachael Yamagata returns to the UK for a string of intimate UK dates this November in support of her critically acclaimed album, ‘Tightrope Walker’. ‘Tightrope Walker’ is the follow-up to 2011’s
‘Chesapeake’ – the new album earned the Virginian singer-songwriter critical acclaim from a number of outlets including MOJO (“Yamagata never puts a foot wrong”), Uncut (“This is an album of
immersive and emotive pleasures”) and The Independent (“A compelling set of songs”). Rachael will be performing Salford’s The Eagle on November 16th 2017 before finishing at London’s Islington
Assembly Hall on the 21st 2017.
Yamagata’s is a career punctuated by 3 previous albums, 5 EP releases and various collaborations with the likes of Ryan Adams, Bright Eyes and Ray LaMontagne, but the Virginian singer-songwriter chose to challenge herself thematically with this new album. This decision was, in part, induced by Philippe Petit – the French high-wire artist famed for tightrope walking between the two World Trade Centres in 1974 – who, when asked why he performed such a feat, simply responded ‘there is no why’. This notion of inwardly searching for reasons resonated strongly with Yamagata and, as such, her mentality and approach towards writing songs began to shift. As a collection of tracks began to emerge, Tightrope Walker was born.
But just as Petit dismissed his ‘why’, Yamagata embraced and explored hers: Why keep going? Why write? Why persevere? “If you’re thinking of quitting” muses Yamagata, “then this album is for you”.
Yamagata’s creative process, as well her as her outlook on her life and art, also shifted over the conception of the new album; she had become a mother, a self-manager and a producer; she became
driven by the idea of owning her own power, much like the influential figure of Petit. She switched from the usual procedure of vetting around 200 songs for an album and focused instead on just 15,
editing and reworking each to find the exact musical expression that would hold for each song.
An album that challenges style and genre as much as themes, Tightrope Walker features a wealth of audible features, some more unusual than others. Saxophones, mandolins, rain recorded on an iPhone, French spoken word, metallic ironing boards and ladder drums, myriad harmonies and loops all signal change and development in Yamagata’s songwriting.
A team of musicians was enlisted and rounded up in her house in the woods-cum-studio. Kevin Salem (Yo La Tengo, Dumptruck), Owen Biddle (The Roots), Zach Djanikian (Amos Lee, Amy Helm) and Ben Perowsky (Rufus Wainwright) were there to get the ball rolling. More joined as the sessions developed: Russell Simins (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion), Oli Kraus (Sia), Michael Chaves (John Mayer, Adam Cohen), Matt Chamberlain, Victor Indrizzo, Randy Cooke (all with too many credits to name). Yamagata’s long-time producer John Alagia came in and began co-producing the record, before time was spent with Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes) mixing the fruits of those sessions between Woodstock, NY’s Applehead Studios and LA’s The Village Studios.
Throughout a process that saw her recruit 5 Grammy winners, complete 10 tours, self-manage her career and make a lot of eggs, a record of passion and spirit has been born. Some songs are poised to become anthems of not giving up, whilst others are a tonic for life’s heartbreak. But over a life and career that spans a whole spectrum of intrigue – being half Japanese, half German/Italian, having played for Presidents and not to mention Philippe Petit actually being her neighbour, something she didn’t realise until much after the album was underway, Yamagata has found her ‘why’. “I have fully stepped into my power as an optimist, an entrepreneur, a writer, producer and spirited badass. That is my ‘why’”.