By Amrutha Sivakumar, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 6, 2014
The Ark is no stranger to the piano-ballad singer-songwriter music scene. But today, Virginia-native Rachael Yamagata will come ready to steal the stage.
For one thing, she’ll step up on the boards with a full band backing her sound, adding more density to her traditionally earnest, no-nonsense way of story-telling. For another, her music will tell a tale of evolution, bringing together a mesh of older, unseasoned records with a neoteric splash of sounds.
Lyrically, Yamagata is fresh. Her words focus less on the romantic relationships that are generally explored in the pop landscape and push more toward revealing intimate personal struggles.
And so, she enunciates these stories. Every word, is drawn out to reveal the spectrum of emotions that can be captured from a melody. There’s an internal battle when Yamagata sings, showing the difficulty with which she has to master every somber note that she puts out on the stage.
“I’m not afraid of variety, and that’s perplexed record labels, but it’s been refreshing for me as an artist to go wherever the inspiration takes me,” Yamagata said of her evolution in sound, describing her songwriting process as instinctual, rather than technical.
“I try to be open and vulnerable in my songwriting, and honest,” she said. “It doesn’t always portray things in a light and doing that gives people the chance to experience a spectrum of emotions”
When first breaking through the female singer-songwriter landscape, Yamagata said quick comparisons were made between her music and other prominent artists of her genre. While these references set a stage for Yamagata to describe her music to a newer audience, she said nowadays she tries to be intuitive.
“Initially there was a lot of songwriter piano-based comparison, people would look to Norah Jones and Carol King comparisons. Then I took up guitar and people were citing Bonnie Ray.”
The Yamagata we see now, hiding her heavy emotions behind semi-acoustic instruments, is no doubt very different from the one we were introduced to back in 2002. Today, though, Yamagata will bring to The Ark’s stage some of her older pieces from Happenstance, her first record since splitting from Chicago band Bumpus. With that, she’ll be introducing five to six new songs from her upcoming releases. By bringing together a unique medley of instruments, such as banjos and saxophones, she looks to elevate her presence in the live music industry.
“Honestly the music is very different from anything I’ve ever done, and it’s interesting to me, it’s a different soundscape then I’ve ever had,” she stressed. “A good story line is important to the sound.”