A master of love songs and examining the human condition, Rachael Yamagata is no stranger to the Twin Cities—the singer-songwriter has played a handful of shows across Minneapolis over the last couple years, including a pair at the recently closed Triple Rock Social Club to promote her latest album, Tightrope Walker (2016). She’s an indie force who packs her live shows with the strength, precision, and elegance to make you want to sing along, dance, and even cry, sometimes all at the same time. But when she takes the stage at Icehouse on February 7, 2018, things will be different. “This is just me. I’m doing a solo tour, which I’ve never done before,” Yamagata told me.
With just her guitar and a keyboard, she will open up her diverse catalog, which includes four studio albums and five EPs, offering a selection that’s bound to appease longtime fans who are looking forward to the Woodstock, New York–based musician coming back to town for an expansive but intimate set. “This one is literally to take advantage of a living-room-style, fourth-wall-down connection with the artist in a super-vulnerable way,” Yamagata said. “I’m playing a bit more off-the-radar songs.” Given that she has performed Tightrope Walker–heavy sets her last few visits to the Cities, the change in presentation and venue is bound to be refreshing, especially for the artist herself, who is on the verge of unveiling new material.
Describing the show, Yamagata said, “I have some new songs floating around—there’s one in the set right now. There’s a cover song which will be a surprise that I haven’t done, which I’m excited to play.” With a set that’s sure to provide Minnesotans with a warm and cozy evening that juxtaposes all the noise surrounding Super Bowl festivities and freezing temperatures, she will share her sampler before turning the page. “This is almost more of a final sendoff to my past work before I go in and really dive into new stuff, in terms of performing it publicly.”
The new tour and its format are built to fit Yamagata’s needs, especially since she oversees all of her work from start to finish while running her label, Frankenfish. In addition to Tightrope Walker, she also did all the legwork other than distribution on her third LP, which hit stores in 2011. “The lifestyle is tricky. I’ve been self-managed for six years now—also doing these records, also doing the tours, also doing separate opportunities—it’s a hell of a lot of work. Part of the streamlining of even the show parallels my streamlining of life, in seeing how I can continue to tour and make records in this new world,” she said, noting that she’s skipping the tour-bus experience and doing a lot of flying for this tour. Despite the extra work and challenges, she refuses to relent and keeps focused and engaged, especially after going through the major-label experience in the past, when she partnered with outfits such as RCA and Warner Bros. Records. “The other option would be giant major-label record deals, which have a million strings attached to them, which I don’t think I’d ever do again,” she said.
Off the stage and away from the music, Yamagata works to maintain a healthy lifestyle that fits her physical and emotional needs while keeping up with professional obligations. “I’m addicted to inspirational podcasts,” she said. “I basically study really productive, efficient creative people who are somehow balancing their life and their work in positive ways, and then I just do what they do. So, a lot of it has to do with a very centering morning routine and not checking the email first thing in the morning, and prioritizing my practice, or my yoga, or whatever.”
Yamagata’s tour began in New York in late January and concludes with stops in California in mid-March, giving her listeners 27 opportunities to experience her music in a new way—although her performances are still bound to be both cathartic and comedic. (At her last Triple Rock show, one of her fans stopped her while performing “Elephants” to get other members of the audience to quiet down.) For Wednesday’s Icehouse show, she has a recommendation: “Come early, because Hemming is the one who’s opening for me, and she’s awesome—she plays the guitar, she’s a spitfire,” Yamagata said of the Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter playing ahead of her. “She’s new on the scene for her own solo work, but she’s really compelling.”