Courtesy photoHer own boss: After two bad experiences with major labels

Courtesy photoHer own boss: After two bad experiences with major labels

Rachael Yamagata bounces back with new album 'Chesapeake'

Amid the effusive folk-poppers on her chiming new album “Chesapeake,” Rachael Yamagata has placed a dark piano dirge called “Full On.”

“I’ll never tell a soul that you aren’t full on, full on/I’ll never tell a soul that you’ve been faking it for so long,” she warbles in her cabaret-smoky voice — the only glimpse of vulnerability in an otherwise confident John Alagia-produced collection.

“That’s really my self-doubt song, like, ‘Are we all faking it? Is everyone going to find out that we don’t know what we’re doing?’” she says. “It’s about when I had to mentally make a choice — it was sink or swim time, and I chose to swim.”

Yamagata, who appears in The City on Friday, has a lot to be thankful for this year.

Dropped from Warner Bros. after her last ambitious two-disc set, 2008’s “Elephants….Teeth Sinking Into Heart,” she initially believed that everything might be over — especially since she endured the same contract-severing indignity after her 2004 (and Alagia-helmed) debut for BMG, “Happenstance.”

“I sort of figured that my one four-year ordeal of frustration wasn’t supposed to be followed by another three-year ordeal of it,” she says.

Now, the singer is still dumbfounded the strange chain of events that has reignited her flagging career.

First, she kept writing optimistic tunes such as “Starlight” and “Even If I Don’t.” Then, she took careful inventory of her past mistakes.

“I saw how when I didn’t take control, when I didn’t follow my instincts, three years would go by and I wouldn’t make a record,” she says. “So I became less afraid of pissing people off, less afraid of doing things in an untraditional way.”

Emboldened, Yamagata decided to underwrite a new album herself. She cashed in frequent-flier miles. She used the money her father had been saving for her wedding. The rest she amassed through fan contributions from her online PledgeMusic campaign.

She packed tents and air mattresses and assembled her band at Alagia’s home studio on Chesapeake Bay (hence the album title). “It was definitely vagabond style,” she says.

Then the Woodstock-based Yamagata simply formed her own imprint, Frankenfish, and shot “Chesapeake’s” cover art on her iPhone. No A&R reps second-guessing her work, no more self-doubt.

“So if I’m not going to make a record in three years, I want to do it on terms that I whole-heartedly had a hand in,” the new label CEO says. “That’s my new philosophy. If it succeeds? Awesome. If it doesn’t, it won’t be because I didn’t do everything I could to make it succeed.”  


IF YOU GO

Rachael Yamagata

Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $18
Contact: (415) 522-0333, www.slimstickets.com

artsentertainmentmusicPop Music & JazzSan Francisco

Just Posted

The Hotel Whitcomb on Market Street was one of many hotels that took in homeless people as part of The City’s shelter-in-place hotel program during the pandemic.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Closing hotels could disconnect hundreds from critical health care services

‘That baseline of humanity and dignity goes a long way’

Pachama, a Bay Area startup, is using technology to study forests and harness the carbon-consuming power of trees. (Agustina Perretta/Courtesy Pachama)
Golden Gate Park visitors may take a survey about options regarding private car access on John F. Kennedy Drive, which has been the subject of controvers during the pandemic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Your chance to weigh in: Should JFK remain closed to cars?

Host of mobility improvements for Golden Gate Park proposed

Dreamforce returned to San Francisco in person this week – but with a tiny sliver of past attendance. (Courtesy Salesforce)
Dreamforce returns with hundreds on hand, down from 170,000 in the past

High hopes for a larger Salesforce conference shriveled during the summer

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said retail thefts in The City are underreported crimes. (Daniel Montes/Bay City News)
S.F. unveils initiative to tackle rise in retail thefts

Incidents are not victimless crimes, mayor says

Most Read