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Rachael Yamagata: The queen of heartbreak?

SINGAPORE — We all know how devastating heartbreaks can be, especially when they plunge you into the dark abyss of pain and despair. And what better way to heal your soul than with music? This is where singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata comes in.

SINGAPORE — We all know how devastating heartbreaks can be, especially when they plunge you into the dark abyss of pain and despair. And what better way to heal your soul than with music? This is where singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata comes in.

The music of the 37-year-old musician, who will be performing in Singapore on May 29, has been described by fans as “poetic”, employing lines such as “You’re forcing me to remember when all I want is to just forget you” (from her hit song Elephants). However, just because she’s melancholy on record doesn’t mean she is Miss Moody all the time.

Talking to her on the phone, Yamagata is surprisingly chirpy for someone who is a self-confessed hermit living in seclusion. “I get that all the time. I’m a happy person in real life!” she said. “People expect me to be suicidal and everything, maybe because they are attracted to the sadness.

“But I’m a big believer of life lessons and reasons. Everything in life happens for a reason and my mother has instilled into me the importance of turning lessons into something positive. So I’d like to share that I’m an example of resilience and optimism!” she added.

Q: So what’s your idea of happiness?

A: A Spring day. A cup of coffee. Happiness is peace. People that I love. Nature. Animals. Things that quiet me down.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Real-life relationships and sociology — our human struggles in being our authentic selves. Different energies, why can’t we feel free, the masks we wear in society, our fears and what holds us back. It’s general observations of life when I’m on the road touring. I mean, I live in the woods in a secluded area so I’d probably see more wild animals like bears and rabbits than people.

Q: Speaking about animals, in one of your music videos, you were dressed in a full bunny mascot suit. Which is your most memorable music video to date?

A: Yes, that video was directed by my little brother and it was filmed on a very hot day! Elephants would be my most memorable music video. We filmed it at the Salton Sea just outside of Las Vegas because it was very visual. But the white sand was really crunchy with fish skeletons and it smelt so bad. I ruined my outfit walking into the water.

Q: Your last EP, Heavyweight, was released in 2012. What have you been busy with since?

A: I’ve been busy touring but I’m now back working on a new record that’s actually a bit of a departure from my usual (work). I was inspired by the metaphor of a tightrope walker and it’s more experimental in sound, using drum loops, banjo and strings. It’s also more spiritual, with a universal quality about life, passion, death ... not just about heartbreak. Just like my last project, we used PledgeMusic (a fan-based music platform) to fund the album. We started the drive last September and the goal was met, so we’ve been editing video montages to update fans and backers on the process. I see the album as a whole body of work so there will probably be about 15 tracks and it will be released later this year. Since starting (her own label) Frankenfish Records, I’ve been wearing many hats ... co-producer, agent, writer, musician — you name it!

Q: You mentioned before that you still suffer from stage fright. How will you calm your nerves before your concert in Singapore?

A: Tequila! (laughs) But I also give myself a pep talk to remember to be in the moment. It’s not about me or my ego, so I tap into a higher energy of positivity to remind myself that I’m a channel to deliver the message for the people. But yes, tequila always helps!

Rachael Yamagata performs on May 29 at the Esplanade Concert Hall. Tickets available from SISTIC.

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