Exclusive Listen: Rachael Yamagata Shifts Into Brighter Gear on 'Starlight'

'Before, I really gravitated to these darker songs and ballads'

Rachael Yamagata starlight
Rachael Yamagata
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Click to listen to Rachael Yamagata's 'Starlight'

On her first two albums, singer/songwriter Rachael Yamagata proved she could write a piano ballad with the best of them. If you wanted atmospheric, moody and haunting Yamagata was right up there with the likes of Tori Amos and Fiona Apple on their most somber days.  "Before I really gravitated to these darker songs and ballads and a lot of self-introspection," she tells Rolling Stone.

Hew new album, produced by John Alagia (Mandy Moore, John Mayer, Yamagata's Happenstance) and due this fall, finds a more relaxed Yamagata. "I lightened up in a way that gives this record more tempo and there’s almost a positivity to some of these songs, which I’ve never been able to do," she says. "There’s still some darker ballads, but, on the whole, it’s a lighter record."

What was the secret to finally freeing herself up musically? Finding her independence. "It was really gratifying in that sense because I don’t have the pressures of a major label anymore," she says. "In a funny way I think this might be a more commercial record for me in terms of reaching a broader audience because there was no attempt or requirement to be anything but what we felt like doing in the room."

That's evident in "Starlight," a song that has a bit of a PJ Harvey edge. "'Starlight,' to me, feels like it should be in some European dance club," she says. "That song just evolved in the process of making the record. It came into something that is kind of sexy and cool. I’m stoked about it."