Bonnie Raitt’s ‘reincarnate’ Rachael Yamagata travels the U.S.


Photo by Lauren Adlam/Times

Rachael Yamagata rocks the guitar and stuns the audience with her angelic voice Feb. 5 at the Back Room.

A concert to remember

It’s about 7:50 p.m. and people are gathered in the intimate Back Room at Colectivo in Milwaukee Feb. 5. We’re waiting anxiously for the concert to start. Then we see Hemming walk across the stage, her guitar slung over her shoulder. She slowly finger picks a few notes and the concert begins with a vulnerable and heartbreaking song. Hemming’s beautiful voice fills the room. We’re blown away.

Rachael Yamagata comes on stage about an hour later. Quotes are projected on the walls. Music is her escape, they explain, and tonight it will also be ours.

Yamagata starts out on the piano, singing songs in her Eva Cassidy-esque voice. Her voice comforts and soothes the audience. Halfway through she switches to the guitar, speeding up the pace.

Hemming and Yamagata rocked our night. This concert was totally worth attending on a Monday night.

Singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata has been called the heir to Bonnie Raitt. Her cozy alternative sound and her new album “Tightrope Walker” (available on iTunes and Spotify) brings her tour around the U.S.

The Times: How long have you been making music?

Yamagata: I originally started out in college. I was part of a three frontmen group called Bumpas. Then I started working on my own music.

The Times: Have you always wanted to play music?

Yamagata: I was into theatre and the arts originally and then branched out into songwriting.

The Times: What inspires you?

Yamagata: Definitely relationships and sociology, why we do the things we do and why we react the way we do.

The Times: What music artists inspire you?

Yamagata: Cat Stevens, Fleetwood Mac, Rufus Wainwright, and even the artist I’m touring with, Hemming.

The Times: Is your family musically inclined?

Yamagata: There’s actually a lot of musicians in my family, from a classical pianist to a bass player. Also, there’s an opera singer in my family as well.

The Times: How would you describe your sound?

Yamagata: I describe my sound as a cozy night in front of a bonfire with hot chocolate and peppermint Schnapps.

The Times: What song did you enjoy writing the most?

Yamagata: I loved writing “Elephants.” I had been through a rough patch in my life and was hiking up a mountain. That experience definitely shaped that song.

The Times: What can people expect from your tour coming up?

Yamagata: They can expect an intimate, sort of living room experience.

Yamagata’s tour runs Jan. 25 through March 15. You can get tickets at