NPR : Tell Me More

Filed Under:

Music From 'The Mistress Of Heartache'

Play associated audio

Rachael Yamagata's sultry, gentle voice has been featured in soundtracks of films and television series for years. That includes How I Met Your Mother, Brothers and Sisters and Grey's Anatomy on television, and In Her Shoes and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants on the cinema screen.

As a lyricist, Yamagata seems to have her fingers on the pulse of each heartache. Yamagata does not focus on separation or the challenges of a love affair, but on the process.

"Sometimes I describe it as a doctor fascinated with finding a cure for a disease. In some ways they are always focused on the disease, but the ultimate goal is to find a cure," she says.

The 34-year-old singer and songwriter says her fans embrace the sadness of many of her songs.

"Somebody had a really funny way of saying it. She said, 'Your songs make me want to throw up my own heart.' ... and I was like, 'What an interesting way of saying it,' but it was a compliment," she says.

Yamagata admits she is much happier in her daily life than her lyrics might suggest, and that she uses her songs as a form of therapy.

"With these songs, I get to play them, I get to release it. When I write them down, this is my personal therapy or exorcism of sorts."

New Album, New Label

Yamagata's latest album, Chesapeake, represents a new beginning for her.

She has a new label, one she created herself. Yamagata named it "Frankenfish" after a rare species of fish that can swim in water and walk on land.

"It suits the underdog feel of it," she says about the label name. "You just don't know where they are going to strike."

Asked why she split from major record labels, Yamagata says she got frustrated. She says that it took too long to get into the recording studio, and the process made her second guess her artistic instincts. Yamagata says the industry is changing, and major labels are not responding well.

"The industry is in trouble in terms of how are they going to sustain the cost of things and make money of the music they are dealing with," she says.

Yamagata's two previous studio albums, Happenstance and Elephants...Teeth Sinking Into Heart, were released by RCA Victor and Warner Bros.

Now, Yamagata is touring the country promoting her new album. She says she wants to continue to stretch herself as an artist, and that means reaching beyond writing songs for the broken-hearted.

She says, "Definitely as a songwriter, I'm growing and learning all the time."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

WAMU 88.5

Dick Van Dyke: "Keep Moving"

Dick Van Dyke has been charming audiences for generations. In a new memoir, the actor explains how he stays in touch with his inner child and why life gets better the longer you live it.


King Of Beers: SABMiller Agrees In Principle To Merger With Budweiser Brewer

If the deal is formally agreed upon, the company would own around 31 percent of beer sales around the world.

LIVE CHAT: Join NPR's Politics Team For The Democratic Debate

Join us over on Twitter during the debate by following and contributing to #nprdebate or @nprpolitics, or post your comments, questions and observations here.
WAMU 88.5

Global Security Threats Posed By The Increasingly Sophisticated Tools Of Cyberwarfare

The U.S., Russia, China, Iran and North Korea have emerged as major players in the new world of cyberwarfare. With a panel of experts, we discuss global security threats posed by increasingly sophisticated malware and the new digital arms race.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.