23 September 1978, Arlington, Virginia, USA. Yamagata spent a number of years on the musical sidelines before emerging in 2004 as a singer-songwriter of some note. The daughter of a German-Italian mother and Japanese father, she learned to play piano as a child before embarking on a fractured educational career that saw her studying French at Northwestern University and Italian theatre at Vassar. She abandoned education to join the Chicago-based funk rock band Bumpus with whom she spent the next five years touring the American college circuit. Yearning for a more receptive outlet for her own songs, she left Bumpus in 2001 and launched her solo career with a five-track EP and a nerve-wracking slot opening for David Gray at Madison Square Garden.
Yamagata displayed a solid working knowledge of a number of different musical styles on her 2004 debut album, Happenstance, released like the earlier EP on the Private Music imprint. Yamagatas preference for jazzy pop ballads earned the obvious comparisons to reigning female singer-songwriter Norah Jones, although her experience of performing with Bumpus prevented her work being too readily pigeon-holed as easy listening. The gospel-tinged Ill Find A Way and the neurotic love gone wrong tale Letter Read were particularly suited to Yamagatas versatile vocals, although it was the radio-friendly remake of one of the EPs stand-out tracks, Worn Me Down, which drew in many first-time listeners.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.