Rachael Yamagata enjoys indie freedom, set to play U Street Music Hall

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Entertainment,Robert Fulton

Rachael Yamagata knows the D.C. area well. The singer-songwriter grew up in Gaithersburg, went to school in Bethesda and recorded her most recent album, appropriately titled "Chesapeake," in Easton, Md.

So Yamagata, 35, doesn't need a tour guide when she's in town.

"It's a nice excuse to see everybody," Yamagata said. "It will also definitely feel familiar and like a homecoming."

Yamagata performs at the U Street Music Hall on Sunday.

Onstage
Rachael Yamagata
Where: U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St. NW
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Info: With Ed Romanoff and Adrien Reju; $25; 202-588-1880; ustreetmusichall.com

"Chesapeake," Yamagata's third full-length album, came out in October 2011. She recorded the album during a summer in a house near its namesake.

"I'll never repeat that experience again," she said. "It had so much to do with the people involved."

Yamagata recently released a new six-track EP, titled "Heavyweight." The songs are just that -- heavier and weightier in style. She said she had a handful of ballads that didn't make it on to "Chesapeake" and felt this was a good time to release them.

"I like the idea of the release coming out now as winter's approaching," Yamagata said. "It's timely the way I want it to be listened to. If I had my way, people would either have a bottle of wine or it's raining outside."

Shows on the current tour, which Yamagata estimates will be 25 or 26 dates in a 30-day period, are more stripped-down from full-blown rock concerts.

"It's really to showcase the broke-down, vulnerable side of some of these songs," she said. "This new EP in particular, it comes across beautifully when it's sort of stark naked and you let the vocal and the lyrics sort of stand out a bit more."

In the last decade, Yamagata has enjoyed quite a successful career. She's collaborated with numerous musicians such as Jason Mraz and Bright Eyes, and television programs such as "Grey's Anatomy" and "How I Met Your Mother" have featured her work.

Yamagata's first two albums were both released by major record labels. She's since gone independent, and though she concedes it's a lot of work, she enjoys the freedom.

"I prefer it," Yamagata said, adding that major-label delays caused a frustrating four-year gap between her first two albums. "I had great experiences. I happened to work with amazing people. I don't have the typical grumbles. But I do have the past experiences of a lot of red tape that created a lot of delays with my records. The fact that I can release records whenever I want to, that's a nice freedom."

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