Singer/songwriter Rachael Yamagata grew up listening to Carole King, Roberta Flack, James Taylor, and the like, for music was the one thing in Yamagata's life that remained consistent. Her parents divorced when she was two, forcing her to find a balance between her German-Italian mother's apartment in New York City and the Washington, D.C. residence of her third-generation Japanese father. Such frequent travel readied Yamagata for a way of life that would eventually lead her to a professional singing career. By the time she reached Northwestern University in the mid-'90s, Yamagata had one year of piano lessons and a spiral notebook full of songs under her belt. After pursuing a degree in French for one year, she relocated to New York to become an Italian theater major at Vassar. Sporadic changes loomed ahead, however. When her acting coach at Vassar moved to Barnard College, Yamagata thought she would go, too. She eventually opted to return to Northwestern instead, where she joined the theater program and befriended the funk band Bumpus during her junior year.