In all honesty, we were a bit surprised we were able to snag a little time with Sara Bareilles. She's been a bit busy of late. In August, the theatrical adaption of the film Waitress
opened in Boston, for which Bareilles wrote the music and lyrics. This coming March, Waitress
will officially go into previews on Broadway. In October Bareilles' first book - a collection of 8 essays titled Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song
was released via Simon and Schuster. And oh, one more thing: earlier this month Bareilles released her newest album titled What's Inside: Songs From Waitress
. Theater, publishing, and the music industry...now you know why we've taken to calling Bareilles the "Empress of all Media" around the office.
"I wouldn't suggest this as a template for a way to schedule your life," said Bareilles, laughing through tea amongst the power lunchers in Midtown at The Four Seasons Restaurant. It's a swanky kind of place; the complete opposite end on the restaurant spectrum in which Waitress
takes place. Our crew was a bit out of its' element (we were told by the restaurant staff to please dress nicely on shoot date). But there is a casual elegance in the way in which Ms. Bareilles carries herself. She fit right into the setting.
We've had a number of opportunities to trade conversation with Sara over the years, setting up a semi-impromptu lunch-time concert for fans in 2010
, a capture of a cabaret-inspired performance at Sleep No More in 2013
, and an interview a few weeks later in front of a wall of Warhols
. She's one of our absolute favorite artists. She's smart, extremely funny, sometimes even a bit profane (scour our videos for a taste of her deliciously dirty mouth), and completely unassuming. One thing we absolutely never picked up on in our experience with Sara is any sense of insecurity. But she's human, so of course that is there too...and it's actually been one of the driving forces behind the trio of Bareilles' latest endeavors.
is the story of Jenna; a small-town pie maker stuck in a loveless marriage and saddled with an unexpected pregnancy. She is unhappy, worried she may have to abandon her dream of opening her own pie store, but laced with strength and courage. Her insecurities and fears and dashed dreams are easy to empathize with, which is precisely why Bareilles wanted to get involved with the musical. "I started to see much more similarities between myself and the lead character and I realized that it would be possible for me to tell her story by way of radical empathy."
For Bareilles, that storytelling started with "She Used to be Mine"; a beautiful and stoic piano ballad that captures the character Jenna perfectly with lines like, "It's not simple to say that most days I don't recognize me/That these shoes and this apron/That place and its patrons/Have taken more than I gave them". It's the song Bareilles credits as being her "portal into the world of Waitress
What's Inside: Songs From Waitress
, though a completely natural byproduct of the musical, was a bit unexpected though. "This wasn't my original idea. I didn't realize I would fall so madly in love with this project," she admitted. So she wrestled with the idea of passing along the music and the lyrics to the musical, deciding, before she did, she had to record and release her spin on the music she had created. "They'll make a cast record and it will be beautiful...hearing these actors sing this music and interrupting it on a whole different and deeper level in a lot ways. For me I couldn't bare the idea of passing the torch without getting to sing it myself. I wanted to tell the story in my own voice at least once."
To top it all off, Bareilles released her first book in October; a collection of essays titled Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song
. It's a personal collection and one that sets out to tell her story (thus far) as it relates to her music. "It's very confessional. It's full of a lot of my most private feelings...about being in the industry, about what writing music has been to me in my life, about what it feels like to be a girl, about my body image issues, about feeling ugly. All of these things I talk about really frankly in the book".
So, like we said, Bareilles has been busy...so, so very busy. But when we asked her about how she feels having just gone through so much at once the word that keeps coming up in conversation is "fulfilled", despite having three major projects in three separate media outlets hitting at the same time. "It's funny. It's not something that I had orchestrated in my mind. I just said yes to these projects and they happened to all coalesce at the same moment. It's a really interesting time. It's been really fun and invigorating and totally
The day starts like the rest I've seen Another carbon copy of where I've already been Days keep coming one and one and they keep coming I don't know what I wish I'd had but there's no time now for thinking things like that I've got too much to do.
Too much to do We've got too much to do, too much to do - I sort of like the sound of the Empress of all Media.
It's not something that I had orchestrated in my mind.
I just said, "Yes," to these projects and they happened to all coalesce at the same moment.
So it's a really interesting time.
Been really fun and invigorating and totally overwhelming.
It's been nice.
Each project has really fed into each other really beautifully.
I wouldn't suggest this as a template for a way to schedule your life but I think that I've been really lucky to feel so fulfilled by these projects.
And working on the book was so insular and so isolated and then the musical is the exact opposite of that.
It is committee and caucus all the time and then going into the studio for the record and now the release of the record, which is all supporting the musical, it's all fed each other really beautifully in a way I wasn't expecting.
It's not simple to say Most days I don't recognize me with these shoes and this apron that place and its patrons "She Used to Be Mine" was the first song that I wrote for this musical and it really served as my portal into the world of waitress.
And I started to see much more similarities between myself and the lead character and I realized that it would be possible for me to tell their story by way of almost like radical empathy like finding myself in all of these characters was going to be the way that I could actually tell their story, which was a little bit of a revelation for me and it unlocked the process.
I really love that song.
I love it.
I love her story so much.
I think that we can all relate to that idea of waking up some point looking around at your life and being like, "How did I get here?" Our approach for the video we wanted to do something just very classic and black and white and performance based and isolated.
I think that's in reference to how she's feeling when she's singing that song.
She is gone but she used to be mine It's not what I asked for Sometimes life just slips in through a back door and carves out a person and makes you believe it's all true I don't have a hard and fast rule about how to write a good song.
It doesn't always get there.
I think sometimes I think it gets there and it doesn't get there.
I think that the songwriting itself, the craft, is for me about honing in on what feels really true and what feels really honest.
I think storytelling to me is really important and so with a song like "She Used to Be Mine" I think that that was a really rich and textured place to draw from because this woman's story there's a lot to speak about lots of identity, and abuse and a new child.
And there was a lot, her wanting to express herself in that song.
You do the best you can to tell some truth.
That's what I think songwriting is about for me.
And you try to make it rhyme sometimes.
Yeah, it's a little bit of magic.
Hopefully if I'm lucky I get to spend my life exploring that craft.
Sugar, butter, sugar, butter, flour, sugar, butter... With this most recent record, it's easier to categorize it as a concept record.
I mean in a way it's just songs from the show.
This whole thing is a new concept for me.
This wasn't my original idea.
I was writing songs for the show and then I didn't realize I would fall so madly in love with this project.
And there was something that felt incomplete to me about it.
By passing it out, because they will make a cast record and it will be beautiful and hearing these actors sing this music is just like interpreting it on a whole different and deeper level in a lot of ways.
But for me I couldn't bear the idea of passing the torch without getting to sing it myself.
I wanted to just tell the story in my own voice at least once and now that's documented.
I settled on this concept of eight essays over the course of writing the book and I wanted to tell my story but wanted to tell it as it related to my music and it's very confessional, it's full of a lot of my most private feelings about being in the industry about what writing music has been to me in my life about what it feels like to be a girl, about my body image issues, about feeling ugly.
All of these things I talk about really frankly in the book.
And during that time I was also writing for the musical and found out actually that the mentality of the creation of those are very separate.
I had to go very internal for the book.
And the musical is all about telling someone else's story.
So pingponging back and forth between those two, I had many meltdowns and then realized, "Oh, I can't write in the morning for the book," and then write a song for the musical.
It just didn't compute.
I couldn't get there.
So I started compartmentalizing my time a little differently and that worked better.
I wanted to embrace something bigger.
And fast forward three years and a lot of hours of time and investment and here are these projects now that have come to fruition or are in the process of doing so.
And it's just been a really incredible journey.
I love you means you're never ever, ever getting rid of me.
I am sitting down to write my bio for the third time and I'm trying to think of what to say that you can't find on Wikipedia. There are lots of little facts and tidbits about my life and career that I'm sure can be summed up in a one-sheet, but that's not the kind of thing I feel like I want to be writing.
The Blessed Unrest is my third full-length release, recorded over the last 6 months and mostly written within the past year of my life. Last year was a transformative year for me personally, and I'm currently reeling from and reveling in the new. Among many life changes, I am a brand new resident of New York City. Most of this record was written and recorded here, which I believe has informed its sound in a most profound way. I felt the need to embrace the expansion and energy of the city, both literally and figuratively. That ended up being reflected within my songs as well as the process of recording them. Not only did I want to write about broader themes, I wanted to articulate those with production choices that helped both myself as an artist and the songs stretch.
With the help of my producing partners, John O'Mahony (Metric, Coldplay), and Kurt Uenala (Depeche Mode), I co-produced more than half of this record and I'm very proud of that. In addition to the production here in New York, I was able to work with Mark Endert (Maroon 5, Fiona Apple) and Eric Rosse (Tori Amos, Sara Bareillesthat's me) to complete the record.
While writing for The Blessed Unrest, I found myself to be open to the idea of collaboration for the first time in my life. Other than one song off my first record written with my band mate Javier Dunn, I have always hated co-writing. Back in September of 2012, a friend introduced me to Jack Antonoff from the band fun. and I suddenly realized how easy and inspiring co-writing can be. Our very first session produced the song "Brave" which would then become the lead single off this body of work and a song I am infinitely proud of. That session sparked a string of amazing communions with other wonderful collaborators, and I have ended up with a collection of songs that feel as much like me as anything I've ever done.
This record makes me feel vulnerable and exposed, and it feels right. I am consciously taking risks and feeling myself develop as an artist and a human being. The Blessed Unrest is a reflection of the driving forces that have moved me from one stage of my life to the next, and I am grateful for the divine dissatisfaction that keeps me marching on.