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.
Waitress 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 overwhelming!"