Bareilles’ long-awaited return goes deeper than love songs
Sara Bareilles’ opinions tend to reveal themselves in song.
Her first hit, “Love Song,” was about the disdain she felt toward record label executives who insisted she deliver a commercial radio single.
“I’m not gonna write you a love song ’cause you asked for it, ’cause you need one,” she sang defiantly on the 2007 track, which went on to earn two Grammy nominations and land at the top of Billboard’s Pop 100 chart.
“Yeah, it was ironic that it ended up working out,” she says. “But I love being able to feel like I received a message from that, which is: Whatever success I may have is not going to come from a place where I’m trying to fit a mold. It’s going to have to come from an authentic place.”
But finding that zone – the one where she’s pleasing herself but still satisfying the expectations of her label and fans – has, it seems, been the perennial struggle for the 30-year-old Bareilles.
Her second major label release, September’s “Kaleidoscope Heart,” didn’t come easily. After coming off nearly three years on the road to promote her first record, “Little Voice,” the last thing Bareilles wanted to do was write music.
So she spent a couple of months searching for her first home, finally settling upon a shabby chic bungalow. She took yoga classes, had dinner with friends, went on a trip to Spain.
Gradually she started to feel the weight of her time off, which was becoming somewhat considerable.
“It was such a long time between that record and this record,” says Bareilles. “Three years – and nowadays, everyone’s attention span is so short, you feel like you’ve gotta get it out immediately.”
But she wasn’t liking most of the songs she was writing.
“There’d be a sense of, ‘Oh, I have no desire to play that again,’ or I’d listen to a song for a while and I’d be like, ‘What am I even saying? Those words don’t mean anything to me,’ ” she says.
“And that was my big fear with this record – that I wasn’t going to care about this music.”
At her manager’s urging, Bareilles picked four songs she felt OK about and began to record. Hearing the music come to life reinvigorated her creatively – but she was still grappling with the idea of how it would be received.
“That was the big challenge for me, was to try to break through the compare and contrast game and not worry about everyone else’s expectations,” she says.
“It feels like such an honor and a blessing to have had success with the first record, but at the same time, it comes with a sense of pressure that you have to surpass what’s already come before you. It’s tough to be competing against yourself.”
Though she’s known for her plucky singles, Bareilles feels more at home in the type of achy, honest piano ballads that come at the end of her new album.
“In the media world, people really only see just a splinter of what your most successful moment was, and for me, it was by far ‘Love Song,’ ” she says.
“So I hope people see more depth and dimension to me with the new album. I hope they see that I am more than just the ‘Love Song’ girl.”