Sara Bareilles’ little voice is making a big sound
Published Thursday, 14-May-2009 in issue 1116
Gay & Lesbian Times: When did you begin writing?
Sara Bareilles: I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember. Some of them make me happy and some of them are shit, but all of them come because I can’t imagine what else to do with my head and the things that are in it besides write songs. Songs and some pretty bad poetry. But mostly just songs.
GLT: Tell readers about your ‘Little Voice.’
SB: Little Voice is my first major-label album. I signed with Epic Records on tax day 2005, and I spent the better part of the next year writing and developing the material for the album. Songwriting is the most sacred thing in my life. It’s how I process my world. For now, it’s usually me and my piano (that I rent because I don’t have one), my lousy grammar and some emotion that makes me feel like I’m bursting at the seams.
GLT: What has it been like for you to work on your new album?
SB: It’s the best feeling in the world. We started recording in February of 2006, and it took about a year to get to a place where we felt like it was finished. My producer, Eric Rosse, and I spent countless hours deliberating, fighting and seeking compromise on what would make this music the best it could be. I’m not proud too say it, but I feel like in many ways I walked in with my dukes up. In the end, we both walked away with some gnarly battle scars and an album that we’re both pretty damn proud of. It represents one of the most tumultuous years of my life that thankfully made me a stronger, better artist. I’m incredibly grateful for that.
GLT: After working on this for so long, do the songs mean more to you?
SB: Little Voice is a collection of songs that pretty much mean the world to me. They chronicle my life, my relationships, my basket-case-ness and my utter devotion to trying to write honest stuff down and share it. That’s where the title comes from. This record was really about me learning to trust my own instincts and, more importantly, recognize how desperately I needed to learn to listen to myself, however inexperienced and naïve I may be. It sounds cliché, but that little voice is sometimes the only voice that’s speaking the truth. I think that’s pretty fucking cool.
GLT: What kind of music is it?
SB: I write mostly on piano and I’m a girl, so lots of people say it’s Norah Jones, or Fiona Apple. That’s fine. I love Norah’s subtlety and Fiona’s fierce lyrical prowess. But I also have an affinity for the playful and intelligent-pop of people like Elton John and Ben Folds. And although I don’t necessarily write like them, Radiohead, the Police and Bjork changed my musical consciousness. Ben Gibbard writes better lyrics than I can even imagine up. Etta James and Sam Cooke make me wish I lived 50 years ago. Counting Crows recorded an album that I consider to be perfect, and Bob Marley created music that makes me want to be a better human being.
So there’s all that. And it’s all in there. In me. Somewhere. So do what you will with that information, I know it’s vague, but it’s the best I can do.
GLT: Where are you from and how’d you end up here?
SB: I grew up in Eureka, Calif. Since hardly anyone knows where that is, I’ll tell you. It’s pretty much as north as you can go up the coast of California before you stop paying sales tax. (Oregon, baby.) I lived on several acres of Redwood forest, and spent most of my time in the woods developing a delightfully overactive imagination that I’m pretty proud to say I’ve managed to salvage. I sang in high school choirs and did community musical theatre and played right-field softball and rode horses and had my heart broken a few times. I was borderline normal. I was incredibly lucky. I moved to L.A. to go to UCLA, and realized the world was bigger than my hometown. Way, way bigger, come to find out.
GLT: What did you study in school and how did you make your way to the stage?
SB: In school I studied communications, but everywhere else I secretly studied the world around me. I felt stupid and wonderful and small and liberated and exhilarated, and I started feeling the need to write it all down. So I did. And then I wanted to start singing those things. I played open mics and small shows that started becoming bigger shows and actually started calling myself a musician. I met my band/road mates and finally started sharing music. Because of them, I also rediscovered what “family” means. I met my manager, Jordan Feldstein, who has made tiny opportunities blossom into bigger ones, and now I’m not a waitress anymore. I fell on my ass more than once but figured that I’d rather do this than anything, so what the hell?
And here we are.