She told you before, she’s not going to write you a love song. But singer-songwriter (turned reality competition judge) Sara Bareilles has decided to invite you into her collection of what she calls “misfit songs” by releasing a five-track EP, Once Upon Another Time. Now she’s breaking down the tracks for us, plus sharing a bit about her new documentary.
We’ve been anxiously awaiting new material from you, Sara! But why go with an EP instead of the traditional full album? The songs are a mishmash of material that has come to me over the last year or so. They were songs that felt like they didn’t have a place on a full-length record of mine, but they were still really important to me. They felt artistically playful—a real collection of misfits.
“Once Upon Another Time,” the first song on the EP, is beautiful! Would you say it goes back to your roots some? In a way, yes. I’ve been involved with a cappella groups my whole life, which led me to make some wonderful friends. I love a cappella music. I’m a part of a TV show that supports and celebrates it. It’s a genre that goes unrecognized a lot of times, and I think it’s really beautiful. The song is about reminiscing on ourselves and seeing all of our different parts.
You’re a clever, witty writer, and that certainly shows on “Sweet As Whole.” So we have to ask: What inspired this one?! Oh, gosh! [Laughs] I tend to channel my frustrations through music. It’s how I process my world. That was a time when I was feeling really overwhelmed and angry with everyone around me. Writing this song was my process of letting it all go and giving up the control. I had to just let people be an asshole or be a bitch. Just let it go and not take it too personally.
“Bright Lights And Cityscapes” is simply stunning! The melody is captivating but so simple. But wow—the character is one complex individual! Every once in a while I feel like I’m sort of channeling something and I can’t say that I feel that this story is my story. This song wrote itself very quickly. I felt that the story was floating above me and I had to just try to get out of the way. I kept the piano very simple, sort of hypnotic, as to not get in the way of the story. And yes, there is certainly depth and complexity to that character. Some people have told me that it reminded them of a partner going through addiction or a situation where they choose something over you—something toxic. I’m really proud of this song.
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“Stay” certainly has that catchy radio feel, but it’s on the misfit EP. Why not save it for a full-length? That song is one of the oldest songs on this particular collection. I wrote it years ago, and I feel that I finally found a spot for it. It’s a very personal one for me. It captures a budding relationship that was uncertain. It’s the emotion of wanting to lose yourself in the moment and bury your head in the sand from reality. I wanted to build this song by adding the strings. Productionwise, this is one of the larger songs on the EP. It’s a tribute to having an old soul and being able to sing songs that reflect that.
In addition to a new album, you also have a new documentary, A Trace Of Sun, about your time in Japan after the devastating earthquake last year. What can you tell us about it? The documentary is finished and will be available on all my social media sites. My time in Japan was incredible. The country itself is a beautiful place to visit. The people are warm and generous, the food is amazing, and the fashion is incredible. But doing service work over there gave me a more profound connection and was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was definitely emotional, but felt good knowing that you were able to help.
Is there a call to action behind the doc? I want people to go and volunteer. I think it’s important for us to make time and space in our lives to connect with our communities and provide support. That doesn’t mean you have to get on a plane and travel to Japan with All Hands Volunteers, as I did. You can read to children in your community, volunteer in a soup kitchen or a women’s shelter. There are plenty of ways to give back, and I hope people feel inspired by it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Speaking of community, what are your thoughts on gay rights and the current state of affairs for the LGBT community? My avatar on Twitter is my NOH8 picture, and I’m a huge supporter! It’s about human rights, not sexual orientation. We are all human. I’m actually shocked that we are still talking about this in this day and age. Shouldn’t we be far past this? I will continue to support equality and encourage my fans to go out and have dialogue in any way they can to raise awareness.