Seven years ago, Sara Bareilles was "just" a successful musician living in LA. With multiple chart-topping hits, such as "Love Song" and "Brave," under her belt, she felt comfortable. But something was stirring inside of her—a craving for change.
So she packed up her things and moved across the country to New York, where her agent reached out with a new opportunity, this time, in theater. There was a small production in the works based off a 2007 movie called Waitress, and the director, Diane Paulus, wanted Sara to be a part of it.
It certainly wasn't what Sara was expecting, but she figured she'd at least hear her out. It was then that Sara fell in love with the story and decided to take a leap of faith, joining the production as the lead songwriter. It was a risky move, and Sara admits she probably wouldn't have taken the project on if she had known how much work it would require.
"It's really good for you as a person to do something you don't know how to do, and to learn, and to ask questions, and to be a student again," she says.
Sara had zero theater experience, but she obviously had music chops, and was able to translate her skills to create the entire score for the production. After the show made its 2015 premiere at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it moved to Broadway and quickly became a hit.
Sara’s 11 o’clock number, “She Used to Be Mine,” seemed so insanely specific to the musical (“she is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie”) that she felt self-conscious performing it in concert. But audiences have a way of making decisions for themselves. The song, written for a pregnant, abused waitress, reflecting back on the dreams she did not achieve, has been claimed, unexpectedly, by men, by children, by singers of all sorts.
“The range of who this song speaks to is much broader than I could have anticipated,” Bareilles said. “The chasm between who we are, and who we thought we would be, is always something we’re negotiating.”
Covers of the song caught Bareilles’ attention when a video of a gut-punching version by a 14-year-old boy from western Pennsylvania went viral in the fall. Then she started to notice it popping up on set lists. Heather Headley, a Tony winner for “Aida,” put her version on a new album alongside standards like “Over the Rainbow.” Just last week, Kathryn Gallagher, an actress in the cast of the Broadway-bound “Jagged Little Pill,” performed her own take, accompanied by a cello, at a Midtown bar, encouraged to do so, she said, by fans online.
"(Waitress) has turned into the deepest love and the most incredible turning point in my artistic life and also my life just as a person on the earth," Bareilles says. She even got the chance to step into the main role of Jenna Hunterson. Although it was certainly a challenge, she doesn't regret a thing. "Stay open-minded about doing the thing that's hard because I think that's where the real reward lives," recommends Sara.
Sara Bareilles is releasing her newest album, Amidst the Chaos on April 5. Here’s a note from Sara about the album:
“Amidst the Chaos is a collection of songs that came to life over the last couple of years and now they are ready for you.
This summer, in Los Angeles, along side some incredible collaborators and one inimitable producer named T Bone Burnett, the record came together swiftly and softly. It has been a lifelong dream to make music with T Bone, and I was so moved by his wisdom and his interest in soulful human expression, versus perfection. I want more of that in my life and it lives loud (and soft) and proud on this record and I can't wait for you to hear it. My eternal love and gratitude for your listening.”
"The women of Waitress are changing Broadway!" - Time Magazine