Sara Bareilles learning to enjoy mainstream success

Sat Aug 28, 2010 6:48am EDT
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By Ann Donahue

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Sara Bareilles is a very nice woman who broke through to music's mainstream by writing songs that sweetly and eloquently tell people precisely where they can go.

Don't be fooled by the video to "King of Anything," the lead single off her sophomore album for Epic, "Kaleidoscope Heart," due September 7. In the clip, which has already attracted upward of 1 million views on Vevo, Bareilles, 31, is wandering through a park in a gauzy tutu and singing with a generous smile. But much like the monster success of "Love Song," a track off her first Epic album, "Little Voice," "King of Anything" is an anthem to sassy assertiveness dressed in a lilting singer-songwriter sheen.

"It was the last song I wrote before we went into the studio, and I was at the point where I started sharing the music with my inner circle and started getting feedback," she says. "I remember having a very vivid realization of, 'Oh, I forgot that this was a part of it. Everybody gets to tell you what they think about what you do.' I could tell I was getting defensive. That song was a little bit of a pep-talk song -- and that's exactly what 'Love Song' was."

"Love Song," released in 2007, sold 3.2 million digital downloads, earned two Grammy Award nominations -- one for song of the year and another for best female pop vocal performance -- and bolstered sales of "Little Voice" to 985,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Mainstream success came to Bareilles swiftly, and she's the first to admit she was unprepared. "I was so precious about every choice," she says. "I was so guarded, and I don't know that I enjoyed it as much as I could have. There were times where I was so fearful and so anxious about the process: 'Am I doing too much? Am I selling out? Do I look all right?' All those things swirl around in your brain. What I'm here to do is play my music, and I want to be able to enjoy the process this time."


Bareilles was a fixture on the Los Angeles bar and club scene for years after she graduated from the University of California Los Angeles -- the Fairfax area's premier kosher Chinese restaurant, Genghis Cohen, was a frequent stop -- and she's still most invigorated by playing live. The Obamas are fans -- Bareilles performed at both the G20 Summit and the White House Easter Egg Roll -- and she was on the roster for six Lilith Fair shows this summer, an experience she treasures.

"That was so magical. I feel like I went to female songwriter school," she says. "There was so much negative press about Lilith Fair, and it makes me a little angry. The essence was totally intact. The crowds were small in some of the markets, but we played huge shows of 10,000-15,000 people."   Continued...