American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles returns with pop album

Sara Bareilles has never been busier, and she’s thrilled about it.

Singer Sara Bareilles. Picture: Ian West/PA
Singer Sara Bareilles. Picture: Ian West/PA

She is back with her first album of new music in six years following her successful debut as a lyricist and composer for the musical Waitress, which has been a hit on Broadway and is now in London’s West End.

Last year she co-hosted the Tony Awards and, later this year, she’ll be heading out on tour for the first time in more than half a decade.

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She’s also working on the very early stages of a new TV musical with JJ Abrams and Jessie Nelson, her Waitress writing partner.

Bareilles is currently in London doing plenty of promo for Waitress and, when we speak, she’ll have been prepping for her major appearance on America’s Saturday Night Live, so I’m pleased she has managed to slot me in to her packed schedule for a chat.

“My plate is full and I’m so grateful for all the juggling... even if it makes me cry sometimes!”

She’s not weeping right now, though. She’s brimming with excitement, both for UK audiences to finally see the Waitress – which received a handful of Tony nominations and a Grammy nod for Bareilles’ soundtrack – and to release her long-awaited new album Amidst The Chaos.

The aptly-titled LP has been a process of rediscovery for the American singer-songwriter, who rose to mainstream stardom way back in 2007 with her catchy pop hit Love Song.

Now, at 39 and following a huge career shift, she’s back with a different view on life and a gutsier, socially-aware sound.

“The main thing for me was re-emerging as a songwriter telling my own story after working on Waitress for the last six years,” she explains.

“It’s interesting to return to my ‘roots’ as a pop artist, and have it feel like a different skin,” she notes, laughing as she refers to herself as a “pop artist”.

“But I feel so proud of this record, and I don’t have a strong attachment to it needing to deliver for me in a certain way; this is just artistically exactly what I want to say right now.”

Two of the songs, No Such Thing and If I Can’t Have You were written as odes to Barack Obama following the 2016 US election, which saw Donald Trump gain power.

Another, a rousing duet with John Legend called A Safe Place To Land, was inspired by the country’s ongoing border crisis.

The topic of feminism is hugely important to Bareilles. She touches on it on the album’s powerful lead single Armor, a modern feminist anthem written after the 2017 Women’s March in protest of Trump.

It’s also worth noting that she was part of the first all-female creative lead team in the history of Broadway when the show premiered in 2016.

“I hesitated to say it was disappointing – it is what it is,” sighs Bareilles when asked how she felt about the landmark moment in theatre, which came far too late.

“The fact we are an all-female lead creative team was not a casting agenda. We were just artists working at the top of our fields who ended up on the same project.

“My hope for the future is that we get beyond attacking the agenda, which is necessary and totally worthwhile at this moment in time.

“But I hope that we all get to just be artists and collaborators and filmmakers and directors and choreographers and musicians and composers who just happen to be female while we’re doing it.”

The musical, which stars American Idol star Katharine McPhee and 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer in the West End version, is beautifully feminist, as well as funny and edgy and heartwarming.

Based on the 2007 film of the same name, it tells the story of a disillusioned waitress who is in an abusive relationship, but who finds comfort in baking pies.

When she becomes unexpectedly pregnant, she strikes up an affair with her gynaecologist, while hoping a pie contest and its grand cash prize can be her chance to break free from the shackles of her life.

The job of writing music for a musical was difficult, Bareilles confesses: “This show absolutely consumed my life.”

“If I had known how hard and how long I would work on it, I would have said no.”

This begs the question – would she do it all over again if she had the chance?

Bareilles chuckles. “I actually would,” she says. “I’d dive head-first into the right project.

“I have changed a lot because of saying yes to this project, and the part of me that would have said ‘no, it’s too hard’ is no longer with me.

“It’s taught me to really love something that’s difficult.”

Amidst The Chaos by Sara Bareilles is out now. Waitress is currently on at London’s Adelphi Theatre.