Sara Bareilles: Records that changed my life

Anna Walker

The American singer-songwriter behind "Love Song", "Brave" and the much-loved soundtrack to the musical Waitress shares the albums that have shaped her. 

OK Computer by Radiohead

OK Computer

I came upon this record in high school and it’s the first time I ever remember being hypnotised by a band or an artist. I think there’s something about that age where you listen to music slightly differently.

It felt like Radiohead were doing something other-worldly with music. The artists that I grew up on were slightly more earth-bound than Radiohead, so I was really blown away and intoxicated by that record.

I loved the craftsmanship of the songs themselves and the content and the lyrics and just how melodic and mesmerising the whole thing was. It made me think about music and how to make music differently. 

 

August and Everything After by Counting Crows

August and everythinh after

This was another record I discovered in high school but it actually holds up beautifully. I just made my most recent album with T Bone Burnett, who was also the producer of August and Everything After, so I've been listening to it recently.

August and Everything After was just one of those records that I knew front to back, start to finish, every word, every lyric, every nuance of the performance. I was so drawn in by the story-telling and by the orchestrations and the performances themselves. It was so organic, it had that T Bone Burnett signature sound as the producer, but also the sound of Counting Crows and Adam Duritz and his very particular vocal style.

"It felt outside the boundaries of traditional songwriting"

Adam Duritz's delivery is very unusual and it doesn’t repeat itself very often. He’s not someone who seems to write lyrics around the certain way of scanning the cadence, it felt kind of outside the boundaries of traditional songwriting where the form is very rigid. Every line, every delivery of every line is slightly different than the one before and I think that that’s a very alive way to approach writing music.

I just loved it, it's still one of my favourite records.

 

Little Girl Blue by Nina Simone

Nina Simone is just one of those timeless, iconic artists. We would talk about her in the studio a lot and refer to her as the high priestess of music. She's a fascinating character on and off stage but there’s something that’s so unwieldy and raw about her interpretation, and the music she plays and writes.

There's an innocence about this record, which came early in her career, it feels like a photograph. And I just love her vocal styling, again it's sort of the unusual-ness of her that I’m so drawn to. There’s nobody like her in the world.

 

Blue by Joni Mitchell

sara bareilles joni mitchell blue

I got into this record in college, right around the time I was having an awakening as myself as a songwriter.

I was in Italy at the time for a year abroad in an exchange student programme, and I was extremely homesick. I felt very lost and a friend of mine played me the song "California" from Blue and I was immediately overwhelmed with emotion and sadness and then at the exact same time brought up. I felt like someone had sent me a lifeboat.

"I felt like someone had sent me a lifeboat"

Joni tells a story and captures the nuances of an experience in such an interesting, unpredictable and unexpected way. To hear the pristine nature of her voice at that point in her career, and then to have the delicious gravel of her voice much later on in years [was really special]. She’s one of those artists that has gone through an incredible revolution, all [the incarnations] of which I love, but that particular record was my introduction to her so it has a sort of sentimental value.

Something I’ve discovered about music as a listener and as a creator is that the more intimate and the more personal you’re willing to be with your offering, the more universal [the outcome] is because people want to find themselves in the details with you. There are so many times I have written songs that I’ve felt have been so specific to my experience that I thought nobody would be able to relate, and inevitably those are the songs that resonate the deepest with people.

 

Sara Bareilles's new album, Amidst the Chaos, is available April 5th. Waitress is now showing at London's Adelphi Theatre