Sara Bareilles visits BAM to talk up new book with Ben Folds
Brooklyn BookBeat: Collection of Essays ‘Sounds Like Me’ Reveals Stories Behind Hit Songs
Sara Bareilles, the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter, has recently turned to a different medium to share her voice. The New York City-based musician, perhaps best known for her 2007 breakthrough hit “Love Song,” visited the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on Tuesday to speak about her new collection of essays, “Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song” (Simon & Schuster).
Interviewed by her close friend Ben Folds — a multi-platinum-selling singer/songwriter himself — Bareilles spoke candidly to more than 2,000 fans, whose cheers and laughter filled the Howard Gilman Opera House throughout the evening. The event, part of BAM’s and Greenlight Bookstore’s Unbound literary series, also included a performance before the enthusiastic audience.
The musicians’ bond was evident as they breezed through what was more a fluid exchange between friends than a formal interview. “Do you read a lot?” Folds asked Bareilles, quickly adding, “I don’t, just to make you feel safer.” Bareilles answered frankly, explaining that she “would rather wander and listen to music and take a long walk than sit with a book.” Her eloquence revealed her mastery of words, but she was modest about her abilities. “God bless copy editors,” she joked when asked about the process of writing a book. “My grammar is horrific,” she added, “and punctuation? F**k off!”
Bareilles’ book, which uses her song titles to name each chapter, offers readers a more intimate view of some of her most popular tracks. On Tuesday, she spoke about “trying to keep it really honest,” though she admitted that she made a conscious effort not to expose anyone other than herself in the essays.
Bareilles discussed her book chapter “Beautiful Girl,” which, like its namesake, is written as a letter to a younger version of herself. In both, she addresses the self-image and insecurity issues she faced while growing up. While she said she feels her work has been therapeutic, she admitted that the same “monsters” continue to haunt her today, though maybe less frequently: “You think, ‘Didn’t I fix this? Aren’t I done?'”
Bareilles and Folds also discussed their experience as judges on “The Sing-Off,” an NBC show dedicated to showcasing a cappella groups. As she mentioned on-stage at BAM and relates in her book, Bareilles was reminded of some of her self-confidence issues during her time on the show; she was required to wear “glittery dresses” she was uncomfortable in and was constantly told she wasn’t “sexy enough” or wearing enough makeup. She said she still gets squeamish when people comment on her appearance, even if to say she looks skinny. “It feels like you’re being examined,” she explained.
Despite her personal qualms with appearing on “The Sing-Off,” Bareilles praised the show’s mission to highlight the a cappella community.
Following the discussion, Bareilles treated fans to a performance of a variety of her popular hits, including “Love Song,” “Gravity” and “Beautiful Girl” (joined by Folds). She also sang “She Used to Be Mine,” a track from “Waitress,” a Broadway-bound musical she’s writing based on the 2007 movie starring Keri Russell.
Despite her fame and success, Bareilles remains humble and grateful when describing her “very surreal” career. She continuously referenced her stage-fright during the performance, joking that she was drinking “copious amounts of whiskey” to assuage her nerves. She playfully added that she and Folds are “lucky for every person who wants to hear what we have to say,” and for every person who came to BAM “to listen to two dipsh*ts have a conversation.”