Love and other songs

Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles is a pretty young ingenue with a knack for matching pop hooks with powerful stories. She's emerged as one of the promising female talents of her generation, earning that praise for her impressive pipes and growing abilities as both a songwriter and instrumentalist.

Bareilles' path to stardom began at age 18 when she moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of a music career. After graduating from UCLA's Communication Studies program, she performed at open-mic nights and local festivals.

In 2005, Bareilles inked a deal with Epic Records that resulted in her first full-length album, Little Voice. Buoyed by the success of its ubiquitous single "Love Song," the album hit the top ten on Billboard's Top 200 albums chart. "Love Song" would eventually sell more than three million copies and earn a nomination as Song of the Year at the 2009 Grammy Awards. Her second album, 2010's Kaleidoscope Heart, debuted at Number One and spawned the Grammy Award-nominated "King of Anything." In an interview with Out & About Newspaper, she discusses her burgeoning career.

What's the best part of performing in Nashville?

I think the Nashville fans are just awesome. It goes without saying that Nashville is a big music community, so you're going to find real music lovers there. There's such an investment and energy with the audience, and they have such a devotion to the artist. At every show that we've had there, it's just been an amazing energy exchange that has been so palpable. We always try to have a day off there because it's such a fantastic city. I love being down by the river and being all "touristy." I like going to the honky-tonks, or going to Robert's and getting a hamburger and a Bud Light in a bottle.

It's great because a bunch of our crew and my bandmates live in Nashville, so there's a hometown feeling. So we'll probably have a cookout at somebody's house. You have a real communal family experience there. I think it's such a beautiful city, and so safe and comfortable to me. When my parents want to come see me on tour, I always say "You've got to come to Nashville."

Of course, the reason we're speaking is your performance at Vanderbilt University. How have you developed as a live performer since your debut?

It's been a constant process of testing my own boundaries and trying new things. Some of them work, and some of them don't. I love when there's mistakes on stage because sometimes you can stumble across a great idea. There was a show one time when I invited the opening acts out for a finale and I got stuck behind the piano and couldn't go anywhere, so I jumped on top of the piano. That became a part of the show. It was something I'd never even considered doing before. So it's a constant trial-and-error. I love the freedom (of live performances) and love and appreciate the audience. We work hard to give them a great show.

So much is made about the dreaded "sophomore slump," but Kaleidoscope Heart debuted at Number One and nabbed you a Grammy nomination. What were your goals going into the recording process?

It was a real battle between me and my fear and my own expectations. And then I started thinking about other people's expectations and what they thought the second album would sound like. It ended up being an essential growth experience for me. I just tried to dig deep and let go of competing with myself. The only way I got through was to allow this to be like a photo, a snapshot of who I am. So that thought really gave me a lot of freedom. Ultimately this music matters so much to me, and I love it dearly.

It's interesting that the lead single, "King of Anything," is a bit of a departure from your earlier work.

It actually came about in a very similar way as "Love Song." I was still building up my armor. When I was getting feedback on this round of songs, I realized I was really sensitive still to all the opinions and advice. Sometimes you just want to say, "Who do you think you are?"

How does the writing process work for you during a tour?

I've tried in the past, but there's usually too much stimulation on a bus. With 11 people, there's not a lot of privacy or alone time. It works best for me when I have space and quiet to sift through my thoughts and get organized.

And you have to accumulate life experiences in order to write...

Yes, there are a bunch of ideas that tend to go home on a Rolodex. (laughs)

Have you begun thinking about the third album?

We're just beginning to talk about (a third album). Right now I'm still so devoted to this record and we're only just now touring it. I'm not quite ready to move on, but I'm excited for the prospect of the third record. I think I'll feel even more freedom and liberty than even this last one. It will be a very unique experience.

Sara Bareilles performs at Vanderbilt University on April 15.

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