The six-time Grammy nom­i­nee on bring­ing her mu­si­cal Wait­ress to Lon­don, why she con­tin­ues to use gen­derneu­tral pro­nouns in her mu­sic, and why she will for­ever be a “sol­dier of love” for the LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

Gay Times Magazine - - CONTENTS - Im­age cour­tesy of Matt Crock­ett Words Wil­liam J Con­nolly

From her hit song Brave to now be­ing a Tony nom­i­nee, the six­time Grammy nom­i­nee speaks to Gay Times about bring­ing her new mu­si­cal Wait­ress to the West End, why she con­tin­ues to use gen­derneu­tral pro­nouns in her mu­sic, and why she will for­ever be a “sol­dier of love” for our com­mu­nity.

When six-time Grammy nom­i­nee Sara Bareilles needed a break from pro­duc­ing a new al­bum and head­ing out on tour, she looked for some­thing new to in­spire her. Now, a Tony nom­i­nee for writ­ing a best­selling Broad­way song­book and with a con­tin­u­ing smash-hit mu­si­cal in New York City, tour­ing across Amer­ica, and soon-to-be in Lon­don, it’s safe to say what came maybe wasn’t quite as she’d first ex­pect.

But what makes the story of a young girl that works in a pie shop one of the most suc­cess­ful mu­si­cals of the last five years? Did the upris­ing of the #MeToo move­ment in­flu­ence her writ­ing? And where does her rooted ally­ship to the LGBTQ com­muntiy come from?

We tucked into a slice of truth pie with Sara Bareilles to find out what bak­ing can do...

Would you agree that for some­one who has had such a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in mu­sic, your in­volve­ment in a stage mu­si­cal was a risk?

To­tally. It’s a good qual­ity of mine and a bad qual­ity of mine that I’m very short­sighted. Like I’m re­ally only look­ing at the thing that is di­rectly in front of me. I was feel­ing sort of stag­nant in my artis­tic life, any­way. I love the records I’ve made and I’ve loved the tours I’ve gone on, but it re­ally is a very cycli­cal en­gage­ment. You write a record, you make a record, you go on tour, you come home and you do it all over again. The things that are so mag­i­cal start to feel very mun­dane and un­in­ter­ested if you’re not stay­ing cre­ative about how you walk through the world as an artist. I was crav­ing some­thing that shook me up in that way, so my mo­ti­va­tion for be­ing in­volved was never about it be­ing suc­cess­ful, it was so in­ter­nal. It was about try­ing to deepen my­self as an artist.

The fol­low­ing of the movie Wait­ress is huge. When you first thought that this could work on

stage, what sold you from the start?

I didn’t know the film go­ing into this. I knew the poster of the film, that was un­de­ni­able, but then I didn’t watch the film un­til I had had a meet­ing with Dianne Pol­lise our direc­tor and she told me that this was in de­vel­op­ment and was I even in­ter­ested. It was posed to me as as an ex­plo­ration – like, let’s try this out and see if it works. I was re­ally in­tim­i­dated. The idea of writ­ing an en­tire score seemed al­most im­pos­si­ble to me, so we went on the jour­ney to­gether and I slowly but surely met all of these in­cred­i­ble col­lab­o­ra­tors. I watched the film, got very in­ti­mately aware of Adri­anne’s (Shelly, writer) world and then the chal­lenge was find­ing where to lib­er­ate from Adri­anne’s vi­sion and what lives on the film. We were ini­tially work­ing from the screen­play and there’s things that don’t quite trans­late to the stage, ob­vi­ously – dif­fer­ent medium. It was this long puz­zle and ex­tended ex­plo­ration of try­ing to pre­serve what was so pre­cious about her and the film, and get­ting to ex­pand and deepen mo­ments.

So how did you be­gin to write for the stage rather than write as artist Sara Bareilles?

The only way I knew about get­ting in­side the psy­chol­ogy of char­ac­ter is what I de­scribe as rad­i­cal em­pa­thy. I was just try­ing to re­ally imag­ine my­self as these peo­ple and I started with Jenna (the lead char­ac­ter) as she felt clos­est to me nat­u­rally. Then it was this amaz­ing dis­cov­er­ing of how I could re­late to the ec­cen­tric love-sick side­kick, the abusive hus­band. Like, how do you make these peo­ple di­men­sion and have souls and re­ally a deep­ness to their char­ac­ter? My style of writ­ing is less about ex­po­si­tion and mov­ing the plot along, and a di­vine into the psy­chol­ogy of each char­ac­ter.

How much did the world around you in­flu­ence

your work? Did the #MeToo move­ment in­flu­ence any part of your writ­ing?

We were pretty much all-but done by then and were on stage, but be­cause of the sub­ject mat­ter and we were an all-fe­male cre­ative team, these were things that were im­por­tant to us and to be del­i­cate about. One of the things I love about be­ing an all-fe­male cre­ative team is that it was an or­ganic de­ci­sion and not a cast­ing agenda. We ac­tu­ally were well into the mak­ing of the show when some­body asked if this had hap­pened be­fore. It not be­ing on pur­pose is that it wasn’t in­ten­tional, and my hope for women in ev­ery in­dus­try is that we get past the gen­der iden­ti­fi­ca­tion at all and get to be the right peo­ple for the job.

Did the ex­pe­ri­ences from your mu­sic or per­sonal life add to your writ­ing?

I can re­late to be­ing the only wo­man in the room al­most ex­clu­sively in my life. That is start­ing to change, but I have also worked with won­der­ful men. What I don’t want to do is cre­ate a sen­ti­ment where no boys are al­lowed. We had won­der­ful male col­lab­o­ra­tors and one of our pro­duc­ers is a man. We had beau­ti­ful, sen­si­tive, lov­ing male coun­ter­parts. I do feel that sense of feel­ing small and op­pressed in some way feeds into it in my life as a fe­male artist. There’s lots of times I can re­mem­ber I felt small be­cause I was a wo­man.

You’ve spo­ken about the power of gen­derneu­tral pro­nouns and how pow­er­ful they can be in the mu­sic in­dus­try. Why do you be­lieve in this type of writ­ing?

I don’t know if I feel they’re be­com­ing use­less but I do think that fun­da­men­tally we’re just hu­man souls walk­ing through the world, so I have no judge­ment on if some­one iden­ti­fies more strongly or less

strongly with one ver­sion of how we call each other. I think pro­nouns can be help­ful as a short­cut at times, but if some­one takes of­fense to it I would never want to im­pose that upon them. I think that fun­da­men­tally, what I hope to fur­ther in the work that I do, is a sense of em­pa­thy and com­pas­sion. That we all in our DNA are made of the same stuff and go through this hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence and all re­late to these emo­tions with­out a pro­noun. We re­late to our heartache, our fam­ily, our life ex­pe­ri­ences in very sim­i­lar ways.

Where it gets tricky is where we want to over iden­tify. When we want to dis­tance our­selves from a com­mu­nity. That’s where it can be chal­leng­ing be­cause, what I think, we’re all more the same than we think.

Is that where your ‘It was never about he’ vi­ral mo­ment came from where you came out?

It was about an en­tity, but I had no idea it was go­ing to get the re­sponse it did. It was awe­some!

When did you re­alise you’d pos­si­bly just come out, or did you never clar­ify?

I never clar­i­fied it. I don’t still think it needs clar­i­fi­ca­tion. The song is writ­ten about the record la­bel which is a col­lec­tion of peo­ple. Some men and some are women. Y’know, the op­pres­sive forces don’t have pro­nouns.

Is it right you wrote your hit song Brave about your queer friend try­ing to come out?

Yeah, it was re­lated to that. I had a good friend who was re­ally stru—ling as a grown up and was sort of a love let­ter to this per­son. I had no idea that the song would be­come what it be­came, but that’s been a huge point of pride and grat­i­tude for me.

Do you now re­alise how big your voice is for those that of­ten can’t find the words at that point in time?

I feel like that’s the rea­son I’m walk­ing around on earth is to just be a ves­sel. I re­ally don’t claim own­er­ship of any­thing that comes through. I feel like I got lucky and get to share what ar­rives from wher­ever it comes from. I’m so grate­ful for the arts in this way be­cause I do find them to be cathar­tic and sooth­ing and some­times giv­ing a voice to things I usu­ally wouldn’t know how to.

Mi­nor­ity voices on Broad­way are thank­fully on the rise. How im­por­tant do you be­lieve hav­ing these sto­ries and voices in a main­stream arena is?

It’s the most pow­er­ful thing be­cause it’s to do with rep­re­sen­ta­tion. It’s to do with the world that it ac­tu­ally is. What I find amaz­ing is that it’s started to feel more and more strange when you don’t see rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Per­son­ally, as a white wo­man, I’m notic­ing when there aren’t peo­ple of colour or aren’t LGBTQ voices. When we are not be­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive as that’s not what my life looks like. My com­mu­nity is very di­verse and I get ex­cited to be part of projects that are, in what­ever ways they can, in­clu­sive.

Is there a lack of in­ter­est from the au­di­ence then for queer sto­ries on stage? There’s enough gay peo­ple to play these roles.

I think it’s a con­tin­ued sense of push­ing. It’s a con­tin­ued sense of striv­ing for that and it is out there and it is hap­pen­ing. Some­times, not to say that you should just be pa­tient, but it does take time for things to ar­rive and show up. I sense that there’s a deep in­ter­est in that, even in my lim­ited ex­pe­ri­ence in the theatre com­mu­nity. I feel op­ti­mistic that it will con­tinue to move in that road, even if it’s not as quickly as some would hope.

Did you con­sider writ­ing a gay char­ac­ter for this show?

Yeah, we’ve talked about it. Yeah, we’ve talked about Don and... the tricky part with Wait­ress is that it’s an adap­tion of some­one who is not with us any­more so we want to hon­our the story Adrian Shel­ley wanted to tell. We do feel del­i­cate about mak­ing big changes as we care about pre­serv­ing her vi­sion, but it’s cer­tainly some­thing we’ve had and def­i­nitely open to. We all agree that we have to evolve as a cre­ative force.

So if we speak to all the queer peo­ple in Lon­don, how much do we need to get you to come star as Jenna in Lon­don like you did re­cently on Broad­way?

It’s not out of the realm of pos­si­bil­ity. It’s not go­ing to hap­pen right away. I’m not go­ing to open the show here, I’m so sorry to say. I know, but that’s as I’m fin­ish­ing a new record. I will be fo­cused on the re­lease of that, and hope­fully a good thing for every­body. I’ve got some songs for you guys.

Top five gay icons that you’d put into a per­fectly baked pie. Who is first?

I’m be­gin­ning with Sir El­ton John. We have to have RuPaul. Who else? Madonna. That’s three. I don’t know if they’re gay icons but Te­gan and Sara be­cause they’re fuck­ing amaz­ing! And... why is this tak­ing so long?

We should put you in there, you are a gay icon.

I’ll fuck­ing put that on a t-shirt right now. That’s so fuck­ing cool! I’ll credit you for adding my fi­nal in­gre­di­ent.

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