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Sara Bareilles at the Fox Theatre, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Friday, October 4, 2019

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Sara Bareilles was hardly dormant during the six years between her new album, "Amidst the Chaos," and its predecessor."

The singer, songwriter and pianist swerved just a bit in a different direction -- namely, writing the music for the stage adaptation of the 2007 film "Waitress," which was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical Score and a Grammy nod for Best Musical Theatre Album, as well as occasional appearances in the musical herself and a co-hosting spot on the Tony Awards. Bareilles, 39, also published a memoir, "Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song" during 2015 and followed that by playing Mary Magdalene for NBC's "Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert" last year, scoring an Emmy Nomination for her performance.

"Amidst the Chaos," when came out during April returns Bareilles to her "day job" -- and, she says, all the better for the experiences that came in the years before it...

Bareilles says by phone that the political tenor of the times -- the election of President Donald Trump and the Women's March that followed his inauguration in January of 2017 -- spurred her to begin writing her own music again, starting with the album's first single, "Armor." "I think I had a really difficult time in the last couple of years in my own personal awakening of sorts, politically, There's a lot to be discussed, I think, in an artistic format. So I found I was turning to my old songwriting tool kit to kind of just process and put these feelings into context."

But Bareilles hesitates to call the 12-track "Amidst the Chaos" a political album. "First of all, it's really not my style to be incendiary. My perspective is really about a return to love as the deep, motivating force of humanity. I really, truly believe in that, so I want to write songs from the perspective. I've always been fascinated with the emotional architecture of being a human being; It's so complicated and it's so unwieldy in certain ways, but I think that's what's happening now on this macro level -- this chaos is about pain and people feeling pain and not knowing what to do with it. So some of what I hoped to achieve with this record is give people a place for catharsis and comfort, a soft place to land and get away from it."

On her previous albums Bareilles, the songwriter, was a most solo act, with sporadic co-writers. But after the "deeply collaborative" experience of a Broadway musical, she entered "Amidst the Chaos" more ready to write with others, including hitmakers such as Justin Tranter, Lori McKenna, Aaron Sterling and Emily King. "It was just really about getting humans in a room to make music. I think I had gotten used to this kind of accidental rulebook that starts to occur in pop music where you start really orienting your writing towards what will fit on the radio -- even if you're someone who's trying to not think that way, you can't help but know that in order to have a commercially viable record there have to be certain kind of songs included. I always felt very protective, like the only one who could tell my story was me. Now I know that was naive."

Bareilles credits "Amidst the Chaos" co-producer T Bone Burnett as well as corps of top shelf session players in California -- and "Jesus Christ Superstar" co-star John Legend, who guests on the track "A Safe Place to Land" -- with making "Amidst the Chaos" a sonically comfortable place as well. "It was a cool kind of exploration and also a return to something," she said. "I guess underneath it all I was really hoping to make a classic singer-songwriter record. Then the T Bone Burnett piece of the puzzle fell into place and it all kind of magically came together in terms of wanting to approach this body of work from a really organic perspective, something that was underbaked, to use a 'Waitress' analogy -- which I can't seem to get away from. For me it was just really human and flawed and all about tone and not perfection or any kind of slick production techniques."

Besides the album and accompanying tour, Bareilles has a number of other projects in motion, including new TV show she co-created with JJ Abrams and "Waitress" book writer Jessie Nelson, about a young singer in New York City. "I try to remember that it's a bounty and I'm very blessed with bounty at the moment. There are days where I'm pulling my hair out and in a fetal position 'cause it feels like so much to do. But ultimately I get to make art for a living, so I'm a pretty lucky girl. I'm generally pretty content with my life. I'm a work in progress forever and ever but, really, that's a beautiful positon."

Sarah Bareilles kicks off her Amidst The Chaos Tour at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5 at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Emily King opens. $35 and up. 313-471-6611 or 313Presents.com.

Web Site: www.313Presents.com

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