So about two weeks ago I marked my fifth anniversary of calling New York City “home”; on October 15, 2012 I hosted my first show on 95.5 PLJ.
As I talked about the following April with Sara Bareilles (she moved here in January of 2013), this city accentuates the highs and the lows, and I’ve experienced my fair share of both over the past five years. But there has been one constant: my response to the question, “How do you like living in New York?”
You could not sign on to a social network while in the Tri-State area Wednesday night and avoid the commotion happening inside Radio City Music Hall. Sara Bareilles headlined her first ever show in the iconic venue, and the sold-out audience raved of the singer’s performance.
“It’s incredible,” Bareilles told me after sound-check inside the theater on Wednesday. “It’s one of the top five things that I’ve ever wanted to do in my whole life so I’ve been pinching myself all day.”
The Manhattan resident headed to the music hall the way most New Yorkers would: via subway. Upon arrival, Bareilles sent a stream of tweets and Instagram photos exhibiting her feelings of anxiousness and excitement.
“I’ve seen so many shows here,” Bareilles said. “(I’ve) just been dreaming about, ‘Could I ever be on stage?’ So it’s a really, really special day.”
The fact that the “Love Song” artist now resides in the concrete jungle only heightened her sense of the moment. She moved from California in January after completely starting over, leaving her band and boyfriend while pursuing the project that would be known as The Blessed Unrest.
“It feels amazing,” described Bareilles. “I didn’t see this coming, you know? I didn’t realize that this record was going to allow me the opportunity to play in a room like this so it’s really special.”
While the “Brave” singer did not know during the day if any friends that the public knows of would be in attendance, she did note that a number of family members made the trip from the west coast. A few celebrities did pop up in the crowd Wednesday evening, including “Today” host Hoda Kotb.
Sinatra sang that you could make a “brand new start of it” in New York, so maybe it shouldn’t come as a total surprise that Sara Bareilles is doing just that in the Big Apple. From a new home to a new band to new music, it seems the “Love Song” singer has completely shaken up her life.
Actually, correction: she currently is without a band. Bareilles is trekking across the country solo with the “Brave Enough” tour, the first time she has ever performed a stretch of dates alone on stage.
“I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve played a show by myself,” Bareilles told “The Ralphie Show” during an in-studio visit. “And I think I hide behind (the band) in a lot of ways, so it’s very raw.”
The California-born songstress admitted she’s worried.
“I don’t really know how to prepare for this, but there’s a part of that that’s actually really exciting to me,” she elaborated. “It’s gonna be a communion with the audience.”
Bareilles is flying solo again in more than one way. She says that she “recently out of a long relationship” and separated from her band mates, permanently. Her former band includes now ex-boyfriend Javier Dunn.
“All of these splits were really amicable and really loving but just feeling like I needed to move in to some new directions,” she explained. “It’s been a really introspective year from me. A lot of heart break, and heart ache but I feel a lot of expansion.”
This is ironic, because she surely doesn’t have the square footage in lower Manhattan that she had back in California. Even if she does, Bareilles noted that everyone is “on top of each other” in New York. She doesn’t seem to mind.
“There’s something about the energy here,” the singer observed. “I’ve just been super-inspired by literally just walking the streets and seeing graffiti and then hearing music pour out of the windows.”
Bareilles fell in love with the city last fall while working on her forthcoming LP, The Blessed Unrest, due out this July. It spawned the appropriately-titled first single, “Brave,” which Sara worked on with fun.’s Jack Antonoff. She eventually moved to Manhattan in January, and the drastic climate change was a bit of a culture shock to her.
“I don’t know if you guys are aware, but it’s quite cold here in January,” she joked. “There were some brutal days. I’m used to 70 degrees and sunny all the time. So when I’m crying (while) walking down the street carrying my laundry, I’m like, ‘What am I doing here?’”
Yes, I followed up on this, and Bareilles does in fact carry her laundry to and from her apartment. She drops it off at a wash-and-fold, but still, her modesty and girl-next-door persona have not vanished through all of this change. Nor has her sailor’s mouth.
“I even tweeted, ‘The subway’s my b-tch!’” recalled Bareilles, shortly before she would go on to miss her stop and end up lost. “I have no idea where I was about to end up.”
She could probably say the same for other aspects of her life. And like she’s doing with her music, and her personal life, she figured it out, and moved on.
“Love Song” and “King of Anything” are Sara Bareilles’s two biggest hits to date, and coincidentally both songs are cut from a similar cloth. The singer was frustrated with the record label and music industry’s lack of acceptance with her material, and addressed the situation musically.
Consequently, Bareilles has set a bit of a precedent for herself with Epic Records.
“(The label) knows if they want to get me going, they just have to be an asshole,” she joked in a sit down interview on “The Ralphie Radio Show.” “I definitely am someone who channels my frustration through music. It’s better than going postal on people.”
On the outset – she seems far from the “postal” type – conservatively dressed and made –up, great voice, solid skills on the ivories. But then you listen to Bareilles’ lyrics and her speech – she’s a self-proclaimed potty mouth – and you soon realize that the artist is little more unapologetic and a lot more outspoken than the average VH1 artist.
This makes for an interesting dynamic on tour right now, as she is supporting the more conservative, soft spoken country group Sugarland.
“I definitely have already curbed my bad habit, but its part of my personality and I’m not going to apologize for it,” said Bareilles – confirming that unapologetic attribute I spoke of a minute ago. “I’ll just have to give moms the signal like, ‘Ok, earmuffs!’”
It’s stories and quotes like the aforementioned that make it a lot easier to understand another one of Sara Bareilles’ recent decisions to not only tour, but volunteer in Japan. The Southern California native teamed up with All Hands Volunteers to literally dig ditches in the tragedy-stricken country at a time when other musicians were cancelling dates overseas.
“People were nervous about (the trip), myself included,” she admitted. “What I realized in hindsight, especially in the States, the nuclear power plant news has overshadowed everything else so much. So everyone is so fearful of the radiation. It’s a skewed idea of what’s happening over there.”
Bareilles saw first-hand that many parts of Japan were not affected by the power plant and others simply need volunteers to assist in the rebuilding process. The singer’s advice was rather simple: donate, volunteer, or simply continue to do business with the country – whether it is an artist honoring tour dates or a vacation not cancelled.
Perhaps in standing up for the island, Bareilles set another example for herself and other American artists. Surely her record label doesn’t mind this precedent either.
97 BHT presented an intimate, acoustic performance by Epic Records artist Sara Bareilles inside Bentley’s, Route 309 in Ashley, PA on Saturday. Check out some of the clips below as she plays “Love Song,” “King of Anything,” and more!