Sara Bareilles And Pharrell? Awkward As It Sounds

The idea of Sara Bareilles and Pharrell working on music sounds odd enough – but it’s not nearly as awkward as the actual event.

The piano-playing songstress was exploring a new sound for her sophomore CD when she decided to try and work with the hitmaker for Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, Gwen Stefani and more. When she walked in for her recording session, Pharrell was getting a haircut.

It went downhill from there.

“I’m not a very good collaborator and I didn’t really know how to do it. … I felt really uncomfortable with just the process and so I think that’s why we didn’t really get anything out of it,” Bareilles said.

Though the 30-year-old earned Grammy nods for her breakthrough hit, “Love Song,” Bareilles said she struggled to come up with new material for the follow-up to her platinum-selling 2007 debut, Little Voice.

“I hadn’t really prepared for what would come after that,” she said.

Then she recorded “Uncharted,” a pop tune about messing up – and moving along. Things got easier after that.

Bareilles talked recently about the steps that led to Kaleidoscope Heart, out this week.

Photo: James Hendershot
Lilith Fair, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Md.

The Associated Press: Why is songwriting with others tough for you?

Bareilles: I’m not a great co-writer. I have a lot of respect for people that can do it well, I’m just terrible at it. … I don’t know. I feel like what comes out of it is always something I feel a sense of detachment to and it sort of makes me feel like, I don’t know, unable or unwilling to want to sing it as a part of my normal repertoire.

AP: Those songs you recorded with Pharrell – where will they end up?

Bareilles: I would love to probably re-approach it instead of using what we ended up with. I’d love to do it again now that it’s not such a new experience. I think I have that tendency where my knee-jerk reaction is to sort of clam up and close myself off from doing something I’ve never done before. And it’s totally something I’m trying to let go of. I don’t know why I get so, I don’t know, nervous? I think I was star-struck, honestly.

AP: How did you come up with the first single?

Bareilles: “King of Anything” was sort of a pep talk, it’s actually very similar to the way “Love Song” came about. … It was written at the point where I was just starting to share the music and then people start to give you their feedback on it and you’re like, “Oh, you don’t like that part and you think I should change those words.” (Laughs.) … There’s lots of people that aren’t going to like this record, you know, that don’t like my music anyway and people feel very vocal. Like, people are really brave in what they say to you these days.

AP: Did you always want to be a singer?

Bareilles: I don’t know if I articulated that in my brain as a child, but I think I always felt like that was where I was the most confident and at peace and felt like it was my calling. I think I always thought I would do theater though because I grew up doing musical theater. So I think I always sort of anticipated, like, being on Broadway or something.

AP: Heading to Broadway soon?

Bareilles: Oh god I would love it. … I have mad respect for the performers on Broadway and I would only want to do it if I could do an incredible job. … So I think I would have some homework to do before I could step up on stage.

AP: A lot of contemporary singers have delved into a more electro-pop, dance sound. Are you next?

Bareilles: I feel like it would feel like wearing somebody else’s underwear because it’s really not (laughs) … it doesn’t feel kind of congruent with who I really think I am musically. But you never know. There’s great collaborations out there and I think there would be a way to do it musically where it felt good to me, but it’s not immediately a genre I’ve always loved or wanted to do.

Photo: Doug Seymour
Sara Bareilles

AP: You should do a song with Carlos Santana.

Bareilles: Me and Santana? OK. Can you make that happen? Give him a call.