When setting up in a new city, we all find ways to ease the transition. For singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, the solution was to join an a cappella group.
Soon after moving to L.A. from Eureka, Calif., to attend UCLA, the chart-topping Grammy nominee signed up with Awaken A Capella, a group that mirrored the musical theatre she grew up performing.
“If you listen to my album (Little Voice), you’ll hear that I’m very much in love with vocal harmonies, and that’s part of what drew me to a cappella,” she said. “Singing with such a supportive group really nurtured my confidence … It also enlightened me to the versatility of the voice — to how dynamic a vocal performance can be.”
Bareilles hasn’t undergone formal musical training, though her natural command of vocals shines through her love of a capella and sharply observant lyrics. While Little Voice’s piano-driven tracks are largely dominated by vocals, they also feature details cribbed from studio musicians, from the Maroon 5-esque funk-rock of Morningside to Come Round Soon’s electronic intro.
“Sometimes I wish my training was different, since my skill level would be at a different place, and some of my limitations as a player would be solved,” she said. “(But) since songwriting has not been not dissected for me, it’s completely personality-based. I’m not breaking it down to make a formula, or understand it mathematically.”
Writing and recording Little Voice entailed some measure of creative conflict between Bareilles and producer Eric Rosse. The pair are still friends, and Bareilles said the experience, while difficult at the time, helped her grow as an artist. Compared to her self-produced demo album, Careful Confessions, the tracks on Little Voice are much bigger — in terms of production, delivery and attached price tag. Several are reworked versions of earlier songs.
“When making music, if there’s not anyone pushing back and challenging you — if you don’t fight for your ideas … (and you’re) surrounded by yes men, you end up not doing everything you can,” she said. “In order to better understand your art, you need to find a way to articulate it … and that comes out every part of life — having to be your own advocate.”