It's difficult not to turn on the radio or television these days and hear "Love Song" by Sara Bareilles. It was featured in a rhapsody.com commercial and is at the top of the Billboard charts.
Funny though that "Love Song" isn't actually a love song. It's Bareilles' response to the record label and her own self-doubt. "I was ready to go into the studio and had a group of songs, but I was told by the record label to keep writing and see what happens," she says from her Los Angeles home. "I turned in some new songs, but nobody was that excited about what I was turning in. It made me question my own ability to write a song. I kind of got pissed off at myself for starting to care too much.
"I felt like I was starting to succumb to the pressure of trying to please people and it made me really uncomfortable and it made me really angry. That's why I wrote 'Love Song.' No one has sat me down and said 'We want this type of song from you.'"
The song has propelled her to the top of the charts, shocking her in the process. While she's obviously thrilled by the success, she almost has to give herself a reality check. After all, though the album was only released last year, Bareilles has been working at this for years. She signed to Epic Records three years ago, and was touring for four years before that.
"It's nice to be at a place where we're getting some acknowledgement and getting to reap the benefits of all these years of busting our asses," she says. "I'm quick to make it known that we've been pounding the pavement for a long time. If [people] only become aware of me and my music recently, I can't really fault them for that."
As the 28-year-old prepares to head out on her first headlining tour, Bareilles is working on expanding her live repertoire and adding some cover songs. She's looking forward to not being an opener, though it's a role she'll return to later this summer. She'll be the opening act for the upcoming Maroon 5/Counting Crows tour.
When it comes to "Love Song," Bareilles knows it'll be part of her setlist for a while to come. "It's minorly obnoxious at this point, I think," she says of the song's constant airplay. "It's not a bad problem to have, though. I already know that I won't be able to [get away with not playing it] yet. Maybe someday ..."
Her piano-backed pop-rock style is often compared to artists like Norah Jones, Fiona Apple and Rachael Yamagata. She doesn't mind being lumped together with artists like these, though, feeling she has enough individuality to set her apart and enough respect for those artists to be pleased by the comparison.
While she's still enjoying the success of her major-label debut, she's already giving some thought to the next album and hopes to get plenty of time to write for it. The songs on Little Voice were written a couple of years ago. "The title was about trying to find my own voice," she says. "When I first got in the studio, I started to feel really overwhelmed. I didn't know what my own opinion was and I was feeling really lost. I had a dream about writing a song called 'Little Voice,' which I did. The theme of that really stuck with me in terms of -- I have the answers inside of me, I just had to get to a place where I could hear them and stop trying to look to everyone else to find my opinion. I got comfortable asking people what they thought, which is such a dangerous line to walk."
For now, she'll just enjoy the wave of success she's riding and see where it leads her. "I really don't feel pressure in terms of the next single," she says. "The expectations weren't there for the first album ... that's the nice part of being an unknown artist is that nobody knows anything about you. I have no idea what the next record is gonna sound like. I just want to feel like I love it. If I love it, and nobody likes it, then I had my moment. I had my moment, I enjoyed it and it's OK."
Sara Bareilles will perform at the Neighborhood Theatre on April 29 with Rachael Yamagata and David Ford. Tickets are $15.