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Interview: Sara Bareilles

Eureka, CA-bred singer/songwriter/pianist Sara Bareilles--who scored a No. 1 hit earlier this year with her single "Love Song"--is getting used to her newfound proximity to stars.

Although she's toured with Maroon 5 before--she's actually long known members of that group-- Bareilles has never been on the road with Counting Crows.

"I'm just so smitten by them," she said with a giggle about Counting Crows. "I think they're so awesome. It's been really inspiring. They've been very gracious. Maroon is always been that way with us as well. It's been a really cool thing so far."

Bareilles, who hits the stage with the two bands through Aug. 23, is touring in support of her major-label debut, "Little Voice," which the 28-year-old calls a "compilation" of songs she has been writing since she was about 20.

"It's just a whole big bunch of songs, and songs like 'Gravity,' that's the oldest song on the record," Bareilles said. "That one I wrote when I was about 20. 'Between the Lines' is the newest song; I wrote that last year. It's a whole big compilation. It's a "This is Your Life" with songs."

In between shows, Bareilles took the time to talk to SoundSpike about the tour with Maroon 5 and Counting Crows, her new material and her college days with Maroon 5.

You kind of go back a ways with Maroon 5, correct?

Yeah, we go back a little ways. I met them in college at UCLA. We had friends in the same circle, and a couple of them went to UCLA as well. I used to see them performing at apartment parties. Back then they were called Kara's Flowers. I've always kind of looked up to them in a big brotherly way. They're a good resource for me. It's always been fun to watch them grow.

They opened up for one of my friends in Michigan, and he said he knew immediately that they were going to be huge.

I don't know if I knew exactly what would happen, but I was not remotely surprised. As soon as I saw them play, I knew I was a huge fan. I'm not surprised that people fell in love with them just like we did in college.

You go pretty far back with music as well. Was being a successful musician a longtime aspiration of yours?

Um, I think it has to a certain extent. I didn't know how it was going to come to life. It's been the career that I always, even in the back of my head, dreamed about. I don't think I was a very forward thinker [laughs] when I think back. I didn't think much about what the hell I was doing. When I went to school, I studied communications. I didn't know what I was going to do with that, either. I think somewhere in my world I knew it would be music. But I wouldn't be able to look back and put my finger on it.

You must have been pretty thrilled when "Love Song" hit No. 1.

Yeah, yeah, it was very, very cool.

Where were you when you found out that it was No. 1?

We were in London, actually, when I found out. I got a call from my manager. I said, "No way." It's totally, completely unexpected. I'm very grateful. It has become something I could only imagine. I never expected things to go in this direction.

What did you expect?

When the album came out it was doing well. People were buying it and they were supporting it, but it wasn't this massive anything. When they did the Rhapsody commercial, it really raised everybody's exposure to the song and people really started, I guess, liking the song. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn't this.

What is the story behind "Love Song"? I understand it wasn't written necessarily for a person.

It's not written about anyone in particular. It was more of a stick-it-to-'em to my record company--not because they were putting pressure on me but because I was putting pressure on myself. They ended up getting the brunt of my frustration. I was trying to figure out how to work with the label. That was my first time doing any of that. Answering to somebody is not something I was very comfortable with. "Love Song" was my self-empowerment anthem. I was trying to remind myself to write music that I like and say, "Screw it."

And you inadvertently wrote a hit.

I got lucky.

Why did you end up naming your album "Little Voice"?

"Little Voice" is kind of in reference to your inner voice, your conscience. For me, that was the biggest revelation I made in making this record--how much I hated to learn to listen to myself. I am relatively inexperienced in a lot of these things I’m experiencing for the first time. So, it was hard for me to speak up and not feel self-conscious about my lack of experience. I kind of realized that if I don't learn to speak up for myself, someone else is going to do the talking for me. I had to kind of get brave for a little bit.

What do you think it is about your music that touches people?

You know, I would like to think people connect to the honesty that I really try very hard to make sure I maintain in my music. I'm really tough on myself about making sure that I'm really speaking from my heart and not holding anything back. I hope people gravitate toward that.

Have you started writing new material?

I'm kind of always writing. It's a little tougher on tour. As a piano player, they're really tough to lug around. I try to write when I can. When I go home, when I have a break, I always seem to exhale on the piano and let everything out through the piano.

I interviewed Adam Duritz, and he had a pretty good explanation for the tour. He said it was like more bang for the buck with you, Counting Crows and Maroon 5.

I think it's a great bill. I'm a huge fan. It's cool because it's not like you're seeing the same band over and over again. They're very different, but they're very complementary as well. So I think that the fan crossover is pretty strong. People that love Counting Crows most likely love Maroon 5. It's not because they do the same type of music, it's just there's something innate about that. It's a great show. It's super, super fun show to watch.

Have you done any collaborations on stage?

No, we haven't. We kind of kicked around a few ideas, but I thought there would be more time to figure everything out. But everyone's schedules are different. We're showing up at the venues at different times for soundchecks. It ends up being kind of a big mess sometimes. I would hope that we end up working something out by the end of the tour. If not, it's OK. We still had a good time.

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