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Empathy Helped Sara Bareilles Write Songs for Waitress and Relate to LGBT Fans

Empathy Helped Sara Bareilles Write Songs for Waitress and Relate to LGBT Fans


The singer-songwriter and ally talks to The Advocate about writing songs for Broadway and how she loves the support from her big, queer fanbase.


Despite a knack for selling millions of singles and garnering multiple Grammy nominations, singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles still stays true to her humble roots as a fan of musical theater, and that has never been more evident than in her latest release What's Inside: Songs from Waitress.

The project, a compilation of all the songs she wrote for next year's highly-anticipated Broadway adaptation of the Adrienne Shelly film Waitress, is (despite it being written in the voice of multiple characters) one of her most personal records to date. It's a feat that Bareilles chalks up to her ability to feel compassion for others and her strong desire to relate her music to her fans -- a large portion of whom are LGBT.

"I feel very empathetic towards the human condition in a lot of forms, which is why I think I'm someone who carries a lot of melancholy with me in my life, but it's also why I want to write about it," Bareilles says about channeling other people's emotions to write songs that are special to her. "I'm really grateful for that. It wasn't so much about research, it was just about kind of a meditation in finding myself inside of these stories and trying to speak from that place."

Bareilles has been using this unique sense of empathy throughout most of her professional career, especially to relate to her queer fanbase. In 2013 she released "Brave," an empowering song that is considered by many to be a pro-gay anthem for its lyrics about courage and self-love. The next year, she released a music video for the love song "I Choose You," which featured Bareilles helping a lesbian couple get engaged.

"It's an incredible gift," she says of the support of her music from LGBT people. "It's something that has been a part of my professional livelihood since the very beginning. I grew up in a community where all of my mom's friends were always gay, so all of my closest friends growing up were that way."

sara-bareilles-photo-credit-shervin-lainez-1(Photo: Shervin Lainez)

"The very first time my music was ever featured in a film, it was two separate movies, both with lesbian heroes," she recalls. "It's a community that has embraced me from the get-go very wholeheartedly, and that's something that I absolutely cherish, and want to honor. To have 'Brave' come out and have it be a sort of love letter to that community and to my friends in that community, that feels like a real special experience to be a part of."

And now, with Bareilles starting to break ground as a Broadway composer, her LGBT support is only going to keep getting bigger and bigger.

After being approached by Waitress's Broadway director, Diane Paulus, to write the music and lyrics for the production, Bareilles admits that one of the best parts about writing songs for a musical was how viewers and fans were going to receive them, especially since singles like "She Used to Be Mine" are so personal and eye-opening.

"We have this incredible cast that are bringing to life these characters that each one is sort of flawed and broken and messy and beautiful, and so I sort of love how heartfelt and how intimate our show is," she says. "I hope that the legacy of this show is heart-opening for people. I hope they come and feel like they got to experience an emotional evening."

sara-bareilles-photo-credit-shervin-lainez-2(Photo: Shervin Lainez)

"I think that these songs do what I have kind of dedicated my artistry to doing in the sense that they speak to the human condition from an emotional perspective. I think that every song in the show is talking about a way that people can feel," Bareilles continues. "With a song like 'She Used to Be Mine,' that's something that I feel, even though I was telling someone else's story, it's very resonant for me, and I saw a lot of myself in that song. I think that that's something that I hope that our audience finds amongst all the characters. I think there's something really relatable amongst all of these people, so I hope they come and leave singing the songs."

Watch the music video for "She Used to Be Mine" below. What's Inside: Songs From Waitress is available on iTunes today, and Waitressbeings its Broadway run in April.

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Raffy Ermac

Raffy is a Los Angeles native and magazine enthusiast who loves to write about pop culture, entertainment, fashion, and all things Rihanna.
Raffy is a Los Angeles native and magazine enthusiast who loves to write about pop culture, entertainment, fashion, and all things Rihanna.