Amidst the Chaos
The last time Sara Bareilles released a pop album, 2013's swelling and romantic The Blessed Unrest, America was in a different place. "There was a lot we took for granted," she tells Apple Music. "It's like we were dreaming." Then, in the middle of her six-year Broadway adventure working on the blockbuster show Waitress, Donald Trump won the presidency. The event shook Bareilles awake. "The election was a huge catalyst for me wanting to turn back into making a songwriter record," she says. "I wanted to talk about what it's like to be a woman right now in a time when it feels like the world is on fire."
This bold album—which was executive produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett (whom Bareilles calls "an oracle") and written with pop heavyweights Emily King, Justin Tranter, and Lori McKenna—is both a comforting hug and a rallying cry. "I want people to feel like it's all going to be okay, but not to give up," she says. "Definitely, definitely don't give up.”
While you listen, read the inside stories behind a few standout selections.
“No Such Thing" “I love a good breakup song and I like to be nuanced in my songwriting, but make no mistake: All the breakup songs on this record are about Barack Obama. Truly. When I’m like, 'Come back,' it's about the Obamas. Both of them. I miss them both to the ends of the earth, so I wrote songs about it. The first time I heard Barack's voice on a podcast after he was gone, I was on a train in New York and immediately started crying.”
"Miss Simone" “Nina is one of my go-tos. I listened to a lot of the classics while making this record—Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Elton John, Ella Fitzgerald—timeless artists who were never on-trend. On the night my boyfriend and I finally got together—we were friends before—we were actually listening to Nina Simone. There’s a scene in the song about us on a roof, and it’s the story of what happened. We were in an apartment in Boston, on the rooftop, and it was just this beautiful moment—like the seed of a romantic love and you're watching it bloom.”
"A Safe Place to Land” (feat. John Legend) “I wrote this with Lori McKenna during the height of the border crisis, and it almost didn’t make the record. Not because we didn’t love it—it’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. But we wondered if it should be a stand-alone track to drive home the message. Getting to have John as a part of this project made the experience so special.”
"Poetry by Dead Men" This one is about my boyfriend, specifically the time before things really click when you’re sort of waiting for the person to get their shit together. Waiting for them to become who they’re supposed to be. I've always been interested in storytelling, and it’s my tendency to be specific; with this record, I didn’t feel like there was any reason to hold anything back. I don't need to be private about the way I feel about the world, about my relationship. It’s an open-hearted snapshot of where my musicality lives right now.”
"Saint Honesty" “I made a conscious effort not to record a lot of our time in the studio [with Burnett], but I kept a notebook because this motherfucker drops so many pearls of wisdom like all day long. He is an oracle, the deepest of souls. One thing he said that really stuck with me is the idea that soft is loud. It doesn’t have to be hook-y or big and bright. As an artist, it’s hard to turn off the part of your brain that says, 'Is it going to work at radio? Will it be competitive?' But that is not T Bone's frequency. He wants to talk about intensity, tempo, emotion—things that draw you into beautiful music. He wants you to listen to the songs. This is a deep, brooding song on a deep, brooding record, and I had to embrace that. The fact is, what I have to say right now wants this pace.”
“Orpheus” “The album title was taken from a lyric of this song that goes, 'Don't stop trying to find me here/Amidst the chaos.' I guess it’s my way of trying to spread hope. I’ve realized that we have to choose love over and over again, and at the end of the day we have to look back and say, 'I didn't give up today.' That isn’t always easy. The best reaction I’ve gotten is someone who said, 'I just feel like everything is going to be okay.' They found comfort in the sonic landscape of this record, and that's all I want—to remind people that they're not alone, that they're not crazy for feeling crazy, and that we're all here together.”