Sara Bareilles on 'Into the Woods' on Broadway: 'I'm so glad that I said yes' What started as a stripped-down production with a limited run became a Grammy award-winning Broadway musical with six Tony nominations. Bareilles plays the Baker's Wife: "I'm so glad that I said yes."

Sara Bareilles thought 'Into the Woods' would last 2 weeks — she ended up on Broadway

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Our guest, Sara Bareilles, is nominated for a Tony for Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Musical for her performance in the Broadway revival of the 1987 Sondheim musical "Into The Woods." She played The Baker's Wife. The revival's cast recording won a Grammy earlier this year. Sara Bareilles spoke with FRESH AIR's Ann Marie Baldonado.

ANN MARIE BALDONADO, BYLINE: As a singer-songwriter, Sara Bareilles has sold millions of records and has had hits like "Love Song" from 2007 and the pop anthem "Brave" from 2013. She's won Grammys and toured the world many times over, but her career continues to take interesting and inspired turns. About 10 years ago, she wrote the songs for "Waitress," a musical adaptation of the independent film. She went on to star as the lead in that show, making her Broadway debut in 2017. In 2021, she starred in her first TV show, the comedy "Girls5eva," about a one-hit wonder pop girl group from the 1990s trying to get it back together for a second chance. Then last year, she starred in an Encores! production of "Into The Woods" as The Baker's Wife. Encores! shows are stripped-down productions that only last a few weeks, but the production was so well-received it went to Broadway and has now received six Tony nominations, including the one for Sara Bareilles. The cast recording won the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album earlier this year.

The musical "Into The Woods" weaves together the stories of different fairy tales - "Cinderella," "Jack And The Beanstalk" and "Little Red Riding Hood," to name a few. Sara Bareilles plays The Baker's Wife, who's trying to reverse the curse put on her marriage by the witch, which is preventing The Baker and his wife from having a baby. The show is about the wishes and choices we make and asks if things are really better when our wishes come true. Let's hear an excerpt of the song from the second half of "Into The Woods." The Baker's Wife, played by Sara Bareilles now supposedly happy with a baby, has a chance meeting and an intimate encounter with the prince. Here she sings about what she's done.


SARA BAREILLES: (As The Baker's Wife, singing) Oh, if life were made of moments, even now and then a bad one - but if life were only moments, then you'd never know you had one. First a witch, then a child, then a prince, then a moment - who could live in the woods? And to get what you wish, only just for a moment - these are dangerous woods. Let the moment go. Don't forget it for a moment, though. Just remembering you've had an and when you're back to or makes the or mean more than it did before. Now I understand. And it's time to leave the woods.

BALDONADO: Sara Bareilles, welcome to FRESH AIR.

BAREILLES: Thank you so much. It's a thrill to be here.

BALDONADO: You have said that maybe all Sondheim but this show in particular is challenging to sing. Can you describe what you mean by that?

BAREILLES: Yes. The freaking intervals are insane. It's like pointillism in vocal performance. It's all over the place. And it's short phrases and really dense lyrics that have a lot of information. So it's - you really have to be on your words. For me, it was trying to find a balance between sort of, like, the pop styling of how I normally sing and something that leans a little more legit and a little more musical theater just to make sure that clarity was really at the forefront. It was really important to me to make sure that, like, every word of this really incredible score was super-crystal clear.

BALDONADO: You mentioned that you were trying to make sure, like, that you're singing in a more musical theater way versus a more - the way you usually sing or a more pop way. Can you talk a little bit more about that difference?

BAREILLES: One of the things - one of the major things would be rhythmically - staying a little more precise about rhythm. I think with pop, you tend to lay back. I'm trying to think of a place to sing in the score that would make sense for this. So (singing) just a moment, one peculiar passing moment.

Like, I might take time with that, but I think for the purposes of musical theater, the urgency of that phrase requires you to be (singing) just a moment, one peculiar passing moment.

Like, I think the more forward-leaning, more rhythmic on your words, I think that actually serves the song better.

BALDONADO: Now, you're a singer-songwriter. How is performing songs that you wrote, your songs as yourself, different from performing songs as a character? Like, how is doing a song during a concert different from doing a song as The Baker's Wife, as far as the acting part of it?

BAREILLES: I think the biggest change is something I learned from doing "Waitress," which was - you know, I wrote all of the music for that show. So going into the show, I think my approach initially had been as the songwriter. And I had to learn, you know, a character is not - doesn't know what the end of the song is yet. A character is in it moment to moment to moment. So every thought is a new idea and coming from somewhere and attached to the thought that had come before. So you have to - it's what I love about acting, actually - is it's a real meditation in staying present, where you are just in this moment right now. And then where did the bloom of the next thought come from, and what does that lead you to? And what are you connecting with on stage that is reminding you of something else you need to say? It's just that you're having to watch someone in real time go from A to B to C.

And as a songwriter, you know, the agreement with the audience is that we all know I wrote it. We all know I know what's coming next. It's been prepared. But as an actor, you have to sort of disappear into the journey and let your character's discoveries be center stage.

BALDONADO: You first performed the role of The Baker's Wife in an Encores! production of "Into The Woods." And just to let listeners know, Encores! is this program in New York. It's more than a stage reading, but it's not a full production. It's more - it's a smaller thing. It's only a couple weeks...


BALDONADO: ...Of productions. And that show was so well-received, it went to Broadway, became a full show and now has been nominated for Tonys. Was it a shock for you that this performance that was supposed to only last a few weeks became this huge Broadway experience for you?

BAREILLES: Yes, 1,000%. I had a whole year planned. I thought I was signing up for two weeks. And then, of course, the experience was just transcendent. And then we got the opportunity to move to Broadway, and I actually really had to soul-search because it was such a sweet moment. I felt like, were we being greedy to want more? - because it wasn't exactly the same cast that moved on. And I was like, you know, we had this perfect little moment. It felt like lightning in a bottle. Are we being greedy by wanting to, you know, extend? But essentially, it's what I love about theater - is that reinvention is a chance to find something new, and the new cast brought new kinds of interpretations and heart to the experience. And I'm so glad that I said yes. And then this Tony nomination is just a marvel.

BALDONADO: Well, do you prepare for something different if it's, you know, a - kind of a two-week thing? Like, do you think that made it less precious or something when you were preparing for it?

BAREILLES: I think what makes it less precious is that you're literally just, like, white-knuckling through the whole thing (laughter). Like, you know, essentially, an Encores! performance is supposed to be - I mean, this is sort of morphed, and we've had internal conversations about this, as well. It's supposed to be that you can show up and you're - have the book and the score in front of you. And it's a, you know, essentially supposed to be like a staged reading. Now, it has changed a lot over the years, and more and more people come in off-book. I did not. I was one of the only ones who still needed my binder desperately because for anyone who has sung Sondheim material, it is very intricate. It was my first Sondheim show. And the show itself is very fast-paced. The scenes are short. There's a lot of repetition. It's, you know, it's a maze. It's this very intricate braiding together of fairy tale characters. And it's - the show itself is sort of this maze that you go into with these characters - "Into The Woods."

And I was lost, y'all. I had no idea what was happening. And then we're getting choreography, and I'm like, I don't know how to hold the bread basket and push this cart. And where does my binder go? Like, I was freaking out. So there was no room for preciousness. It was all about just logistical - putting fires out. So in a way, I think that the short process fed kind of something that got woven into this production, which was just very instinctual performances. We didn't have, you know, set pieces to lean on. It was really just about the nakedness and the sort of sacredness of that - of the material itself. This beautiful book by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim. And speaking about Stephen, this is the first production that had been mounted since his passing, so there was also this other layer of reverence, I think, that went into the making of this show because it was very tender to make something without him.

BALDONADO: Let's hear another song from the 2022 Broadway cast recording of "Into The Woods." This is Brian d'Arcy James as The Baker and Sara Bareilles as The Baker's Wife, singing the song "It Takes Two."


BAREILLES: (As The Baker's Wife, singing) You've changed. You're daring. You're different in the woods. More sure. More sharing. You're getting us through the woods. If you could see you're not that man who started. And much more open-hearted than I knew you to be.

BRIAN D'ARCY JAMES: (As The Baker, singing) It takes two. I thought one was enough. It's not true. It takes two of us. You came through. When the journey was rough, it took you. It took two of us. It takes care. It takes patience and fear and despair to change. Though you swear to change, who can tell if you do? It takes two.

BAREILLES: (As The Baker's Wife, singing) You've changed. You're thriving. There's something about the woods. Not just surviving. You're blossoming in the woods. At home, I'd fear we'd stay the same forever. And then out here, you're passionate, charming, considerate, clever.

JAMES: (As The Baker, singing) It takes one to begin, but then once you've begun, it takes two of you. It's no fun, but what needs to be done you can do when there's two of you. If I dare, it's because I'm becoming aware of us as a pair of us, each accepting a share of what's there.

SARA BAREILLES AND BRIAN D'ARCY JAMES: (As The Baker's Wife and The Baker, singing) We've changed. We're strangers. I'm meeting you in the woods. Who minds what dangers?

BALDONADO: We'll hear more of my interview with Sara Bareilles after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


BALDONADO: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Ann Marie Baldonado, back with singer-songwriter and actor, Sara Bareilles. She's been nominated for Emmys and Tonys and has won Grammys. Her latest Tony nomination is for best performance by a lead actress in a musical for her role in the revival of "Into The Woods." The cast recording of the show won a Grammy. She wrote the songs for and starred in the musical, "Waitress." She also stars in the comedy, "Girls5eva," which will air its third season this year.

Can you describe where you grew up in California?

BAREILLES: Yes. I grew up in a little town called Eureka. It's kind of the biggest city in Humboldt County - so very, very northern California, about five hours north of San Francisco, right on the coast, beautiful redwood forest. We're sort of known for our old growth redwoods and marijuana, if you've heard of that. So we're known for those two crops. And it was an amazing childhood, actually - spent a lot of time outdoors, you know, sang with my sisters. My family was really involved in theater, so I did a lot of participating and watching of community theater. I had - I struggled at school a little bit, and that's a big part of why I started writing. So I started writing songs when I was pretty young, probably about 6 or 7 - didn't share them for a very long time. But I think my interest in being an observer was somewhat born out of feeling a little bit like an outsider. But it is one of the things I love about the artistic community - is that I think everybody relates to that on some level. We're just a bunch of misfits, misfit toys who found each other.

BALDONADO: What were you writing songs about when you were that young?

BAREILLES: The first one I remember was about stars. It was called "Star Sweeper," and I'm pretty sure it was, like, a Disney - I probably just ripped off something from Disney. But, yeah, it was (singing) star sweeper, star sweeper, bring me a star. Star sweeper, star sweeper, now and from far. I will be waiting through all of the years. I will be waiting through gladness and tears.

So I'm not - no copyright infringement intended if that belongs to someone else. But that's the first song I remember "writing," in quotations. And it's like I have a little, you know, piece of paper that I've written that out on. So that's the first song I remember writing. But I wrote a lot about, you know, my crushes at school and just sort of searching for a place to put my thoughts and feelings, and - yeah. They became sort of glorified journal entries, my songs, at that age.

BALDONADO: But you didn't perform them for anyone.

BAREILLES: No. I tried it once in high school. I performed a song called "Water Dancer." And, you know, I was listening to a lot of Tori Amos at the time, and I'm not sure that I even really understood what she was talking about. I was so young and not that sophisticated emotionally. And so I think I wrote a song about a drowning water dancer, and I performed it at my high school, and nobody got it. And I think they applauded politely, but clearly didn't get it, and I was devastated and humiliated. And I didn't play anything for anybody for a lot of years after that.

BALDONADO: I read that you cried the day you got a record contract.


BALDONADO: Why was that? Did you feel conflicted, or was it fear?

BAREILLES: All of it. Yeah. I mean, I'm very fear-based in general. It's something I work on a lot in therapy and with medication. But what I realize now all these many years later is that I think I was always afraid that there was some essential part of myself that would be abandoned or lost if I got discovered, got famous, you know, moved out of the apartment I lived in. You know, there was - any kind of change, I think, represented some fear of abandoning some essential part of myself.

I mean, I remember the first time I came to New York. I had a meeting with my product manager, Scott Greer at the time, at Epic Records, and I had done a photo shoot and we were sitting in his office. And he was showing me these, you know, pages of photographs - these beautiful photographs - and talking about what the layout of the album could be. And instead of any remote sense of joy, I was in sheer panic and overwhelm. I couldn't - I almost couldn't get through the meeting. I was, you know, biting my lip to try not to cry - walked out of - I think at, you know, 555 Madison or whatever the address was at the time in the middle of Midtown, stepped outside the building and sat down on the curb and just cried - just total overwhelm, no fun, no excitement, no joy. I'm way too - grew up way too Catholic for that. I was just - like, just complete guilt. I don't even know what I've done wrong, but I already feel bad for it.

And I - yeah. It's taken a lot of years to learn to enjoy sort of the fruits of my labor and to allow the fact that I get to work in music, to be a really fun, joyful thing that I get to celebrate and share. It's a blessing. I won the lottery, and the only way to squander those winnings is to not know how to enjoy it and to share it, like, generously.

BALDONADO: Well, I want to play one of those early songs. This is your debut single, "Love Song," which came out in 2007.


BAREILLES: (Singing) Head underwater, and they tell me to breathe easy for a while. Breathing gets harder. Even I know that. Made room for me. It's too soon to see if I'm happy in your hands. I'm unusually hard to hold on to. Blank stares at blank pages - no easy way to say this. You mean well, but you make this hard on me. I'm not going to write you a love song 'cause you asked for it, 'cause you need one. You see; I'm not going to write you a love song 'cause you tell me it's make or breaking this. If you're on your way, I'm not going to write you to stay. If all you have is leaving, I'm going to need a better reason to write you a love song today.

GROSS: We're listening to the interview FRESH AIR's Ann Marie Baldonado recorded with Sara Bareilles. Bareilles is nominated for a Tony for best performance by a lead actress in a musical for her role in the revival of "Into The Woods." The cast recording of the show won a Grammy. We'll hear more of the interview after a break. And Kevin Whitehead will review a new album by Arturo O'Farrill. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


BAREILLES: (Singing) You are not what I thought you were. Hello to high and dry. Convince me to please you. Make me think that I need this too. I'm trying...

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Let's get back to our interview with singer-songwriter and actor Sara Bareilles. She's just received a Tony nomination for best performance by a lead actress in a musical for her role in the revival of "Into The Woods." The cast recording of the show won a Grammy. She wrote the songs for and starred in the musical "Waitress." A film of a live production of the musical premieres next month at the Tribeca Film Festival. Bareilles also co-stars in the comedy series "Girls5eva," which will air its third season later this year on Netflix. She spoke with FRESH AIR's Ann Marie Baldonado.

BALDONADO: You were asked to work on songs for a musical adaptation of the independent film "Waitress." How did that project come to you, and did you know you wanted to do it right away?

BAREILLES: I had reached out to my theater agent in New York, Jack Tantleff, about actually pursuing a way to be on stage. So I actually did an audition for "Into The Woods."

BALDONADO: I read that. But you auditioned for Cinderella.

BAREILLES: I auditioned for Cinderella for the production that went up in Central Park. And, spoiler, I did not get that role. I auditioned and realized, boy, I was very green and had no real sense of how to approach that path. And then Jack came to me with "Waitress." I think Diane Paulus, our director, had reached out, and they were looking for a composer. And I had a lunch with Diane. I had not seen the film at the time, and I was really unsure of - this was off my map. Like, I had not ever considered taking on something like this. It felt impossible. So I shared that with her. I was like, this feels impossible, but I'm happy to try. So let's just try, and we'll see how it goes. And to be honest, I think for the first two years of working on this show, I kind of hated it.

BALDONADO: What about it?

BAREILLES: The tedium, the confusion, the swing and a miss, the - you know, kind of the moving target of trying to put the puzzle pieces together of maybe this is a song. Maybe it's not a song. Maybe we move it around. Maybe - it was - it felt so disorienting. But I was - I'm so stubborn and I'm so controlling about art that I think I was a little bit like a dog with a dog toy. And, like, once I had it, I kind of couldn't let go of it, even though I was a little bit miserable for the first two years.

And then I fell madly, deeply, devotionally in love. It is the love of my artistic life. It's changed everything about me, everything about my life, my relationships, my career. "Waitress" is the best thing that ever happened to me. And I'm so grateful that I was that naive and said yes to doing something that I didn't know how to do. And the song "She Used To Be Mine" actually was the very first song that I wrote for the show, and that was a turning point for me with that of realizing that I could kind of find my way in.

BALDONADO: Well, let's hear that song from "Waitress," "She Used To Be Mine." And let's remember that you were nominated for a Tony for best original score for writing the music for this show. We'll hear your version of the song that you released as a record called "What's Inside: Songs From Waitress" - so studio renditions of the songs from the musical.


BAREILLES: (Singing) It's not what I asked for. Sometimes life just slips in through a back door and carves out a person and makes you believe it's all true, and now I've got you. You're not what I asked for. If I'm honest, I know I would give it all back for a chance to start over and rewrite an ending or two for the girl that I knew who'll be reckless just enough to get hurt but who learns how to toughen up when she's bruised and gets used by a man who can't love. And then she'll get stuck and be scared of the life that's inside her, growing stronger each day till it finally reminds her to fight just a little to bring back the fire in her eyes that's been gone but used to be mine, used to be mine.

BALDONADO: That's Sara Bareilles singing "She Used To Be Mine" from the musical "Waitress."

Now, you're very public about being anxious and writing your music from a vulnerable place. Why is it important for you to talk about it?

BAREILLES: Well, I don't - I wasn't really born with a poker face, so I don't kind of shield my emotions very well. And nothing is harder on me than trying to pretend I'm something I'm not. And so my anxiety is a very true part of me. And I will say, for those listening who struggle with anxiety, with the help of meditation, therapy and, quite newly, medication - I take Lexapro, and I started that very fearfully - didn't want to, never wanted to be on medication my whole life, was certain I would never try it, didn't - not interested at all and then really got to, like, the bottom of the well and couldn't find - after the pandemic, I think the magnitude of the grief and the magnitude of the loss and fear and political discord and disappointment in how so many things were handled just on a large scale and then just interpersonally, I couldn't pull up.

And I tried Lexapro for the first time, and it is a game changer. It has been a game changer for me. And, you know, in terms of quality of life and capacity to hold uncomfortable feelings, it's a much better way to walk through the world.

BALDONADO: Was part of your hesitation to start medication - like, were any of your reservations artistic? Like, did you feel like you weren't sure you could access your feelings in the same way when you were writing?

BAREILLES: Yes. I was scared that I would get sort of pulled farther away from myself. You know, my melancholy is a big part of my motivation as a writer, seeing sadness and wanting to translate and articulate it or observing a tenderness in some situation or in a person I see. And I was afraid that being on medication - that something would get subdued or something would get suppressed or some - my feelings would just feel muted or like there was a blanket over them. I had all these ideas about what it would feel like to be on medication without having tried it.

And I think - the thing that I tell people who are questioning whether or not to do it - and some - you know, I got lucky. It was my first try that I actually started to feel better, and that is not the path for a lot of people. And I know it can be a really frustrating and scary time. But, you know, the possibility that you actually could get closer to yourself - and I feel - you know, it was mythology to believe that that sadness was somehow my source material. It's actually - it's a part of it. But when the sadness starts to become the North Star or, like, the organizing principle, that's out of balance. That's not telling the truth. That's actually telling a lie.

BALDONADO: My guest is actor, singer and songwriter Sara Bareilles. She just received a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Musical for her role in the revival of "Into The Woods." She wrote the songs for the musical "Waitress" and starred in the show. A film version of the musical is premiering next month at the Tribeca Film Festival - more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


BALDONADO: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Ann Marie Baldonado, back with singer, songwriter and actress Sara Bareilles. She's nominated for a Tony for Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Musical for her role in the revival of "Into The Woods." She wrote the songs for and starred in the musical "Waitress." She also stars in the sitcom "Girls5eva," which airs its third season this year.

Now, I want to ask you about one of your other projects. You star in the comedy "Girls5eva." Are you still filming the third season, or have you finished?

BAREILLES: We just finished.

BALDONADO: Oh, just finished.

BAREILLES: We just wrapped our third season.

BALDONADO: Congratulations.

BAREILLES: Yeah. Thank you.

BALDONADO: Now, the show is about a group of women who were a girl group from the late '90s, early aughts. They had one hit, and because that hit was sampled, they have this second chance to make it. And now they're in their 40s. Your character, Dawn, is married and has a son. You're the most levelheaded, maybe. And...


BALDONADO: It's a struggle to - for them to deal with their regular lives and try to enter the music business, which is still sexist, and now it's ageist, too. Now, this was your first TV show, first outright comedy. And you're so funny in this. How did you become a part of this show?

BAREILLES: I mean, it sounds like a joke when I say it. It's - like, the impossible thing happened, and Tina Fey called me and was like, do you - can - will you do this show? I mean, Tina had come - they had "Mean Girls" on Broadway at the time, and she came and saw "Waitress" when I was in the role of Jenna. And so she asked me if I would come on board, and it felt like - it was like a dream.

BALDONADO: Let me play a clip from the first season of the show. The group is trying to get a pop songwriter, a hitmaker who's actually played by Stephen Colbert, to write them a pop song for their comeback. The song he writes for them is about being side pieces. And...


BALDONADO: Your character Dawn and Gloria, who's played by Paula Pell, don't want to sing it. You're arguing with the other members of the group, played by Renee Elise Goldsberry and Busy Philipps, who want to do the song because they think it's like the songs that the group did in the '90s. And in this scene, there is a flashback that includes snippets of those earlier songs.


BAREILLES: (As Dawn) I don't know about that song.

BUSY PHILIPPS: (As Summer) What?

PAULA PELL: (As Gloria) Yes. Thank you.

BAREILLES: (As Dawn) Do we really want to call ourselves side pieces for life?

PHILIPPS: (As Summer) Oh, right, because it should be side pieces five life.

PELL: (As Gloria) I mean, my nieces shouldn't aspire to be side pieces. They are built to be farmers.

BAREILLES: (As Dawn) I thought Alf was going to write us a fun song, like our old stuff.

RENEE ELISE GOLDSBERRY: (As Wickie) Are you kidding? That song is exactly like our old stuff.


SARA BAREILLES, RENEE ELISE GOLDSBERRY, PAULA PELL AND BUSY PHILIPPS: (As Girls5eva, singing) 'Cause our eyes are so much bluer when we cry.


BAREILLES, GOLDSBERRY, PELL AND PHILIPPS: (As Girls5eva, singing) If my man does cheat, we'll only get real mad at the other girl. It was her fault only.

PELL: (As Gloria) How have I never noticed this?

BAREILLES: (As Dawn) Do earworms bore holes in your brain? We performed "Dream Girlfriend" last week. There's a whole verse about how we agree that female stand-ups are a drag.

PELL: (As Gloria) Oh, my God. Are we part of the problem? Did we cause Hillary to lose Pennsylvania?

GOLDSBERRY: (As Wickie) Oh, grow up. This is pop music, not Vermont Public Radio.

PHILIPPS: (As Summer) Yeah.

GOLDSBERRY: (As Wickie) We were no wronger than anyone else - Britney, "I'm A Slave 4 You"; Destiny's Child's "Cater 2 U"; Abba, "Dancing Queen" was only 17.

PHILIPPS: (As Summer) Right.

BAREILLES: (As Dawn) I get why we sang this stuff as teenagers, but we have adult earholes now.

GOLDSBERRY: (As Wickie) Don't mess this up for me. I have a lot riding on this group.

BAREILLES: (As Dawn) And I don't? I'm putting off having a second baby for this group.

GOLDSBERRY: (As Wickie) So what do you want - a song that's all, (singing) we are always doctors?

PELL: (As Gloria) You're undermining your point because that sounds freaking amazing.

BALDONADO: That's a scene from the show "Girls5eva." I think what's great about this show is how it pokes fun at the music industry and how it treats women back - both back then and treats them now. Are there any stories or plot points in the show that remind you of things that you went through when you were starting out or things that people said to you?

BAREILLES: Oh, my gosh, yes. I mean, in fact, this is - I've had - you know, this is, again, a heightened version of reality, but I've had meetings with producers that were not so dissimilar to this. I had a meeting with a producer who was trying to pitch me a song. He's like, you're young. You want to just - you want to have fun. What about a song like, (singing) just have fun?

And this is before I'd written "Love Song." This is - I am so deathly serious about my music at this point. Like, not an ounce of me was having fun with any of it, and it was so tone deaf to just even me being in the room. And he loved the idea so much, he actually got up and left the room and went to go make the song in the other room, and I was left sitting there in his, like, little studio living room and just, like, in shock and didn't know what to do with myself.

I mean, I think this sense of, like, women being sort of, like, invisible or side pieces - you know, I think that's real. There were so many times in my career that I was pounding my fists on the table and stomping and trying to be heard and being told almost like my opinion wasn't even - like I wasn't even making noise in the room. And meanwhile, I'm like, these are my songs. These are my songs. No one is going to know better than me. And, you know, I think people probably still come up against that these days.

BALDONADO: You've said that back at the start of your career, you couldn't relate to other pop stars. What is it like - you're kind of playing a pop star in "Girls5eva," you know, with choreography and everything. What is that like?

BAREILLES: You know, what's funny is that I think I'm getting a chance to relive all the reasons I didn't relate - it's about confidence. Like, I didn't have the confidence then, and I almost kind of don't have the confidence now. Like, we had a moment on set this year where we were filming a flashback, and we were just doing - we weren't even filming a flashback. We were taking still photos that were going to go up on a poster of somebody's bedroom. And I got put in all this, you know, like, kind of skimpy, black stage wear. Like, flashy, little black dress that - I was in tears. I didn't - I've had incredible body dysmorphia my whole life, partially from being teased as a kid and being told I was fat and being told I was ugly and all this stuff.

So all that stuff, like, still very much lives in my body and in my mind. And in a way, this show is giving me an opportunity to kind of try to heal a little bit of that in myself where we get to wear ridiculous things. And, yes, I might cry on set sometimes, but honestly, if you knew the four of us, we're always crying, and it's the most delicious, amazing cast of women. We're just - we're very, very, very close friends at this point.

BALDONADO: Well, Sara Bareilles, congratulations on the Tony nomination, and thanks for your time.

BAREILLES: Thank you so much. It's such a lovely interview, and you're just a delight. Thank you. I appreciate it.

GROSS: Sara Bareilles is nominated for a Tony for best performance by a lead actress in a musical for her role in the Broadway revival of "Into The Woods." A film of the live production of her musical "Waitress" premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival next month. She co-stars in the series "Girls5eva." Season 3 premieres on Netflix later this year. Coming up, jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews Arturo O'Farrill's new album "Legacies," about intersections of jazz and Latin Caribbean musics that reach back nearly a century. This is FRESH AIR.


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