In the past year alone, singer and songwriter Sara Bareilles moved from Venice Beach to New York and landed a coveted Album-of-the-Year Grammy nomination. In between, we caught up with her backstage just before a secret Artists Den concert at the Orpheum Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.
You relocated to New York last year. How would you describe the difference between being a musician in New York and Los Angeles?
There’s an amazing amount of talent in both cities, but there’s a hunger in New York. New York’s got prickly edges. You have to push hard to stay motivated otherwise you get swallowed up by the city.
What about Venice Beach, any favorite local hangouts?
Abbott Kinney used to be my haunt but it’s gotten super posh and trendy. I love Dogtown Coffee on Main Street. I love M Street Café. Shoops Deli. And I especially love Chez-J, an old Santa Monica bar with peanut shells on the floor. They’ve got a great jukebox.
Last night you returned to Los Angeles to play the Hollywood Bowl with Tegan and Sara and Katy Perry. What was it like to come back to your hometown and play such an iconic venue?
The Hollywood Bowl was the first place I ever saw music when I moved to LA. I saw Faith Hill and Shania Twain. I loved it! There was something so special about sharing last night with an array of other artists as well. It felt really amazing to be among my female colleagues and sisters in the music industry.
What about tonight? What does it mean to you to play in such a historic venue in honor of the importance of place and setting in music?
This concert came up at a really timely moment. This is the final show of the Blessed Unrest tour and I couldn’t be happier that my last show is in LA, in a venue I feel connected to, and on a night that allows me to invite friends and fans who had no idea they were going to get to attend a show. There’s this whole element of surprise infused into a show at a secret venue.
Speaking of surprise, style-wise, is there one key piece you rely on, while you’re onstage, or do you tend to mix things up?
I go through phases. I had a leather jacket that I wore religiously for awhile. I’m wearing a pair of leather boots that I’ve been wearing for quite some time now. I’ve gotten really into menswear lately. I love wearing a pair of wingtips onstage. It feels really sturdy and grounded. I love a buttoned up blouse. I have a women’s tie that I love too. And then, the thing I’m most attached to is a vintage Stetson hat.
Do you think of your Stetson as lucky?
It’s just the way I feel when the hat’s on. I feel like my look is completed. The hat is my signature piece. The hat is my punctuation.
Are you superstitious?
I’m not super-superstitious. If I spill the salt, I spill the salt. I don’t not walk under a ladder. But I believe in intuition and in the otherworldly.
Is there a particular piano that you’re attached to or that you prefer to write songs on?
There is a piano at my dad’s house that I grew up with, and that has incredible sentimental value. It’s an old Stroud piano. Most recently, I have a little upright Yamaha in my house in Venice Beach and in my house in New York. To be honest though, I think I’m still searching for my piano. Pianos have such a personality. I’ve written songs on a little crappy rented piano that was $30 a month and I’m grateful for the music that comes out of it. I believe my piano is still out there, somewhere.
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