“I put myself out there in a different way on this record,” says Sara Bareilles of her new LP, The Blessed Unrest (Epic, $11). Bareilles’ first full-length album in three years documents a rough period for her both publicly — she was onstage just before the 2011 Indiana State Fair stage collapse that claimed seven lives — and privately. “I was using writing as a catharsis,” she says, “just going to a place of healing by purging what was painful.”
Bareilles began with a switch in coasts, moving from Los Angeles to New York, where she spent an extended set of sessions working on the album with co-producer John O’Mahony. “I’ve always had a tendency to put restrictions on recording, but my approach to this record was really exploratory,” Bareilles says. “I didn’t want more of the same. I needed to keep trying the new.”
One area Bareilles explored was co-writing, teaming for the first time with a handful of fellow songsmiths, including Fun’s Jack Antonoff. The album’s first single, “Brave,” is a collaboration with Antonoff, and like much of the disc, it’s a reflection of Bareilles’ growing perspective as a woman and an artist. “There’s probably a maturity to the writing that I didn’t have access to at age 25,” she says. “I’m 33 now and am thinking about different things, and that’s reflected in the music.”
Bareilles — whose last album, 2010’s Kaleidoscope Heart, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts — was aware of the heightened expectations for her latest work but tried not to let the pressure impinge on the recording. “In my experience, it can tarnish the process if you’re too worried about the outcome,” she says. “But I really believe in these songs and the message of the music and would love people who haven’t heard me before to be exposed to it.”
More and more, the public is being exposed to Bareilles. In addition to her run as a judge on NBC’s The Sing-Off, she’s signed a book deal to write a collection of personal essays and is developing several musical projects for the stage.
“I feel like I’m a student still,” she says. “I want to learn about all the different aspects of what this career can look like.”