Why I Love Sara Bareilles

So much that I had to give her up for a year


Sara Bareilles is my soul mate. It’s not romantic, nor is it just a girl crush. It is more like a feeling that we could be friends or relatives. I relate profoundly to her lyrics and the things she says in interviews, and there are similarities in our vocal range and skills. I play the piano but have not yet mastered the guitar and ukulele. And yes, I even look like her. A lot.

I also am jealous and envious of her, so much so, that I had to give up my soul mate cold turkey for one year.

So here’s my story.

I am an old soul and a committed enthusiast for jazz and blues that dates back to the thirties. Louis Armstrong’s trumpet and signature timbre, along with his picturesque lyrics made music a sanctuary in tough times like the Great Depression. And in the fifties and sixties, Sam Cooke’s soulful runs sang about change, along with Etta James’ bluesy, jazzy style to affirm this. Today’s music is slipping in its ability to move people in an emotional, intellectual way like that.

That’s where Sara comes to the rescue. Her melodies are an impeccable balance of tasteful decisions, and her lyrics, timing, instruments chosen, length of a note, and number of choruses sung with a little bit of soul peppered into them, are perfection. Her biggest stylistic influences are Sam Cooke and Etta James. Score. I am not sure that I know very many people who have heard of these artists or would even be open to exploring them. It is one of those situations where I feel I was born in the wrong era, and she makes me feel a little less alone.

In addition to her angelic talent, she loves my favorite band ever, the Dave Matthews Band. She also likes The Flaming Lips, Elton John, Coldplay, Fiona Apple, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Ray Charles, Death Cab for Cutie, and her love for Bob Marley blows my mind. I still cannot believe she likes reggae too. In an interview with twitter fans on Vevo, she said that if she had to pick one artist to collaborate with, she would have to say Chris Martin, who probably completes the other third of me.

And let’s not forget her magical duos with Carole King, Ingrid Michaelson, Adam Levine, OneRepublic, Seth MacFarlane, and other low key, down-to-earth artists like Javier Dunn. Her excellent choices do not end at the bottom of her recently played playlist. She has a way of bringing novelty to classic hits through brilliant covers, and she blows terrible hits out of the water. Better yet, the songs she chooses to cover are always on point, like she is providing us with a perspective into someone else’s thought- provoking ideas. The one song she said she would claim as her own if she could is “Fuck You” by Ceelo Green. Oh, Sara, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

And despite her rad musicality and sufficient class that led her to perform for the president, she transcends musical boundaries for me.

But the comparisons do not end with music. She is also fucking depressed like me. Take a listen to “Love On The Rocks” about a roller coaster romance that dwindles over the ice in her scotch at the bar as she wishes more than anything that the bottle would come alive to speak her mind for her. In a free moment, I will sit alone and play her music on the big speakers in my living room. I’ll pretend I’m her and belt out all the “fuck you’s” in disguise, or sulk in my old recliner chair over the disillusion we both share. Her Grammy-nominated album “The Blessed Unrest” is full of emotional melodies and lyrics that reflect annoyance, heartbreak, bottomless self-esteem, weakness, and darkness as if they were written to accompany my mental and emotional instability.

The most relatable part of her is probably her carefree and laid back personality that never forgets about the little people down here. She is such a hippie and a hipster all at the same time that you cannot help but enjoy the fusions she will surprise you with. Cursing is her most fluent language, vulgarity is integral for getting her point across, and she is not afraid to take a swig on stage. But on paper, she spills out poetic sounds similar to the obnoxious nature of what you might experience in a ten minute conversation with me, and the latter like my poetic rants. And let’s be real; my burning desire to graduate from UCLA with a degree in communications secretly has a little bit to do with the fact that she did exactly that in 2003.

To get even weirder, every time someone says I look just like her, I fall in love with her even more.

However, if you’ve seen the movie Amadeus, you are familiar with a distressing side of such admiration. In essence, Mozart was to Salieri as Sara is to me.

So here’s what happened.

I am a very envious person, and this can be both blessing and a curse. There came a point when I thought she was too good to be true, and so much like me that I became jealous of her abilities and frustrated that I couldn’t be the same. After playing piano for over a decade, I still didn’t feel my skills were up to par and my vocal abilities were a joke. She was basically a much more successful version of myself, and the comparison destroyed me like Salieri’s struggle with never living up to Mozart’s greatness.

So I took Sara and her music out of my life for a year.

When my iTunes library was on shuffle, I would run to press the next button when I heard one of her songs begin to play. My top 25 play list went from 14 Sara songs to songs by Dave Matthews, Leanne La Havas, and John Mayer. No more Sara interview searches on YouTube, or people covering her songs. I would bang on the piano for hours to come up with a jazzy pop riff, but would give up when my annoyance took over. I was so jealous of her. Everything about her would piss me off and made me hate myself.

How could a role model to females of all ages and advocate of staying true to oneself cause so much deep-seated indignation? I guess that brings out the obsessive creep in me. Still, I can’t help to feel grateful for allowing me a little personal evaluation from this.

But then there came a point when I became comfortable with seeing Sara more as a role model, like the way she sees Etta James or Billy Joel. She became more of a musical influence instead of my kindred spirit. I didn’t have to be her, just like she was not a replica of her favorite artists.

I have managed to make peace with my connection with Sara.

I can be hard for some people to read. Maybe it’s my demeanor that scares people off or my pathetic way of thinking that obstructs a true connection from anyone else in my concrete life, but I can’t help but feel comforted knowing there’s another weirdo just like me floating around Mother Earth. Just like Sara, music is an outlet for me, and chimes are more than just sounds. I’m almost certain I can speak for the both of us when I say it’s influential with a lingering spirituality. I am also convinced that Sara and I could best friends forever. She just gets it. She is me!

Now, before all the delusion sends you running to lock your doors and change your privacy settings, let me formally invite you to this eccentric group of admirers with a question my shrewd friend Brenda once asked me: If you looked north and those mountains were giant speakers on your last day, what’s the one song you’d pick to play?

Let me suggest “Sweet As Whole.”

Substance is a publication of the Mt. San Antonio College Journalism Program. The program recently moved its newsroom over to Medium as part of a one-year experiment. Read about it here.