Sara Bareilles will be playing a show in Auckland on September 26. Jess McAllen talks to the punchy-piano singer whose Grammy-nominated album The Blessed Unrest is like a series of well-written - and even better sung - diary entries.
It's Sara Bareilles' first time coming to New Zealand and she's asking fans to forgive her for the long wait.
She's been pretty busy since her 2007 international debut.
Last year she broke up with her boyfriend of six years and left her California home to move to New York City.
The result? An album based on what she calls "a really difficult time."
The soaring vocals and straight-up lyrics are classic Bareilles - her ticket to fame, Love Song, was a middle-fingered response to recording executives trying to control her sound: "I'm not going to write you a love song, coz you asked for it, coz you need one."
In one of music's most ironic moments the executives loved it, as did everyone else, and the song topped international charts.
In 2010 she released another studio-recorded album Kaleidoscope Heart that featured the song King of Anything (you'll know it from the jingly Sony Dash ads that bombarded our screens a couple of years ago).
The Blessed Unrest has the same element of don't-hold-back communication seen in her previous records, and Bareilles admits music was part of helping her heal last year.
The other part - also the album's namesake - was words of wisdom from the noted late choreographer Marsha Graham.
"She has a quote about artistry and why there's beauty and a sort of divine nature to what is uncomfortable about our lives - that we're being drawn forward, through the discomfort, to something that's better," Bareilles said.
"So I just wanted to believe this really difficult part in my life was divinely appointed, that I was feeling the pain for a reason, and I wanted to keep walking forward to feel better.
"Luckily I did."
Bareilles is classified as a pop singer but the album avoids banal rom-com images of the broken-hearted girl devouring ice cream in bed.
It tells a brave journey of someone in a bad headspace - the thought process behind completely shaking up your life, starting anew and inspiring hope.
At times the genuine pain Bareilles talks about is clear: "I miss the days my mind would just rest quiet" she sings in Hercules.
One of her favourite songs is love ballad Manhattan, a reflection on leaving her long-term relationship to chase dreams in New York City.
But there are also positively uplifting songs like pop-anthem Brave.
The song gained a boost in media attention when outraged fans criticised Katy Perry for ripping off the song in her hit Roar where the piano and chorus melodies are strikingly similar to Brave that was released four months previously.
But there was no problem between the two.
"Katy and I have been friends for a really long time," ," Bareilles said.
"We met back in LA when we both sort of came up in the same circles. There's never any bad blood there.
"Some of what got discussed in the media felt like misguided energy. People want to see catfights and I don't really pay attention to that sort of thing. It was like a non-sequitur."
What Bareilles wants to focus on is the empowering response to Brave from the gay community and, on a broader level, anyone feeling insecure or scared about being true to themselves.
"It was written as a love letter to a very close friend of mine who was struggling with coming out as an adult," she said.
She launched the "I Am Brave Enough" campaign, prompting fans to share their own brave stories through downloadable postcards that were posted on Twitter and Instagram.
"I've seen so many people just connect to the message and who want to share so many intimate moments of their lives about wanting to be creative and wanting to see themselves as brave."
Ultimately, The Blessed Unrest offers not only insight into how Bareilles got back on her feet, but a chance to show that people can get back up again, she said.
"I think that as humans what we connect over is sometimes what is painful, and that seeing someone take steps forward and feeling better is a nice reminder that it's available to everybody."
The New Zealand performance comes straight off the back of Bareilles' Little Black Dress tours in America which were full of big stages, sell-out crowds and a glamorous black dress.
"It's getting me excited to be back in a venue where I can see the audience up close and personal, have conversations and really get to know them," she said.
It's the reason she's having the show at an Auckland Cathedral.
"It seems like this is going to be the right spot for us," she said.
"I imagine it will be a beautiful place to hold a show."
Bareilles will only be here two days as she has to whizz off to perform in Tokyo but is hoping to take in as much New Zealand life as possible after hearing rave reviews from her sister.
"The food, the warmth of the people, the landscape and scenery, the shopping - I've heard nothing but amazing things."
What: Sara Bareilles acoustic show
Where: The Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland
When: 26 September
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