Sara Bareilles has been busy since her Grammy nominated and critically acclaimed album ‘The Blessed Unrest’ was released in 2014. Sara recently published a collection of essays chronicling each of her songs with the story and inspiration behind them, entitled ‘Sounds Like Me’, which she called “a love letter to my fans’, while simultaneously writing the music for a musical production of Waitress, based on the 2007 film. And if that wasn’t enough, she has also recorded an album that features the songs from the musical; ‘What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress’ (produced by Neil Avron), which was released this week. Bareilles has said that the two experiences, the book and the musical, “encouraged me to push my own boundaries… Getting an opportunity to watch yourself do something you never thought you could do is really exciting.”
‘She Used to Be Mine’ is the first single to be released from ‘What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress’. The song opens with the sound of a lone piano and Sara’s deeply vulnerable voice, giving fragility and an air on despondency to the first verses words;
“It’s not simple say, most days I don’t recognise me.”
The song captures not only the character’s state of mind but also the feelings that we all experience; of vulnerability; of losing a part of oneself; of being a skeleton of contradictions; of being not just one thing or another; of being full regret but also hopes and dreams; and ultimately, of being a human being.
“She’s imperfect but she tries/ She is good but she lies/ She is hard on herself/ She is broken but won’t ask for help.”
As the song moves forward into the second verse and chorus, drums and guitar are added, giving song power and pushing it onward. With the added instrumentation, the song becomes angrier, more defiant and determined until the track finally it reaches its crescendo in the chorus with the narrator taking back her power, her fight and her passion.
“Who be reckless just enough/ Who 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.”
And just as quickly as the power and passion take over, the song circles back to just a piano and Sara’s vocals once again. Perhaps reminding us that we can’t always be strong all the time, and like the song, life ebbs and flows and never is just one thing.
It doesn’t matter what Sara puts her hand to, whether that be that an album, a book or a musical, she always brings intense vulnerability and soulfulness to the table, and does it in a very human, a very honest way, without any element of of self-pity whilst at the same time injecting strength and power into her art. The result is intensely honest and relatable piece of music.