I didn’t realize how much singer Sara Bareilles features in my daily life. Her songs are on every single one of my playlists no matter what the theme. Her vinyl album The Blessed Unrest is on my wall next to the other great musicians I adore. And the lyrics to her song “Brave” are permanently etched into my brain because it was used in the Hillary Clinton campaign.
She is everywhere in my life and her art can lift me up and help heal me when I am broken.
But it wasn’t just her singing voice that has helped over the years. It was her voice within, the voice that people often hide because it makes them vulnerable. That’s the voice that had the most profound effect on me and I found it in her autobiography Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in a Song.
In her audiobook, she sings the title of each chapter. It’s raw and filled with emotion. It’s a stunning way to introduce the essays she has written about her life. The chapters often start with a song and a letter that she has written to her younger self. And then the chapter proceeds to talk directly to the reader. She is hilarious and sometimes on the brink of tears as she reads aloud. She opens up about the successes and struggles in her life and her words are poetic and inspirational.
From dealing with her parents’ divorce and the impact it had on her childhood, to becoming a household name with her first big hit “Love Song”, she talks about everything that has shaped her life. She speaks to the reader like she is speaking to a friend and it made me feel included in her life’s story.
In one of the many letters that she writes to herself, there was one that was particularly en pointe for me right now.
“Some people have power that is thick and neon-coloured and races around the room making sure everyone pays attention. It’s fascinating but it’s not yours. You are learning how to hold yourself up and believe in the strength of your own conviction. That is not an easy thing to do and you are doing the best you can. Keep going, I am very proud of you, love Sara.”
Just someone else saying how hard it is to become comfortable with yourself makes it easier.
Another stunning revelation in the audiobook of Sounds Like Me left me in a pool of tears. Sara received a letter from a woman after a performance one night. The woman wrote to Sara and told her that she had been struggling with depression and was going to kill herself. But when she was about to commit the act, a song of Sara’s called “Hold My Heart” came on the radio and interrupted her.
Sara invited this woman to read her story out loud in Sounds Like Me and it helped me understand the power of Sara’s art even more. Sara explained that “my fans see things in me that I am not always able to see. Always reminding me in gorgeous little ways that connection is the most important part of all of this. Yet again, another soulful lesson from the road.”
I know this is not the end of Sara’s influence on my life. The lyrics in her song “I Choose You” will no doubt make it into my wedding vows (although the person that I am marrying has yet to be determined). Her song “Gravity” will always bring me into a somber state no matter where I am or what I am doing. And her audiobook Sounds Like Me will remain in my phone library waiting for me to listen to it again and again and again, whenever I need it.
Even though Sara Bareilles has sold millions of albums and copies of her book, those numbers don’t account for how affective her words can be on the human soul. That affect cannot be measured, only felt.
(Side note – this has nothing to do with the book but you should totally listen to “Winter Song” by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. It is quite possibly the most beautiful song you will ever hear. That’s all.)