Grammy®-nomianated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles wrote the music for the hit musical Waitress. Broadway in Cincinnati caught up with her in New York in January 2017 to find out more about the show, which will go on national tour later this year.

Broadway in Cincinnati: How did you get involved in this project? Had writing music for the stage been something you’d always wanted to do?

Sara Bareilles: I actually never thought about writing music for a Broadway show. I always imagined myself as a performer. I did a little community theater growing up. So when I imagined myself down the road, I always thought I would be a theater performer, and then my life took a different turn. But when I moved to New York, I reached out to my agent and wanted to suss out if there were opportunities for me in the theater, perhaps as a performer, and then this presented itself and I sort of said yes on a whim.

Broadway in Cincinnati: What was it like to be a part of such an incredible, and all-female, creative team? That doesn’t happen often.

Sara Bareilles: I don’t think we knew that it was groundbreaking at the time, because it wasn’t really a decision to specifically choose women for these roles, which is why I feel so proud that it happened organically. We were just the right people for these positions, and I always really love thinking about the next generation of young women who want to see themselves in jobs as theater directors and composers and writers and choreographers. It’s very gratifying to imagine the impact this might have on someone.

Broadway in Cincinnati: What about the original movie “Waitress” resonated with you and made you want to write the music for this?

Sara Bareilles: When I watched Adrienne Shelly’s film, I came away with such a sense of her humanity, and I loved that it was ‘messy.’ I loved that the world she created was not made of black and white, heroes and villains. There is basically no one in this show who is all one thing or the other, and that feels like an honest reflection of life to me. So it was nice to get to try to carve out a deeper sense of soulful storytelling on the characters’ behalf with music in a way that spoke to that.

Sara Bareilles, New York, 2016

Broadway in Cincinnati: How does writing for the stage differ from what you’ve done as a recording artist?

Sara Bareilles: What I love about writing for the stage is that it’s all about the character and the storytelling. Progressing the story and getting information across, but doing it in a way that is true to the character’s essence. As someone who has been brought up as a pop writer, I think sometimes it’s easy to fall into certain patterns. But for me stepping into the theater was like the gloves are off. There are no rules. You can kind of do anything, so it was very liberating and playful. I so enjoyed getting the puzzle of it. You get a short amount of time to deliver a lot of information or to deepen a relationship. It was all about putting the puzzle pieces together and that was really fun. Really hard, but really fun.

Broadway in Cincinnati: What song was hardest to write?

Sara Bareilles: The hardest song by far was the opening number. I rewrote it 195 times and when we finally got it, I was in tears. We were in this tiny little backstage music director’s room and everyone’s piled in there and I’m like: Is this it? And Diane Paulus, our director, was like, “YES!” And I was like, “Oh my gosh!”

Broadway in Cincinnati: Why do you think people should see this show?

Sara Bareilles: I really think people will enjoy this musical. There’s a lot of humor. There’s a lot of heart. I personally think the music is really good. It’s a small show, and we’re a small team, and we took great care in putting the show together and crafting the right cast and crew and band. It’s a painstaking proces, but it’s done with so much love.