To say that Sara Bareilles is having a busy year would be something of an understatement. So far in 2018, the six-time Grammy nominee has stepped back into the coveted role of Jenna Hunterson in the hit Broadway musical Waitress (for which she created the music and lyrics, earning a Tony nomination in 2016), portrayed Mary Magdalene in NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert,” and picked up another Tony nomination for her work on Spongebob Squarepants. And next weekend, she’s slated to co-host the 72nd Tony Awards with longtime pal Josh Groban.

“I am definitely juggling a lot right now. But it’s all been so exciting – sort of a ‘champagne problem,’ right?”

But Bareilles says she’s never too busy to talk about Waitress, which arrives at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall on 5 June. Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved 2007 film (and brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team), this heartfelt musical centres on a small-town waitress and expert pie maker looking to reimagine her life and escape her loveless marriage.

“This show is so near and dear to my heart.  The experience changed everything for me, in the best possible way. I’ve learned the value of deep, true collaboration. I’ve certainly had some great collaborators throughout my career. But my process as an artist always felt rather insular before. With Waitress, it was all about that creative journey and caring for each other’s ideas. It’s like that great improv game – you have to say ‘yes, and…’ You have to be willing to go down each and every road, pursuing those ideas, knowing that you might have to come right back to where you started at the end of the day.”

Sara counts songs such as ‘She Used to Be Mine‘ and ‘A Soft Place to Land‘ among her favorites, noting that Nashville audiences are in for a treat with Desi Oakley, who plays Jenna in the national tour of Waitress.

Sara says she was surprised by how different it felt to sing the “Waitress” songs as Jenna, as opposed to singing them as herself in a concert setting. “The character’s journey is so different than the artist’s. Every thought is occurring in real time – I mean, Jenna has no idea what’s going to happen next. She is making these discoveries one by one, just as the audience is. So as an actor portraying that character, it’s important to stay present, interpreting the songs from moment to moment.”

“’She Used to Be Mine‘ was the first song I wrote for the project, and it remains such a sacred song to me. It was my introduction into the world of Waitress, and my way of finding the voices of these wonderful characters. But as many times as I’ve heard it, Desi still gives me goosebumps. She has an extraordinary voice, and she’s a great storyteller on stage. Listening to her interpret these songs as a composer is just amazing – I think Nashville is going to love her.”

Of course, Desi is quick to credit Bareilles, along with the story’s universal themes. “One of the things that makes this show special is the fact that it’s so real. This is not some mystical, far-off time or place – Jenna is just the girl next door. Sara’s music is so relatable – it really helps tell the story. And there’s something exciting about having the band on stage with us. It makes the music feel even more natural and fresh. Sara’s music is absolutely genius. But she also understands what it takes to play Jenna, since she’s been there herself. I remember being in the middle of tech rehearsal – there’s this great scene with so much going on, and my apron kept flapping around. All of sudden, Sara hopped up on stage to show me her trick to keeping it tied. It sounds like such a small thing, but it meant the world to me. Those little details, those little moments – that’s where the magic is.”