Her friendship with Folds predates the recently cancelled NBC series The Sing-Off. “We toured a couple of college markets together and then he had a show in L.A. at the Palladium, and he asked me to come sing a song with him he had done as a duet with Regina Spektor,” Bareilles tells Rolling Stone. “So I came out for the show, and we hung out. We’re kindred spirits, I think. He’s an easy person and a musical hero of mine, but also a really funny, intelligent, great dude.”
Despite the friendship, Once Upon Another Time marks the first time the pair have teamed up in any way on record. “I was visiting Nashville, and I went to his studio,” says Bareilles. “As soon as I stepped in the room there, I sort of knew that’s where I wanted to do the EP,” she says. “It dawned on me, ‘Why not just see if Ben would even be interested in producing?’ I called him, and he was excited about it. So it worked out good.”
Barellies feels the EP marks a new direction for her. “I wanted it to sound a little bit different than the rest of my records,” she says. “There’s a rawness, a sonic rawness there that’s a new territory for me.”
While it’s only a small sample of songs, the EP could portend a larger shift for Bareilles: “That’s something I’m interested in exploring more on my next project. For me it’s about nurturing my bravery and how far can I push myself as a writer.”
For her next tracks, she is writing for the first time with others (including Ryan Tedder), and she’s talked with Sia and Greg Kurstin and has plans to write with members of the band Hyper Blend. “I‘ve always been really closed off to the idea of co-writing. Now, for some reason, I’m much more open to it,” she says. She’s also toying with the idea of having multiple producers work on the new album. Though common in the pop world, it’s not something she’s done before.
“I’m antiquated,” she says, laughing.