Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) In Song, by Sara Bareilles
I must admit that while I occasionally like some of her music that I did not know a great deal about the life of the author. And while this book certainly contains a great deal of information about the author–even if it is rather coy on her current love life–it does not really change my perspective of her. I had always pegged Bareilles as one of those edgy but insecure women whose songs are occasionally enjoyable but who would not be someone I would want to be close to and this book did not disabuse me of that original impression of her. I would not consider myself to be a fan of hers, but I am by no means a hater, and this book more or less confirms this original impression. One can get the sense that the author had a hard time writing about her life and so she chose to make her account an episodic one organized around songs and it is an organization strategy that works. The book even contains a foreword from Ben Folds, who comments on the missed opportunity the two had to tour together in the past.
This memoir is about 200 pages long and is divided into chapters based on emblematic songs of hers that form the theme or unifying conception behind each. First there is a gracious foreword by Ben Folds. After that there is an introduction about how hard it was for the author to write the book. This leads to “Once Upon Another Time,” which discusses the author’s childhood, with her parents’ divorce, her being much younger than her siblings, and her struggles with body image and bullying. “Gravity,” details some early relationship drama while “Love Song” provides a longer and more nuanced story about the pressures that she faced as a young singer-songwriter. “Beautiful Girl” deals again with her troubled body image while “Red” discusses Joni Mitchell’s influence on her music and her time in Italy. “Many The Miles” discusses life on the road as a traveling musician while “Brave” allows the author the chance to get on the stump for various social causes. Finally, the memoir ends with “She Used To Be Mine,” which provides a chance for the author to talk about her efforts in musical theater, after which there is an epilogue and acknowledgements.
How does this book make me feel or what does it make me think about Sara Bareilles. On the one hand, I think the author tries a bit too hard to be hip, when she talks about her efforts in musical theater and some of her misbegotten ideas for songs and musicals. Some aspects of her life are clearly worthy of compassion–she faced bullying as a child and it has clearly done long-term damage when it comes to her self-image, as food and concerns about her weight are included in several of the chapters of this book. It was intriguing to see the way that Bareilles seemed to have a great many crushes but not a lot of relationships, that is a sort of phenomenon that I can well understand in my own personal life and it certainly made her relatable. It is quite likely that a certain amount of her wit and edge are attempts at self-defense through the assertive use of her intellect, but if the author is open to discussing aspects of her life, she remains somewhat coy and unwilling to make this a fully confessional volume. As it is, it allows the reader to know more about her and what makes her tick and expresses some personal analysis of some of her songs as well as her approach to songwriting.