PREVIOUSLY: (PHOTOS) Sara Bareilles at Home
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Even with the chorus of “Brave” still ringing in our ears, at this point it feels safe to say that Sara Bareilles’ triumphant homecoming has to rank as one of Eureka’s all-time swell days. From the celebration of a local kid done good, to the the post-pandemic reminder that people of all different stripes can get together and be community, to the collective realization that, oh, Halvorsen Park is actually pretty wonderful, the gathering was the kind of experience that thousands of locals will smugly boast about having attended for years to come. The weather was shockingly good, too. More of that, Eureka.
In the midst of the whirlwind, a handful of local media were herded into the Adorni Center with the promise of face time with the day’s guest of honor. Ultimately, about a half an hour before Bareilles would take the stage, your Lost Coast Outpost and the North Coast Journal’s Iridian Casarez were ushered into a finely furnished, snack-filled side room only to be joined moments later by Sara and her entourage. A li’l chat ensued, which you can read below.
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LoCO: So this show is a big deal for your little hometown of Eureka. What was stirring inside you that made you want to do this now?
SB: Well, I have to give credit to Mayor Seaman, who reached out about three years ago now — this was before the pandemic — and her idea was that there would be an invitation to engage with the city council in some way. Maybe I could call into a Zoom meeting or just have some kind of interaction. And then the pandemic hit, and then we all are aware of what happened. Everything slowed to a stop. Then recently, I started working with an organization called Good Tidings. And what they do is they work on spaces for kids — be it athletic spaces, music spaces, education spaces — they make safe spaces for kids to be empowered and become their best selves. So we are working on the Boys and Girls Club, and we’re revealing that tomorrow. So in tandem with that timing, it felt like this is a perfect time. We’re going to do that sort of outreach and then let’s have a concert! Let’s come home and make a show about it. And it’s just an idea that originally was kind of small, that has snowballed into what you see here, which is a massive, massive event. But it’s been the most incredible collaboration — just all the resources that the city has offered, and everyone has been so amenable and excited to sort of dream this up into what it is today.
I just wanted to come home and say thank you. I know it’s been hard. This city struggles. It’s part of what I love about coming home. I keep saying this, [Eureka] is just a stubborn little town, and I love that about it. Part of why I’m a stubborn person and why I’ve done the things I’ve done is because I’m scrappy, because of where I came from. And so I feel like I wanted to say ‘Thank you’ and ‘We’re getting through, guys. We’re not there yet, but let’s keep going and have a community event to just look each other in the face and feel some joy.’
NCJ: About the Boys and Girls Club project: Why do you think it’s important for Humboldt County kids to have access to creative spaces?
SB: I was so lucky to have access to the arts through school at Eureka High and also especially in the theater community here. That’s a huge reason why I became a performer at all is because I love being on stage so much — Shocker! I’m a ham and I like people looking at me and listening to me. It’s such a remote community here and I think sometimes we forget that we also have access to our big imaginations and what is possible. I don’t think small town has to equal small minds. And so I think [this project] is just a great way to remind kids to just dream big. There is so much beauty up here to use and to metabolize and to make art from, and I just think people have a lot to say, and it’s a way to give them a way to say it.
LoCO: This event has been framed as a homecoming. So I was hoping we could just nerd out on Eureka a little bit and just talk about some of your memories of growing up here. Like, where in Eureka did High School Sara hang out?
SB: Downtown a lot. Los Bagels is a local haunt for me. That’s one of the places that I always make sure I go to when I come home. And there’s just something about that Slug Slime. I have jars and jars and jars of it.
LoCO: They’re very much going to appreciate you saying that.
SB: Right? I mean, I wish I could plug all of the wonderful places, but that’s one of them. I tend to think that our downtown district is so special and just has so much to offer. And I love coming home and seeing what little things have changed, what’s new, who’s opened, who’s moved. We were talking about it with the officer that was driving us here: Restaurants move around here a lot. It’s not that they close, it’s that you have to find out where they’ve gone. Like, this is the scrappiness that I love about coming home! And Mazzotti’s — that was a real local haunt for me.
LoCO: Did you see shows at Mazzotti’s?
SB: I played my first hometown show at Mazzotti’s in Arcata. I played the Van Duzer Theater, the Arkley Center. Oh no. I think maybe my first show was actually at the Eureka Theater — the movie theater — which was a bit of a shit show, I’m not going to lie. But it was so fun to figure out how to come home and play. And now this feels like building on that. It’s an evolution.
LoCO: What was the biggest show that you ever saw here in Humboldt growing up?
SB: Probably Manhattan Transfer at the Van Duzer Theater. I think so. I didn’t see a lot of shows here and I didn’t do a lot of the underage clubs and stuff. Then I went to UCLA so I didn’t do a lot of concert going. And I was way more of a theater nerd at that time. So I was seeing a lot of shows at Ferndale Rep.
LoCO: Was Manhattan Transfer good?
SB: They’re the best! I still listen to that record!
NCJ: I have a question about your collaboration with the Humboldt Literacy Project and your demand that they include antiracist and LGBTQ+ books. I just wanted to ask why you felt that was important to include for that collection of books.
SB: Yeah, I think for me, it is essential. This is just trying to make sure that the information is diversified and inclusive and equitable. To me that’s just like a no brainer. This is the information that is out there in the world, and we should trust our readers to be discerning and make choices for themselves. For me it’s not an option to be erasing or limiting what you have access to. I think that’s small minded, which we all know I’m not into. I feel like we can trust people to make choices for themselves, and I think it’s essential. It’s just truth telling as far as I’m concerned.
NCJ: You’ve been working on this concert for such a long time. Now that you’re finally here, how are you feeling?
SB: Overwhelmed. Nervous. Like, my hands are a little bit shaky. I want to enjoy it. I want to feel each moment as it’s happening. Sometimes what you end up with with a lot of preparation — it’s so anticipatory. It’s easy to get lost in the future. It’s like, ‘I’ll be so glad when this is over.’ I don’t want that feeling at all. I want to be in every moment, in every song and just enjoying the fact that I get to sing for my hometown. It’s a very proud moment for me, for my family. I mean, my dad is so excited. My mom is so excited and that makes me so happy.
LoCO: You got sunshine. But other than that, how will you gauge the success of this day?
SB: That’s a really good question. I think if I can have fun, they’ll have fun. I always tell that to people who ask about being on stage. I’m like, if you have fun, they’ll have fun. That’s all you can do. I have an incredible band brought together. They’re some of my favorite people, my best friends. So I’m just going to go make music with my friends and do what I do. It may or may not be for everybody here, but this is what I do and I love doing it. That’s what I can offer.
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So now that it’s all sung and done, how does Bareilles feel about what she was able to offer her hometown? Well, after the event she took to social media to reflect on the day’s happenings. (Watch her full reaction in the clip below.)
“That was so overwhelming and so beautiful and so special to be here,” an emotional Bareilles said. “It was perfect.”
[The interview above was edited slightly for clarity.]