Pop songstress Sara Bareilles, who makes her debut as a judge on NBC’s “The Sing-Off” tonight (9/19), admits she felt a little scared about joining the show’s panel in place of Nicole Scherzinger.
“I was nervous about going into unfamiliar territory. I wasn’t really nervous about my contribution, in the sense that I’m such a fan of this genre,” explains the beauty who has sold more than a million records worldwide, including her bouncy No. 1 hit “Love Song.” “I love shows like this. I loved it the last two seasons. But TV was very nerve-wracking to me. It’s a different beast for me. It’s been kind of trial by fire in that regard, but it’s been really great so far. Now I’m at this point I’m like, ‘Well, I hope they like me’ — because I have no idea.”
Bareilles has been having an extraordinary summer, flying back and forth between “Sing-Off” duty and concert dates on her own headling tour as well as touring with Sugarland. (She had just completed her set when the tragic stage collapse that killed six at the Indiana State Fair occurred.)
“This was the year I knew was going to be a workhorse year,” she says. “My biggest struggle is no sleep right now. But I’m really lucky in that sense — my voice will hang on. Funny, it usually hangs on just until that last show of the tour, and then I’l get sick. My body is like my good little team mate. It hangs on until all the obligations are finished, most of the time.”
When she does get a break, Bareilles says, she’s not going anywhere. “Honestly, we travel so much touring that when I get time off, I don’t want to leave my house. I just want to sleep in and make coffee and watch ‘Golden Girls.'”
MEANWHILE: Tonight (9/19), NBC’s “Sing-Off” goes head-to-head against ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” — the Chaz Bono edition — and CBS comedies including the Ashton Kutcher version of “Two and a Half Men.” (Not to mention the Giants Vs. Rams on ESPN.) And if that isn’t challenging enough, next Monday night (9/26), they’ll be joined by Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur-infused “Terra Nova” time-travel action drama on Fox, plus the new season’s “Gossip Girl” on CW.
Can “the little engine that could,” as “Sing-Off” host Nick Lachey calls it, hold its own among its mountainous rivals? “Obviously, it’s a big night on television, and obviously we’re honored to be to be in the mix,” says Lachey. “We feel great about the show we’re making. And I’ve learned a long time ago to let the network people worry about all that other stuff. I think all we can do as a crew, so to speak, is to make the best show we can, and then what comes, comes you know?”
Judge Ben Folds notes that this season’s “Sing-Off” contestants are especially strong. “I think with this season’s groups, what they have in common is they seem to have watched the show and decided that they could find an angle that would be unique for the show and unique for a cappella. So what you’re seeing is a lot of people putting their minds to doing things that are off the beaten path — a lot of innovation.”
AND: With Folds’ alt rock background and history of controversies involving free speech and explicit lyrics, a network television competition show isn’t where anyone would have expected to find him. “It’s not something I ever saw myself doing,” Folds concedes. “But one of the things I’ve found myself doing is a lot of master classes over the past five years. I’ve always played a lot of the universities. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into music education and music education charities — and this is sort of something I can leverage towards all those things. Because, you know, you can’t shake your a– up on stage — not that that’s what I do — but, as a rock musician, you don’t want to think you’re going to be 70 years old and trying to act like you’re 25.”
Folds, who has a quarter century to go before that could happen, has become “The Sing-Off’s” unofficial music professor, adding interesting bits and pieces of information to his critiques along the way. “I think this show is very dignified for me in that I can take what I’ve learned and help out. But I’m still in the middle of my other stuff,” he’s quick to add. Folds, who has a string of concert dates ahead, including symphony orchestra gigs, has announced a reunion of his Ben Folds Five to record a new album in December.