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Sara Bareilles Talks 'The Sing-Off,' Feminism & Her Low Tolerance For 'Nasty' Reality TV Judges

10/19/2011 08:48 am ET | Updated Dec 19, 2011

Sara Bareilles is the best friend we all wish we had. She's full of witty one-liners, sound advice and sisterly wisdom.

In 2007, Bareilles wrote a little "Love Song" that turned into one of the biggest singles of the year -- and became an anthem for clever, sassy women everywhere. Recently, the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter joined singer Ben Folds and Boys II Men artist Shawn Stockman on the judging panel for Season 3 of "The Sing-Off," a NBC a cappella singing competition.

The Huffington Post spoke to Bareilles, 31, about her new judging gig on "The Sing-Off," why it's different than all the other reality singing competitions and how she's "definitely sort of a feminist."

I've been a huge fan of "The Sing-Off" because I feel like it's the smartest reality singing competition on television. What was it like joining Ben and Shawn at the judges' table this season?

I think it was nerve-wracking to a certain extent because I felt out of my element for the most part, but I have to say, everyone was so warm and welcoming. Shawn and Ben are so comfortable in their roles that I just took it from their lead. They made it feel easier than I think I thought it would feel. I watch myself, so I see that I was nervous starting out, but I feel like I've progressed. I had never done television in that capacity before, but it's been a totally fun, kind of silly wild ride.

Would you put the "The Sing-Off" the same category as "The X-Factor" and "American Idol," or do you think it's something different?

For me, it's something different. It is a music competition show, but at the end of the day, I think that what we do is different. I think that what sets it apart is that our show is strictly a cappella. It's really difficult to sing a cappella well, especially in a group. We come from a level of expertise in terms of our technical ability and the way we articulate what we're saying to the contestants, so I hope that's what sets us apart as a show.

I know that when I'm watching as a viewer, I feel like you guys touch on a level of technicality that not a lot of other shows reach. That being said, are you a fan of other singing reality shows?

I am to a certain extent. The reason why I love "The Sing-Off" so much is because it was the first show I got sucked into as a viewer, because they were nice. I don't have a high tolerance for the nasty judging style. It's just not for me. I know a lot of people like it, but it makes me really uncomfortable. I don't think there's ever a reason to tell people to quit music. I think it's irresponsible to say that out loud to people. I don't think it's fair. Ben put it really well when he said, a lot of those shows are about dissonance and conflict and tension, but a cappella and "The Sing-Off" as a whole is about harmony. It's a feel-good show.

I don't know how you can actually work around Ben Folds. He's probably one of my favorite people ever. He's sort of like a idol to me. Is he an idol to you as well?

Absolutely. He became a friend of mine just over a year ago, before the show was even a possibility for me. What I love about Ben is that he is painfully authentic, all of the time, and I mean that in a really good way. It's something that I strive for in my life. He's not a bullshitter. If he's getting bored with something, he's going to mix it up. There aren't any rules for that guy. It's all about having a good time with life, and of course, the music always comes first. He's just so punk-rock, I love it.

I feel like your album, "Kaleidoscope Heart," speaks to so many different women from different ages and backgrounds, and that's what I love about your music.

I need to harness that energy because we are going to take over the world [laughs]. For me, it's always been about being honest and allowing myself to be vulnerable and show all of my ugly parts, the fear, the anxiety and the sadness. I think that gives people the courage to share with each other. I love hearing that women connect to the music. I'm definitely sort of a feminist, and I don't think that being a feminist has anything to do with hating anything. It's about celebrating women and being productive for females. I'm not one for seeing amazing, intelligent women being reduced to sex symbols.

You also just released your video for "Gonna Get Over You," directed by Jonah Hill. Now, I've never seen you dance like that, was there actual choreography?

Yeah, there was! I did two days of rehearsals. Actually, a lot of what we rehearsed got cut from the final video. We just couldn't make it work in the grocery aisles [laughs]. I had an absolute blast making the video. This was Jonah's first music video, and he brought such an amazing energy and unique vision to the set. I think that as I get more experience in this industry, it's all about choosing projects that really feel exciting.

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