By Jessica Goodman
Updated January 11, 2017 at 01:20 PM EST
Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Sara Bareilles hasn’t debuted an album of original pop music since 2013’s The Blessed Unrest, but her time’s been well-spent, writing the music and lyrics for the acclaimed Broadway musical, Waitress. Now that the show’s cast album is up for Best Musical Theater Album at next month’s Grammys, Bareilles has begun to switch gears and is preparing her next solo album, due out sometime this year, she says, and she’s learned a thing or two from her new theater community.

“The biggest lesson I learned was coming back to the theme of collaboration and finding the right partners to fold into the creative process,” Bareilles tells EW. “Another wonderful gift of working in theater is there are really no rules. Working in pop music, you accidentally fall into patterns of trying to slip into a certain form or format and with theater, it’s just all about the storytelling. I loved the freedom of that and hopefully, I can bring some of that playfulness and freedom into whatever comes out next for me.”

Though she’s still in the writing process, Bareilles says she’s returned to former musical partners and “people that made me feel good in the past,” including songwriter-producer Jack Antonoff. But she’ll also drift into new territory, tackling the current political climate on some tracks. “I think it goes without saying, right now our political climate is informing our own consciousness and it feels like an important time to say something with music.”

She’ll join other artists like Death Cab For Cutie, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s Rachel Bloom, and John Legend, who have included political messages in their music during the last presidential campaign and since the election. “I’m not coming from a place of having things written but it feels like an important time to be really intentional about what comes out and the message that goes out into the world,” Bareilles says. “At this moment in time, it feels like the themes I want to speak about are bigger than me. I call myself an expert on my own emotional architecture and now I feel like I want to speak to a larger sense of being.”