"My A&R man says I have enough for eight" unreleased albums, the singer tells EW. "But I don't know if I believe that."

Barbra Streisand was planning on recording a new album in 2020. And then the pandemic hit.

But she wasn't about to let that rain on her parade. Instead, she pivoted, digging back into her vault for a follow-up to 2012's collection of treasures, Release Me. The result is Release Me 2, a curated assortment of 10 previously unreleased studio tracks that span Streisand's career from 1962 through more recent collaborations with Willie Nelson and Barry Gibb.

"I couldn't do a new album of songs, which I was starting to collect when the quarantine happened," she tells EW. "I can't meet with producers and use the studios and the engineers and all the people I have to work with, musicians and so forth. So that's when we said, 'Well, let's put out Release Me 2.' Because I have a lot of stuff in my vault."

EW spoke with Streisand about choosing the songs for the album, what she's been yearning to release from the vault, and why she has such an affection for Kermit the Frog.

Release Me 2 by Barbra Steisand
Credit: Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was there one song on here that you were either most excited for people to finally get to hear or that you had really regretted at the time not including on the album you recorded it for, and now are thrilled to have a home for it?

BARBRA STREISAND: I love the song "Be Aware." I actually forgot about it until my A&R man brought it to my attention, because that was 1971 I think. As soon as I finish an album it goes out of my brain. Because I'm so tired of listening to every mix, I just don't want to ever hear it again, you know? I was very happy to hear "Be Aware" and thought, "Wow, this is relevant to today." When I sang that song, it was the time of the Vietnam War. But everything's the same. What is the saying? "Nothing changes but the changes." Here we are, again. People are homeless. Kids are hungry.

"You Light Up My Life" was a song that I always loved and did a record of it, but didn't like the orchestration. So it was great to revisit it now. And with my wonderful engineer, add certain things to the track, like conga drums and bring up some marimbas. And it just was wonderful to be able to create a new record in a sense [by] futzing around with the track. Because my vocals are all the same. They're the original vocal. There's nothing changed there. So that was really fun to do during the quarantine. We worked by iPad.

Some of the songs say recorded both in their original year and 2020. Were you just remixing or did you record any new vocals?

No. God, no. These are the original vocals. Number one, I thought they were very good. These are songs that I didn't have to re-sing anything on.

Well, my personal favorite on the album is "Rainbow Connection" because I love The Muppets.

So did my son, because that's why I did the song. It was so long ago. What year was that? He was a little boy. He loved Sesame Street and he loved the Muppets. So I recorded it for him. It's a charming song. My A&R man reminded me of this record because it was so long ago I forgot about it. When I finish a record, it goes out of my brain. I never listen to it again unless I have to revisit something. I do not play my own records and I don't run my own films.

Did you get to work with Jim Henson in the 1970s to record it?

No, I think I just heard his version of it and then sang along with it.

And this time around, did you have to go back to the Henson family or were all the old approvals still good?

Yes, yes we did. We had to go back to the Henson family. It took a while. They have certain requirements.

You have two other great duets on here. One with Willie Nelson and one with Barry Gibb. What do you enjoy about singing with someone else? Does it feel more freeing or less self-conscious in any way?

No, no, no. I'm less self-conscious if I'm alone. But when you're working with another person, you have to consider their point of view of what to do and so forth. It's just fun to share something with another person who's talented. It's half the responsibility of the record, isn't it? Except if I'm the producer, it's the whole record that I think of. What's best for the other person, what's best for me.

You already mentioned "Be Aware" a little bit, but both it and "One Day" have this social activism behind them. How important was it to you to include these pieces and have these songs' messages back out there?

It's very important for me. I'm very involved in what the world is going through, whether it's climate change or women's heart disease, and women who are misdiagnosed because of their sex, and gender equality and so forth. So that's what's important to me. If I can do a song that touches on any one of those things, I'm going to do it, especially ones with wonderful melodies and lyrics.

Since you said that you forget a record, basically, once you're finished with it, was there a song on this that surprised you the most that you had forgotten about?

I always wanted to release "Once You've Been in Love." I've been thinking about that for a long time; [it was] tough to find the right record for it. I guess, "Sweet Forgiveness"... Songs that we ran out of time for and only had time for one take. "Sweet Forgiveness" was so beautiful. A song, a melody written by Walter Afanasieff. And "Be Aware." And I loved "You Light Up My Life." So I was anxious to put those on.

How much vault material do you have in total? Enough for a Release Me 3?

I mean, my A&R man says I have enough for eight, but I don't know if I believe that. It means me having to listen to a lot of stuff, which I am not in the mood for now. I'm releasing this, and worked as hard on the art direction as I did on the record. It took a while to do during this quarantine, when I was really trying to work on my book that I've been lax about.

It's very hard to write about oneself. I bore myself. I've lived this life. I've been there, done that. I like the present and the future rather than looking back. But the quarantine did tell me a lot of things about my life. I don't need that many people in my life. I never really enjoyed going to events, having to dress up and appear anywhere. I shun red carpets and all those things. I'm more of an internal person, live an interior life. It's nice in the privacy of my home and to write about it, I enjoy that, but I'm not good at talking about it I don't think. I started writing my book in 1999. And then I forgot about that. Then I restarted in 2008. But I've kept journals, so that's good. That's kind of a godsend to remind myself of things. And things I thought I forgot, I do remember vividly actually, when you have the quiet and the time, the focus — like the quarantine gave me. But I was always writing politically about what I thought. I tweet a lot about my opinions, which probably annoys some people, and some people like it.

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