'The Sing-Off's' Great Hope: New Judge Sara Bareilles

"She's going to energize the base," says fellow judge Ben Folds.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Sara Bareilles at the Summer 2011 TCA Press Tour.

NBC’s The Sing-Off hasn’t been immune to the recent judge merry-go-round at Fox’s X-Factor. In the end, it lost original judge Nicole Scherzinger to the upstart talent competition. And now in her place sits singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, who the show’s fans met when she performed in last season’s finale.

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“We knew that there was some conversations going on between Nicole and Simon and that camp,” executive producer Joel Gallen tells The Hollywood Reporter. “And so when the time came that she wasn’t coming back, really the path went right to Sara.”

The third season replacement faced reporters at Monday’s Television Critics Association (TCA) Press Tour in Los Angeles alongside her fellow judges Shawn Stockman and Ben Folds.

“I’ve been a fan of the show from the beginning and then got to join up last year in the finale,” Bareilles says. “And I’m such an a cappella nerd and such a fan that it seemed like just a really wonderful way to join up with a killer cast of characters here and get closer to the show, and of course, it’s nice to get people to see who I am in terms of my personality and what I have to offer as a judge.”

So, what exactly does Bareilles have to offer fans as part of the judging panel? Aside from being nominated three times for a Grammy and her three critically acclaimed studio albums, she performed in an a capella group while attending UCLA, which she says helps her to connect with the show’s competitors.

“My a cappella group provided for me this little community of misfits that, you know, I felt like I had found my tribe,” she says. “And what’s interesting about this show is that I keep hearing that story over and over again with the groups. And it’s really — it’s given me a lot to emotionally connect with them about, because I know how much singing with your friends can actually mean to someone in their personal lives.”

So while fans will get to make up their mind on Bareilles when The Sing-Off returns Monday, Sept. 19, the show’s executive producer and her fellow judges seem charmed by her.

“Based on the two first tapings we’ve done so far,” Gallen says. “She’s going to be fantastic.”

Then, co-judge Folds enthusiastically offers his own commendation on the new addition. “She’s going to energize the base,” he exclaims.

Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro