Sara Bareilles on “amazing” experience of finally seeing contestants on audio-only competition ‘Breakthrough’

L-R: Sara Bareilles, Daveed Diggs, Kelly Rowland; Credit: Kwaku Alston

(SPOILER ALERT) As a judge on Breakthroughthe first singing competition developed and launched exclusively as a podcast, Sara Bareilles and fellow judge Kelly Rowland have changed one undiscovered artist’s life by crowning them the winner. But amazingly, they didn’t lay eyes on that artist until after they decided he’d won.

As previously reported, Sara and Kelly led the five competitors — Blaze, Johnna, Mitch, Melanie and Sasha — through various musical challenges before deciding which one of the five would win the competition. But they only heard them and never saw them, until the finale episode, available June 22.

“Our jaws were on the floor when they pulled the curtain back and we actually got to see the contestants for the first time,” Sara tells ABC Audio. “Because I really want to stress that we didn’t see pictures of them. We had no physical interaction.”

“It was amazing. It was crazy,” she laughs. “None of them looked like how I had imagined, and then immediately I was like, ‘Oh, of course.’ I had given red hair to one guy — he [had brown hair]. I was sure this girl was a blond. She was not. It was a lot of fun and super celebratory.”

And the winner is … Mitch, a country singer/songwriter.

“From episode one to our final episode, [he] was like a different artist,” says Sara. “He took our feedback and he integrated it and he just made an extraordinary amount of growth, and I just really feel like he was working so hard to show up.”

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