While in LA recently, Natasha Bedingfield stopped by our Beverly Hills studio to tape a Sessions performance and chat with us about her new album, ‘Strip Me.’ Coming the day after she and her band rocked the first full show of the new material at the famed Troubadour, the Sessions taping found her already in fine form as she performed the title track and ‘Weightless,’ along with the hits ‘Pocket Full Of Sunshine’ and, of course, ‘Unwritten.’
After the four-song set, Bedingfield talked about the new album, the best thing about her recent marriage to California businessman Matthew Robinson, why Bruno Mars is amazing and the connection between herself and her audience.
I was reading an interview you did where you talked about the fact that one of the changes in being married is you’ve kind of relaxed a little bit more, and you were just talking about over-stressing and stuff.
I do feel like being married helps me be less stressed. It reminds me what’s important in life. That there are other things that are important besides my music. It’s good. Matt helps me have a lot more fun, and it’s good. There are moments where I get stressed out, and he can just be like, “You’re stressing out, it’s OK”– it’s great. That’s probably the best thing about being married.
At the same time, though, you don’t really want to lose those nerves. You just did this performance here, last night, which, I believe, was the first real performance of ‘Strip Me.’ Now that you’ve played this a couple times, here and last night, how is the record starting to come to life for you?
Oh, I am so excited. Actually, the whole mindset that I had when I was writing this album was “How can I make my live show even better?” I really wrote songs that I wanted to kind of enhance my live show because that’s where it really happens for me. I just love the whole live connection between the audience and the artist. What I love about music and what I like about live performances is that the song changes each time, and there’s a magic that happens when it’s live. And you want the audience to feel like they’re getting something special and unique that no one else is ever going to see. That’s the idea, that’s why live music is fascinating, and it’s why it’s more fun sometimes than a studio album, for me anyway.
As Natasha Bedingfield the fan, what are some of the songs you’ve heard from other people that you’re like, “Wow, that just rocked me”?
I saw Bruno Mars sing recently that song ‘You’re Amazing’ [‘Just the Way You Are’], and also his other songs are fantastic. It’s rare, but he’s someone who’s better live than the recording and definitely took on a new life for me. Alicia Keys is amazing live; her voice hits you in a way that doesn’t even hit you, you know. It even surpasses her record when you watch her live. It comes right in, so passionate, and you can feel that. John Mayer is brilliant live.
What was the first moment for you when you were onstage where you had that moment where you realized that sort of magic of like you were connecting with the audience?
One of the most memorable first-show experiences was actually my first show after my first record was made. It was at G-A-Y in London, just the most amazing club and primarily everyone there was gay, and it was like my first full concert with the whole band, just really like the full deal. My song had just been a hit not for that long; it was No. 1 in the charts, so everyone knew it, but I hadn’t had a chance to play it really like a full gig yet. It was just incredible because every single person was singing the words to ‘Unwritten,’ the words to ‘These Words,’ to ‘Single’ with every fiber of their being, were singing it in the same kind of passion that I sing when I sing. It just hit me and touched my heart so much. I could really feel that connection and how the lyrics meant something to them even different than what I meant, like in a personal way the lyrics meant something. It was just incredible to be touched like that by my audience.
That’s awesome. For every writer what you’re looking for is that connection.
Yeah, that’s what’s addictive about songwriting and about performing, is that connection. That intimate relationship that you have with the listener and how a song takes on a form of its own. Once you write it, the song goes out, flies free and then it becomes other people’s song, and I love that.
As an artist today, you are able to have such direct access. Are there songs in particular of yours that you’ve heard from people that really took on special meanings to them, or different meanings to them that you go back then and you’re like, “Wow, I can actually see that”?
Yeah, ‘Unwritten’ is a really good example. I wrote ‘Unwritten’ for my brother, for his 14th birthday, it was a very personal song. I feel like his life was reminding me about how people make us feel like we have to have it all figured out already. We have to already choose what college we’re going to go to, what subject we’re going to study, and we don’t even know much about life yet. So that was a very personal story about my life, about his life, that kind of thing. It was amazing just to meet people and hear how many different people had their own parts of the song they felt meant something to them. A lot of people played it at their graduation. Other people play it at their weddings, whatever. Every different song has a different story; some of them more sad stories, someone who it was their kid’s favorite song and their kid died. It means something to them when I play that song to them, like ‘Pocket Full of Sunshine,’ it’s something about going through intense hardship and finding a way to get through it and a way to escape. There’s definitely some more powerful stories like that. It’s quite amazing, quite a gravity to realize that the songs mean something so intense for people.
It’s interesting what you just said about “I wonder if I had thought differently,” because you had already written songs for the first album, and they became hits. Did it give you confidence for the second album?
I always keep the person who’s listening to it in mind because I want them to understand the song. My lyrics are always easy to understand. I don’t really like when people sing and you’re like, “What did they just say?” I like to know what the lyrics are to songs, so that’s something I keep in mind, but you can’t become constricted by “How do I please everyone and keep everyone happy?” because that can definitely stop you being true to yourself, so it’s definitely a balance. But my second album I felt like I had a lot of fun with it, I had grown a lot, I had been out on the road and discovered a new side of myself. And some of my songs on the second album they were kind of comedy, there was a kind of fun, tongue-in-cheek thing to it. It was interesting because my last single on the first album was more serious, so I think that there was definitely a disconnect at one point where I released some songs that were not as serious as people thought I was. That’s the thing, is that artists change and grow, and we try to take our audiences with us. I guess that’s why it’s great that we have so many ways to connect with people now. We have Twitter and everything, MySpace, Facebook; it’s fantastic there’s definitely ways to bring people with you and help them know who you are.
I’d imagine it’s the type of thing too, because it’s your name out there, so people feel more of a connection. So I would imagine it’s really nice for you, as well, when you’re able to show a different side. And obviously with this record like we talked about you’re more relaxed, it’s maybe you’re married now, it’s maybe a slightly different mindset.
It’s a deep question. Yeah, I feel like I am more relaxed, I feel like I’m more relaxed, and I’ve accepted my intensity as well. I feel like it’s more about an acceptance of who I am. I’m British, so we apologize all the time, you know: “Sorry, I’m sorry”; it basically means “hello” — sorry. I guess I got to that point, and most people my age feel, like you feel more relaxed about who you are. And a lot of my music is definitely light and dark. There’s definitely the really intense, more moody, kind of like going through something type of song, and there’s the light, sunny, happy side, and I guess you’re seeing both of that in this album.
When did you start writing this album?
I started writing the album about two years ago.
So from two years ago to today, you got married, lots of different things, so…
Yeah, and the main thing I wanted it to feel in the music on this album was a real humanness, just being human. Having desires, needs, that’s why the album is called ‘Strip Me,’ it’s just like, strip it all back, stop trying to be something else or anything like that. I feel like a lot of pop music is a lot of imaging and smoke-and-mirrors, but you don’t always get to see the real person. For me it’s all about being real.