By Pollo Del Mar
From the beginning, gays have loved Natasha Bedingfield. It seemed inevitable, says the 29-year-old singer best known to Aussies for her 2004 Top 5 hit “These Words,” since her first solo performance ever was at London’s legendary nightclub G.A.Y.
It’s been almost a decade since Bedingfield’s debut “Single,” about not needing a traditional relationship for validation, struck a cord with LGBT fans. Since, global hits like Top 30 Australian smash “Unwritten” and the 2007 track “I Wanna Have Your Babies” have only strengthened that connection. As a result, the chanteuse’s “favorite places to perform” are for gay and lesbian audiences.
Now Bedingfield is preparing for the international release of “Pocket Full of Sunshine” – “about being free, finding safety and being yourself,” she says. A Top 5 hit in North America three years ago, the song introduces the global audiences to the singer’s latest album, Strip Me Away. The album hits retail next week throughout Europe.
Sitting with Guidetogay.com celebrity correspondent Pollo Del Mar, Bedingfield discusses working with chart-topping rock act OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, the new album and pouring her heart into song. She also shares about not only LGBT fans, but rumors that she was a lesbian herself!
Strip Me Away is finally available in Europe and abroad. Your music seems to get released at different times around the world.
It’s a challenge when your music is worldwide. How do you spend enough time in each territory to introduce your music properly? I’ve always released my albums simultaneously, but they come out at different times in different countries. That’s how my label has chosen to do it. I think it works because then I can actually spend proper time in each country.
You collaborate with Ryan Tedder of chart-topping group OneRepublic. What was that like?
I met Ryan about four years ago, when I was in the studio working on my second album (2007’s N.B.). He was only known as a songwriter back then. His band OneRepublic was just about to release their first single. We really connected! I always thought I’d want to write with him. He actually wrote “Love Like This,” one of the songs I released off my last album. I always thought I’d like to sit with him and write a song together. We wrote two songs. We actually wrote “Strip Me” together. It’s all about your power as an individual, the power of your voice, and how you can’t let anyone squash that or restrict who you are. It’s really an empowering song. It relates to me and many people. It’s like we are who we are. It’s like when people get bullied for stuff. Well, others can do what they want, but they can’t take away our individuality and who each person is.
That kind of voice, especially as relates to “bullying,” must speak to your extensive gay and lesbian following.
Absolutely! Again, I think we have to be free, really, truly free, and not just talking about it, not squashing people, not bullying. You know, I sang at an event for Perez Hilton, and it was really interesting. He’s known for the way he writes about people. He’s known for his biting remarks, his humoristic accounts of people. It was interesting to talk to him and hear how he’s had a change of heart, how some of that has made him realize he doesn’t want to be a bully. It really touched my heart. We’re all growing all the time. We’re all becoming more enlightened, I think. Well, some people are becoming more enlightened. Some are becoming worse.
As gay individuals, we often internalize the behaviors which hurt us so much – then turn those back on others.
Yeah, it can be a defense mechanism from a lot of pain, can’t it? Totally. Again, I think it’s interesting how he went from being in a position to pay it forward to a position where he’s asking, “Well, what do I want to be for the next few years of my life? Do I want to be someone who’s helpful and have that kind of legacy?”
He’s changing! How have you evolved from your Unwritten to Strip Me Away?
I feel I know myself a lot more. I’m formed a wider world view, after meeting so many people and experiencing so much. I feel this album is more about us as humans and what we go through, stuff we share, the same desires and frustrations, hunger. Early in my career, I feel I was much more introspective, but now I’m much more comfortable with who I am, less apologizing for who I am. I think that’s what happens when you get into your late-20s. You get comfortable with who you are and stop apologizing for it. Musically, I think it’s a much better album than my other albums. I can see myself growing musically all the time. I’ve learned so much from performing live. I’ve really put a lot of that into this album.
Your lyrics tend to go beyond typical pop music fluff. Is it ever uncomfortable to pour your heart out in song?
It can be, when you start talking about it, but I’ve found the best songs are the ones which are really honest, putting your heart out there. That’s where I tend to be in my life and want my music. I was really quite shy growing up, so it is a choice, to be like, “Look, this is what I’m going through.” More often than not, when I really pour my heart out and say something really vulnerable, that’s the song everyone relates to. My song “Wild Horses,” my song “Soulmate.” There’s a song on this album called “Recover,” which is about recovering from grief. It’s about recovering from the hard things, the devastation of things which happen, and it’s happened in my life but, in general, in the world. Yes, it’s my song, but it’s the world’s too – it’s something people can really connect to.
What is going on with your brother Daniel? We’re looking forward to new music from him too!
Totally! He’s writing at the moment, getting ready to release a whole bunch of new music too. He’s in England right now, working with some producers there, and they’re getting ready to bring a whole bunch of cool new stuff out!
You’re recently married. How has that changed you as an artist?
I’ve always been single. For quite a few years, I was single, and there were a lot of rumors actually, that I was a lesbian, because they didn’t see me with any guys. I’ve been very independent. I’ve always felt you don’t need another half to make you whole. He just stole my heart, you know? It was someone worth giving up my independence for and gave me a reason to come home. I work so hard. I’ve been on the road, promoting my music, getting it out there, traveling, but I didn’t know how to pace myself. I felt having found Matt was perfect timing. Now I have a reason to stop some times, to have fun, to feel love! I feel protected and loved. For a while, there was a point in my life when I didn’t even want to love someone. I wanted to feel self-sufficient. I didn’t want there to be anyone I would ‘need.’ Do you know what I mean?
I got dumped not that long ago. It makes perfect sense!
That’s what my song “Soulmate” from my last album was about. It was more of a question, actually. “Is there a soulmate?” I had all this talk about being independent, so it was like I was leery of it. It was kind of uncanny. It’s someone you can just sit in the same room with, without having to talk to. He’s just on-hand, without having to explain everything to.
As a celebrity, what is it like to have people speculate about your sexuality? Do lesbian rumors have a negative impact?
Hmm… I think you kind of just have to have fun with it, really. When you’re in entertainment, the way the world is now, you’re part of a big soap opera. (Laughs.) Your life is just…there. It’s kind of flattering, really, because you sort of belong to people. People feel a bit of ownership. Your life is part of the big story. I always took that stuff with a pinch of salt. If I’m seen talking with someone, suddenly I’m dating them. For example, Louis Hamilton, the famous Formula 1 racer. There’s a picture where I nearly fell down because the paparazzi’s camera shots were so blinding, I couldn’t see, so he grabbed my hand and helped me out of the car. So there’s a picture of him holding my hand, and we were “dating.” It’s the same with rumors about sexual orientation. Who really cares what the rumors are? Everything is just people’s observations, people being interested in you – and relating, I think.
It could always be worse. One day you could forget your panties and, as you’re getting out of the car, paparazzi could snap a photo of your vagina. It’s happened to others!
I know, exactly! Just make sure you’re wearing the right kind of underpants or you’ve had a wax recently. These days, you have to be careful!
(Both are laughing.)