Natasha Bedingfield knows she has made it in the music industry.
She gets to perform with Big Bird and the rest of the Sesame Street gang on the 4th of July as part of A Capitol Fourth.
“When you get to perform with Sesame Street, you know you have made it,” said the London-raised pop star, who will be joined by Barry Manilow and Aretha Franklin on the PBS special.
Bedingfield took 20 minutes with the Sentinel prior to her Saturday night show at Universal Orlando to answer questions about her next album, life after Michael Jackson and where she gets her soul from.
How crazy and chaotic is your life right now? What are you doing when you are away from the stage?
I am writing my next album; I am in the whole creative time. It’s much different to be on the road, you get to be in one place a little more. I am going from England to L.A. all the time. It has been great to go back to England and spend more time(at home).
Is it nice to get back into that creative mode?
It’s great to create some new material; the writing is what got me into (music) in the first place. It’s what I wanted to do all of my life. When I was 17, I really was able to put thoughts into words and emotions into songs. It’s so much fun. Partying and writing, getting inspiration. It’s nice to talk to people and get what is in their heads. My first couple of albums were more about what was going on inside; I want this new one to be more outward focused.
On your fans? How so?
I want to concentrate more of what is going on in the world, looking at people’s lives. Simple, powerful and soulful. That’s my aim. Hopefully every album gets better. You can never stop improving.
You didn’t experience the dreaded sophomore jinx. How do you top your last album?
We are all our own worst enemy; we all put more pressure on ourselves than we realize. I have always been that way, get that from my mom. I can’t accept doing something half-way. I do want this album to be better than the last. I always think you can grow. When you don’t learn and grow in life, you get old. You get bored. I love the fact I am in a job where I am paid to get inspired and inspire other people.
Do you have a target release date?
I am thinking by the end of the year, the album and the songs should be put together. You can’t really put a date on it; it is more about it being good.
Where are you in that process?
Just writing, no recording yet. It’s all very rough right now. It’s like embryos.
Being from London, does Michael Jackson’s sudden death resonate with you even more?
It’s shocking news. I feel quite sad because I have a really close friend that died a few days ago. So then, she died, Michael died and Farrah Fawcett died on the same day, it’s was really traumatic, especially in my immediate close group of friends. When people die young, it shocks you. We don’t realize how fragile life is. I guess it makes you think more; you can’t be afraid. I feel like, in thinking about my friend, we were blessed with her for a moment, but she has moved on. Now we know what is beautiful; now we know what it is like to feel honored. I was at Elton John’s party. It was wonderful. People were there talking about AIDS and how the Elton John Foundation has helped them. It was amazing. Then you hear whispering going on, people saying, “15 minutes ago, Michael Jackson died.” You are in this amazing, fancy place, and people are talking about AIDS and Michael Jackson dying.
As a female star, what does Fawcett’s death mean to you?
Farrah Fawcett is amazing; she is an icon. I admire her so much for being so public about her battle. I think that takes a lot of courage. We had a chance to say goodbye to her. Whereas with Michael Jackson, it was out of the blue. It was like when (Princess) Diana died.
Little girls looked up to Farrah Fawcett, and many do the same to you. Is that a lot of pressure?
It’s an amazing feeling to think that your concert can be someone’s first ever concert. Or the first CD that they bought. To have people put their trust in you, it is really beautiful. And an honor.
Michael put a stamp on his music; what will you do to change pop music?
I like how Michael’s music superseded everything, even himself. Even in the later years, when there were some dodgy stories going around, when you put on a Michael Jackson track, everyone would dance to it. Because that music captured our hearts. That’s what I want my music to be. I don’t want it to be selfish music. It’s an expression, and I am somehow just a vehicle that taps into what’s going on and it allows it to become theirs. I feel like Unwritten did that, and even Pocketful of Sunshine. I’m not saying on the same level as Michael, but people know those songs more than they know me. I like that. I always set out to be known more for my music than my personality, not for what club I am at or what outfit I am wearing. I think in the years to come, people will get to know me better. It will be a long friendship.
You have tremendous soul in your music, where does that come from?
I think in rough places, somehow flowers grow through the cracks in the cement. I grew up in London; my family didn’t have a lot of money — I didn’t listen to the radio growing up. Everyone has their own struggle, and from that, I tapped into music as the thing that really helped me. I really put my soul into it. I also went to church growing up, so many people come from a background of a church and that is because you learn about the connection between the music and heart, spirit and soul. It can take you out of a sad situation. That’s what Pocketful of Sunshine, the lyric “Take me away to a different place,” music is like prayer; it takes you away, it makes you ok — you are in a safe place.
Do the struggles make the success even sweeter?
When I first got my record deal, it was two years before I threw out my suit. I had left school early and was doing secretarial work so I could keep doing my music. I kept my suit just in case it didn’t work out and I had to go back to working in an office and get a real job. I just remember at one point looking at them and saying, ‘I don’t need these anymore.’ I am a singer and that’s what I am. It’s a nice realization. I do remember, as a kid, that I didn’t dare to dream because I didn’t want to be disappointed. It’s a nice story that somehow I got the things that I secretly dreamed about.
When was the moment that you knew you made it?
I think that getting a Brit Award, our English version of the Grammy. Having an album, that was sweet.
You started a group with your brother, right?
I was told that if you wanted to learn music, the first thing you should do is buy an instrument. For me, it was my voice, so I didn’t have to buy anything. And then get in a band. Me and my brother would just starting making songs and going to contests together. We would sing at jazz clubs. We just made music.
Where are you in five years? What are your goals?
I want to keep writing music; I’d like to release other artists as well. That is something I think a lot about right now. I know so many great musicians. I feel like I have been given a platform and now I can bring some acts with me.
Do you prefer big or small venues for your performances?
I like both. The bigger venues, you feel like you get swept away in a big ocean of people. You get an adrenaline high. When lots of people get together, something very special happens. I don’t like going to those (bigger) gigs unless I am the one on stage, because you feel like you get squashed. Some groups do it really well, like U2, where there is a moment and everyone is one. In England, we love futbol. You get carried away with the crowd; it’s not about you anymore, it’s about the crowd. That’s what the attraction is really. I like the small venues, but not too small. The hardest gig is playing for my granddad, or just to the family, I hate that.
You can’t come to Florida and not get the amusement park question. Any favorites?
I haven’t been to any of them here, but we are going to Universal Studios (on Sunday). One of the greatest perks about being in my job, they let you in ahead of the crowd. We went to a Six Flags once, and they let my entire band to the front of the line for all of the rides. There is a reason for people waiting in lines, if you do one ride right after another, you get really, really sick.