Interview: Natasha Bedingfield Talks ‘Roll With Me’ & “Unwritten” Remix
It’s been nine years since Natasha Bedingfield released her last studio album. But she’s back now. And the 37-year-old makes up for lost time with her new LP Roll With Me. Out last month, the collection is executive produced by Linda Perry and features a welcome burst of vibrant sounds as evidenced by songs like the hook-laden “Kick It” and Angel Haze-assisted “Everybody Come Together.” She also revisited one of her defining classics – “Unwritten” – and transformed the timeless bop with a high-octane remix for the new season of MTV’s The Hills. Now there’s a tour on the horizon and (already) plans for new music.
Last week I had the opportunity to catch up with Natasha. We spoke about how the eagerly awaited new album came together and the easy chemistry she found with Linda Perry in the studio. She also opened up about managing to create an album that boasts such a supersized and sunny sound even when delving into deeper and more difficult topics including gun violence. As it turns out, that’s a purposeful choice. The hitmaker had even more to say about her remix for The Hills, touring and (my personal favorite song in her discography) “Wild Horses.” Dive into the interview below to learn more about what she’s been up to.
It’s been nine years since your last album. In that time you dropped a couple standalone tracks but it was pretty quiet on the music front. What really inspired you to get back in the studio and record a full-length project again?
I feel like I’d found the right producer. And we just kind of had a flow going, and we just kept writing. I’d been writing my album for a couple years now, but this body of work just seemed to have a flow. The songs just kind of feel like you could play them all at once. A lot of times when you’re a pop songwriter you just end up writing a collection of songs where I just felt like I really wanted some songs that could enhance the live show. And kind of really reflect how dynamic and how powerful a live performance can be.
That’ll definitely come across on the tour with this body of work. Something else I wanted to ask about, and you already mentioned, is that part of the reason the album is so interesting is that it was executive produced by Linda Perry.
How did you get linked up with her?
I met her about six years ago. Seven years ago. We wrote a song together. A couple of songs. It was just really unique. Like wow, there’s something here. Songwriting is like dating. Your publisher puts you together, and it’s like… wow. Maybe you’re going to write a great song, or maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re going to hope a friend will call you, and you can be like “Ooh, I have to be somewhere.” But there was just this amazing energy. I noticed it back then. And when Linda started a label, and she heard I’d recently left my record company. The major label I had been with my whole career.
She was like “Hey, come and be my first artist on my label.” And then we wrote a whole album together.
And that’s how it happened. That’s such an exciting opportunity, and I love how organically it came together.
Yeah, I love it, too. There’s that same organic kind of feel in the album. It just kind of flows.
I was going to ask about that. Something I really love about the album is that it feels so bright and airy even when you’re dealing with heavier topics. How did you achieve that?
I listen to Motown a lot and how someone like Marvin Gaye will sing about things. And you just think it’s a love song. But then if you listen deeply you’ll find that he’s actually talking about some really serious stuff. I love to have layers on my songs that do really touch on real issues. Because it just has a different feeling. Sometimes a song, you just hear it and go “wow, this is a happy song.” Then you listen deeper, and you go “wow, that was some real hard stuff there.”
It creates a lot of layers in the music. It does make you engage further than it would if it was just a bright song with a bright meaning.
Sometimes too much brightness… Sometimes it’s like sweet upon sweet upon sweet. Then it’s just too sweet. When people try and write pop hit songs. When it comes from a place of pain, a place of needing to choose to be positive and holding on to hope sometimes then it feels more palatable. And gives you goosebumps.
I’m also wondering, do you have a favorite song on the album right now?
I really love the song “Hey Papa.”
I think that’s one like we just talked about that does have an important meaning under the bright sound.
There’s been so many mass shootings this last year or two that it’s kind of become like “which shooting was that.” Become like almost normal, which is terrible. I don’t know… It’s just part of daily life. Even I came to New York yesterday, and as I was driving along the highway we saw a bunch of kids obviously doing a drill. And it’s just like wow. They’re actually doing a drill probably every week with the classmates who… It’s like most of the time the people who are shooting in the schools are their classmates. So it’s such a culture of fear. It feels like we’re not really seeing the root problem. I think maybe because I’m a mum now I care about those kind of things.
I’m like where do I want my kid to go to school. I don’t want him to grow up afraid. So it just makes me… It’s personal. It’s become personal to me.
I agree with that. I have a niece. And once it becomes a reality for someone you know, it becomes so terrifying. To hear it approached in music, and to hear it approached in a way that really does call for change, reform and awareness is really important.
Thank you. I just feel really encouraged that the next generation are a different breed. There’s this determination and this fearlessness actually in the face of all of this. I feel like the next generation is not going to go just quietly and let some of this stuff that’s happening keep happening. And I love that. I feel like my generation, we grew up with a lot of stories about starvation and global warming. But people got a little bit… what’s the word? Used to it.
Yeah. And a bit hopeless about it.
That actually leads to another song I wanted to talk about, which is “Everybody Come Together.” It was the only collaboration on the album. And it’s with Angel Haze who in my opinion is seriously underrated. I was wondering what drew you to working with her?
I met her a couple of years ago and was so impressed by her rap skills. I mean, rap, female rap particularly. Some of the biggest rockstars in the world are female rappers. And she in my opinion is definitely up there with all of them in terms of her skill and her words. Yeah. So I just felt like this song really called for that. It’s about people coming together. You know, there’s so much dividing us. And she was really the perfect person. She’s the only collaboration on this album. And then the song itself, it kind of has… In my opinion it feels like a TLC, All Saints song. Like the ‘90s. I felt like she brought that flavor to it as well.
It also works well thematically having that be the only collab. Just with the title.
What I love and feel about songs is that they are like people. And they will evolve and can change. You know, just because something is recorded it’s not going to be the only version. What I’m excited about is that there’s going to be remixes, and there will be collaborations and different versions of the song as the year goes on. I feel like that song is super special. And I look forward to seeing even the versions that other people are going to do when they cover it. I’d love to see a choir doing that song.
That would be awesome. Maybe something for the tour?
Yeah. I love it. I’m bursting with ideas. You, too!
Yes! Actually speaking of the tour, that starts next month. I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure to create the perfect setlist that balances old and new. Are you looking forward to performing classics again like “These Words” and “Pocketful of Sunshine”?
Yes. I hate going to see an artist when they don’t sing some of the songs I know and love. I went to see Sting once, and he didn’t sing any of his songs that I know him for. And I was so upset. Even though the new stuff was good, it’s just like… It feels good to sing along to an artist. It feels good when you know it.
The nostalgia-factor makes a great show even better.
Exactly. And it makes it feel like church. It makes it feel like there’s a congregational aspect where you can lose yourself in it. Like, c’mon. Coldplay. They’ve got to sing their hits. So, what I’ve been doing… I’ve done one show in England. And I did mix the new and the old. What’s really genius about it is this album was written with the live shows in mind. So they actually go really well with the old material. Sorry, the classic material.
They really nicely complement it. So I’m excited about that. I had felt like there were some holes while I was performing stuff. Because when you write songs for radio, when you have radio hits, you’re not really writing it as an experience. The song is the idea itself but sometimes the song needs kind of things to seqway. So that’s what these new songs really do well.
They create that balance and wave.
Speaking of the setlist, one of my personal favorites from the classics is “Wild Horses.” Any chance that’ll make a comeback this year?
Wow. Thank you so much! I actually ended up singing it at the show that I just did in London. It is actually one of my favorites, too. It’s funny because it was never a single but it was always one of the ones that online you could see that people really love it. One of the comments I had about that song was so many people were inspired to come out to their parents from that song. Or there were a lot of athletes that found it very inspiring.
I guess something about the honesty of it. It was very much a very personal song for me. I just love that other people took it personally as well.
It’s something I always come back to. Whenever I’m talking about you it’s the song I want to talk about. So I love knowing it’s still getting love and that support.
Then I was wondering also… Another track you already revisited this year was “Unwritten.” Did you feel any pressure when you decided to play with what is already basically a perfect song?
No. What I did was… I thought actually to celebrate the success of the song I think it would be great. The Hills gets a revamp; the song should too. It was more just in a spirit of fun. I contacted some DJs. We actually tried a few different versions over it, and the one we went with was the one that just really spoke to me the most.
It was cool that you decided to record new vocals for the remix. Was there a reason for that?
Yeah. A lot of times with remixes they take the old vocals, and they sound weird. Plus I’ve sung the song so many millions of times. So I probably sing it slightly different now.
One last question! Do you think there will be another big gap between projects or are you already thinking about a follow-up for Roll With Me?
I’m in a flow. I mean, I’m in the flow. So I’m probably going to write songs as I go on the road. I’ll be working this album, and I’ll probably be writing the next album as I do it.
That’s great to hear. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.
Thank you so much.