Building relationships through the power of positive songwriting

“I am quite pessimistic—that’s why my music is the opposite,” Natasha Bedingfield says with a laugh. “I need music to help me get through things.” The English singer and songwriter sure makes a convincing optimist. Her latest release, Strip Me, is so chock full of uptempo grooves and sunny lyrical nuggets that it comes on as the musical equivalent of a Deepak Chopra seminar. Since making a splash with her breakthrough single “Unwritten” in 2004, Bedingfield has sold millions of albums while landing Grammy and Brit Award nominations. She took time out from rehearsals for an upcoming world tour to chat about how music helps her to look on the bright side of life.

Describe the new record.

It’s more an outward-focused album, and less navel-gazing than my last stuff. It’s not so much about my own issues as the human struggle that we all go through, the way life pulls you down. It really is hard to have hope in life. There are many things that make me feel disillusioned. I can’t help it. So the only way I can keep going is to have hope and to have faith, because what else do we have?

Is pessimism a British trait?

British people are really self-deprecating, that’s true. (laughs) It’s like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh. “Oh, it’s a really nice day but it’ll probably rain tomorrow.” It’s that idea of, don’t get your hopes up, because you’ll be disappointed if you do.

What sound were you looking for?

I tried to put more space in the songs, to keep it simpler and have less things going on. That’s part of the title Strip Me. I wanted to strip away the unnecessary stuff and the gimmicks that you hear so much in pop, and really accept who I am. And accept simplicity, because that sometimes says more than trying to show off.

Why do you tend to work with multiple producers on each album?

When I’m writing a song, I sing it the day I’ve written it and that’s the vocal that we use. The person that I write with, we normally end up producing the song together, because there’s a magic that we capture there. If we had waited to do it with another producer, it might not have the same feel. But I’m the executive producer who ties everything together, so I think my albums still have a consistent sound.

What motivates you to make music?

What really gets me off is connecting with people and communicating. I love when someone gets it. So when I write a song, I’m tapping into a creative space, but I’m also thinking about the people who are going to listen to it. It’s not like musical wanking, where it’s just me and the music. I want to share it. So I’m thinking about how to best translate it for people. I love that feeling when people sing along with me.

What are your hopes for this album?

I want to keep building an intimate relationship with the fans. I’ve had a lot of people take my songs, and then they become something personal to them. They’ll say, “That helped me write a book,” or “That was my daughter’s favorite song, and she died, and that reminds me of her.” Music is this amazing language and it becomes very personal to people. As a writer, it’s not even yours anymore. You give it away, and you never know where it will end up and what effect it will have on people.

Bill DeMain

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