That is, until the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter — best known for her multi-platinum-selling singles “Unwritten,” and “Pocketful of Sunshine” — decided to buck tradition with two tracks on her latest album, Roll With Me.
“Everybody Come Together,” featuring Detroit rapper Angel Haze, is a soul-shaking, string-heavy plea for unity amid so much division in the world today and “Hey Papa” seems to ask how many kids have to die as a result of gun violence before Americans finally re-examine the “right to bear arms.”
“I always shied away from being political, because I saw myself as an entertainer and it was drummed into me by everyone around me to not do that,” Bedingfield told 48 Hills. “So I feel like I earned the right to be a little bit more. The world we’re in right now, it demands us to be more unwilling to just let things slide.”
Bedingfield’s fourth studio album and her first in nine years, produced by multi-platinum powerhouse Linda Perry, is perhaps the British singer’s most raw and multidimensional release yet.
But no matter how gleeful or grave the topic, from love and family to broken relationships and political turmoil, Bedingfield maintains that pocketful of sunshine or “infectious positivity” that’s become her trademark.
I spoke to Bedingfield, who’s currently promoting her new release on a multi-city tour, which wraps in San Francisco on Sunday, about working with Linda Perry, defying expectations, and discovering the power of her own voice.
48 HILLS How was working with Linda Perry different than previous producers?
NATASHA BEDINGFIELD Linda is very clear on her vision. I think the clearer the better with these kinds of things and she wants to bring the best out, so she’s not afraid to take you out of your comfort zone.
I really love her. She’s a really dear friend of mine, and so it felt like a really safe space to express myself and to make a body of work I’ve been wanting to make for a while.
48 HILLS I’ve always found your music so psychological. Is this connected to the fact that you majored in psychology before breaking into music?
NATASHA BEDINGFIELD Yes, I love trying to work out how the human brain works, and bring in as much soul and thought into the lyrics as I can. I feel like the songs are such a great way to process stuff and think about things.
All of my life, my songs have been about interpersonal relationships and what’s going on in my mind or around me. But I’ve always wanted to bring up and highlight things like being independent and strong and self-love and having courage and being yourself and being free.
But I’m always doing it from a psychological perspective. So even on this album, there’s a line in the song “Hey Papa,” and it says, “What are we supposed to do/When everyone’s afraid of changing?” Everybody is afraid of changing and the world definitely needs change, but for some reason, change is the most uncomfortable thing that people avoid at all costs.
48 HILLS I love the album’s lead single, “Roller Skate.” In it, you reminisce about roller-skating with your older brother, singer Daniel Bedingfield, as a child, but there seems to be a message in the lyrics about getting unstuck. What do you want listeners to take away from this song?
NATASHA BEDINGFIELD So “Roller Skate” is about nostalgia, the childlike freedom, the feeling of movement. When you’re stuck in a situation, in a concrete world, you need to get somewhere, you need to find ways to move around it.
But human beings are amazing, and we just strive to thrive. We keep moving forward and nothing can stop us, really. Even if it feels like it can.
48 HILLS “Kick It” is about maintaining your sense of self within a relationship. How do you do that in your marriage?
NATASHA BEDINGFIELD “Kick It” is about making a relationship last. There is always going to be compromise needed and you have to compromise for the other person but not compromise who you are. That’s where the balancing act happens because it’s so important to be yourself. So I think it’s constantly trying to walk that line between both of those things — being yourself but also giving of yourself for that person.
48 HILLS “Everybody Come Together” and “Hey Papa” are inspired by all the antagonism in the world today. Do you see us all coming together anytime in the near future?
NATASHA BEDINGFIELD There’s so much dividing us and I think this tribalism is so harmful. “Hey Papa” is talking about how we look outside of ourselves for heroes — the fathers, the kings, the next Gandhi. I like this idea that the next big leader might not just be one person or a Jesus figure, but all of us coming together like a sea of voices.
Just like when kids are standing up about the environment or gun violence, there’s this incredible power when it’s not just one person. But everything in life tries to take away our power and make us feel like we don’t matter, especially the younger generation.
I remember being 14 and feeling so not powerful and people telling me my limitations all the time, so that’s a big thing for me to know the power of my own voice.
48 HILLS You’ve said that the birth of your son, Solomon, has inspired you to be more honest and vulnerable in your music. Has it also made you more political, with the hope that your boy grows up in a better world?
NATASHA BEDINGFIELD It’s a subtle change, but I feel from being a mother a new confidence and a protectiveness of my little baby, of wanting to bring him into a great world. It’s opened up that lioness in me a little. I can tell I’m different and it’s a good different.
48 HILLS Earlier this summer, you dropped a new remix of your indelible song “Unwritten” for MTV’s “The Hills: New Beginnings.” So I’m curious: What’s still unwritten for you in your life and career?
NATASHA BEDINGFIELD Oh, that’s a lovely question. Thank you. Do you know what I think? I am… me. [Laughs] I’m a work in progress and I’ve put so much energy into my songs and music, but the songs don’t define me. I have to take my own advice from those things. That is obviously the message of the song that I forget.
And you think you have to repeat the same things that you’ve done or there’s a certain kind of pressure to be what people expect you to be. But releasing myself to be who I am and not always trying to be the entertainer or someone that people like — that’s very freeing.
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