If there’s one thing British singer Natasha Bedingfield has learned in recent years, it’s the foibles of being a trans-Atlantic hit.
After Bedingfield conquered her native Britain with her 2004 debut album “Unwritten,” it took 18 months for it to become a hit in America.
But what a hit it was: the title track was the most-played song on U.S. radio in 2006. That left her promoting it extensively in the U.S., and by the time she returned to England, her disc was more than two years old.
No worries - her sophomore disc, “N.B.,” had five Top 10 singles in the U.K. and won her the supporting position on the European leg of Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/Love Show tour.
But when it came time to release it here in January, the prolific Bedingfield says she already had written so many new songs she replaced half the disc and renamed it after the new tune “Pocketful of Sunshine.”
“I’d been on the Justin Timberlake tour, I’d been inspired differently, and so I really wanted to do an album that’s up to date, and from where I’m at,” Bedingfield says in a phone call from a tour bus in Indianapolis.
“And that’s the beauty about how the record industry is right now. It’s a very fluid thing. I mean, everything goes on iTunes and you can just put the songs there as soon as you make them. You don’t have to wait for a year before you can sing a new song.”
It’s still all good. The U.S. version of the disc hit No. 2 on Billboard’s Top 200 and already had two Top 10 hits with the title track and “Love Like This,” the catchy duet with teen hip-hopper Sean Kingston that topped the charts this spring.
In fact, it’s done so well that a twice-delayed European tour has been scrapped for a headline jaunt in the U.S..
Bedingfield, 26, says the new material helped solidify the disc as “kind of the next stage from the last album, which is all about just starting out in life and independence and making the most of every situation.”
“This next album is more about the stories and the things that happen in life - the experiences,” she says. “And so I have taken a lot of things that have happened in my life. I definitely only put songs on there that mean something personally to me. I write a lot of songs, and it’s just so much more fun to sing a song that really has meaning, you know?”
But one song she left behind was the first single from “N.B.,” called “I Wanna Have Your Babies,” about a woman struggling to not tell men she wants to procreate.
The song hit the U.K. Top 10, but also drew criticism from those who interpreted it as promoting either promiscuity or pregnancy. Bedingfield says it was neither - just a jokey exploration of having people know your private thoughts.
“I’m actually the kind of person who keeps those kind of things to myself, and that’s the beauty of that song, ‘cause it’s about ‘What if you actually really knew what was going on in my head.’ It’s very much like an exploration of that, you know - of the fantasies and why we keep those to ourselves,” she says, laughing.
“It’s quite a controversial song topic. Not controversial, that’s not the right word, but it’s very in your face. I mean, it’s a comedy song and if people take it seriously - some people did - I don’t know . . .”
She says while the song won’t be released here, people can hear it. “That song is on YouTube,” she says. “I think the video is the best thing about that song - it really explains the song well. It’s that comedy thing.”
Bedingfield says she doesn’t hear her biological clock ticking, but says that for two years she’s been in a relationship with Nashville estate agent Matt Robinson, 30. “It’s going really, really good and he makes me feel really looked after,” she says, chuckling. “And yeah, it’s great.”
So where did the disc’s break-up songs come from? She says she’s experienced that, too, and it’s a feeling that’s easy to remember.
“It’s the most painful thing in the world,” she says, then laughs. “It’s not the most painful thing in the world, sorry. But it feels very painful at the time.”
Bedingfield says she found “Love Like This” when collaborator Wayne Wilkins was going to give it to singer Mary J. Blige.
“I just fell in love with the song and I just kind of demanded that he let me sing it,” she says, laughing. She says Blige, “really had some interest, really wanted it, but because I’m his friend, he gave it to me.”
She says she made a few changes and heard Kingston through another friend, producer J.R. Rotem.
On “Love Like This,” her voice and Kingston’s were merged not in the studio, but in the mixing room, she says. “The song, to me, it sounds like a big party. And it sounds like what it was - I mean, apart from Sean, he wasn’t there. But he kind of came in late - he was a late arrival to the party,” she says, laughing.
The disc also has a collaboration with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine (on “Say It Again”), but one with rapper Eve (on “No More What Ifs”) also was left off the reworked disc.
But a more unusual pairing might be Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s use of “Unwritten” on his campaign.
“I love it - I love that he’s using my song,” she says. “It’s a big compliment that someone who’s running in a campaign would use your song cause it has meaning.”
Asked whether she’s a supporter, she says, “because I’m from England, I can’t vote. But I do really like him.”
// Notes from the Road
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