Natasha Bedingfield Feels Gay Fans Are the Only Ones Who Get Her

“One of my favorite places to sing is a gay club or a Pride event.”

Our future may be iffy, but at least Natasha Bedingfield’s new album is no longer unwritten.

Nearly a decade after her last album’s release, the Grammy-nominated British singer-songwriter has rolled out her fourth studio record, Roll With Me, which mixes politics with positivity. These words? They matter—especially to her loyal LGBTQ listeners.

Currently on a U.S. tour, Bedingfield tells NewNowNext why even while exploring serious subjects, she still pops in a pocketful of sunshine.

You haven’t released an album since 2010. Are you sick of people asking where you’ve been and what took so long?

It’s funny, isn’t it? I’ve spent so much time in the studio, writing and writing, and I’ve always told my fans, “When it’s good enough, new music will come out.” There were some politics involved—I had to change labels—and I had to find the right producer. So it’s been a journey. Believe me, I’ve been itching to release new music for so long. It feels so good.

What made Linda Perry the perfect producer for the new album?

She represents where I’m at right now. I feel like I’ve found my voice as a person, I feel like I can really be myself, and she’s always been herself. We both saw something in each other. We had trust. It’s always been a dream of mine to have a producer that I love produce my whole album, like how Amy Winehouse had Mark Ronson. I love albums like that.

You made Linda your son’s godmother, so I guess you two got along pretty well.

Yes, and my son loves her, too. He was four months old, coming to the studio, and kids love all those buttons and lights. He was there with me throughout the whole process.

How did motherhood inspire the album?

The fierce mother lioness has been woken up in me. My music was always about relationships, but now that I’ve brought a being into this world, I want to make the world a better place. I’m more unwilling to stay silent about certain stuff. I’ve had a microphone in front of my face for all these years, and I’ve been entertaining, but now I want to say more things that matter, things that are beyond myself.

Nathan Congleton/NBCU via Getty Images

While tackling issues like gun violence and sexism, Roll With Me is still uplifting and hopeful. Do you feel a responsibility to stay positive for fans, especially in these dark and uncertain times?

Yeah. I feel like every artist has a superpower, and mine has always been the ability to sing about hard stuff in a way that’s not a downer. Adele’s music makes people nostalgic, there’s a sadness to it. I’m able to sing about things that make people feel good, but not in a cheesy way, which is not easy to do. I’m a pessimist, a realist, and music is what helps take me through to the other side and find hope again.

Will you ever make music like Adele that makes everybody cry?

If someone ever said to me, “Your song made me cry,” I’d be like, “I’m so sorry!” I do have a lot of sad songs, actually, but people just don’t know they’re sad.

In recent years you’ve contributed to songs that benefit social or political causes. “Forward” supported President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. The charity single ”Love Song to the Earth” called attention to climate change. You worked with Linda Perry on the 2017 single “Hey Boy,” which addressed the #MeToo movement.

I also sang on Big Sean’s “One Man Can Change the World” with John Legend. Yeah, I love collaborating on songs that have a deeper meaning or purpose. Because music is so powerful. It has a way of communicating important things on an unconscious level.

“Unicorn,” your 2016 collab with Basto, has the lyric “we are who we are and we love who we love.” That’s a gay anthem right there.

It is! You know, I grew up in the church, in a very religious environment. It was very spiritual, so there were some great things about it—I learned how to do music because music takes you somewhere else, helps you feel connected to other people, to God. But there was a lot of repression, especially sexual repression, in that environment as well. So I feel like I relate to gay people because I know what it’s like to have a unique story, a hard upbringing, a family that may not be accepting of who you are.

Growing up in the church, were you exposed to the LGBTQ community?

Well, my parents were social workers and counselors, working with homeless people, drug addicts. They always thought it was important for us to meet all different kinds of people. There wasn’t really exposure to the LGBTQ community, but we were taught that people are people, you know?

When did you become aware of your LGBTQ following?

My very first single was called “Single.” I was single for years, so people thought I was a lesbian. I was focused on my career, but people were like, “Poor you! Why are you single? That must be so hard!” I was like, “No, I’m having the time of my life! I love being single!” So I wrote this anthem about being single and the idea that how can you love someone else if you don’t love yourself? I became aware that song really resonated with the gay audience. Then my first big show was actually at G-A-Y, the legendary gay club in London. So I’ve felt that support from beginning.

G-A-Y was your first queer venue of many.

One of my favorite places to sing is a gay club or a Pride event. Honestly, I feel like that’s the only audience that truly understands what I’m singing about.

Why do you think so?

I don’t know. I’ve studied psychology, and I do the hard work on myself. Every gay person I’ve ever met has put in the time to work on themselves because they’ve had to, because life hasn’t always been easy. So I just feel like the gay audience gets what I’m saying—about those feelings of being an outsider, discovering yourself, finding your voice, being who you are despite what other people think. I have a song called “Wild Horses” that was never a single, but I’ve had thousands of gay fans reach out to tell me they love that song or that it helped them come out to their parents. I’m so inspired by every story like that that I hear.

The Roll With Me track “Everybody Come Together,” which is about unity and creating change, notably features Angel Haze, who identifies as pansexual and nonbinary.

I love Angel Haze. What an amazing rapper. Yeah, I feel like the artists who are really open about themselves, who really know themselves, that’s who people want to hear. Like Sam Smith—how lovely and endearing and incredible. It’s terrible there are still people who might be offended just because of who you are, but it’s so powerful when you can find the freedom in that.

Lorne Thomson/Redferns

You rerecorded and remixed “Unwritten” for the theme song of MTV’s reboot of The Hills. Did you watch the new season?

I saw one episode, to be honest. [Laughs] But I don’t watch reality TV. I love comedies. Did you watch?

Yeah, I found it comforting that those kids still don’t have their shit together.

Right. It’s like when I saw a picture of Gwyneth Paltrow where she had a bit of cellulite, and I felt so relieved, like, Oh, it’s not just me!

You made headlines a few years back when you served pink hair and bleached eyebrows on a red carpet. What inspired that look?

I was just having fun with my incredible makeup artist, Troy Jensen, who’s a legend. It was funny to read some of the online comments about that, though, like, “Your friends don’t love you.” [Laughs] Maybe the eyebrows didn’t suit me, but you have to try new things.

I didn’t hate the pink hair.

Oh, I love pink hair. I think pink hair really suits me. But then too many people started doing pink hair, so I was over it.

Natasha Bedingfield’s Roll With Me is out now and she is now on tour.
 

Celebrity interviewer. Foodie and Broadway buff in Manhattan. Hates writing bios.
@brandonvoss