I’d always liked Daniel Bedingfield, but he entered my interview-radar when my musician friends played his first album from top-to-bottom, while endlessly praising his songwriting prowess and vocal range. “He’s incredible,” they said. “You have to be great to get a number one dance track and a number one ballad on the same album.” When I discovered his very catchy new single, “Rocks Off,” the next day, I considered it fate and wanted an interview. I quickly found out that he’s gone completely independent, and I’d have to contact him directly. So I tweeted him, and he invited me to his show at Hotel Cafe the following week. Though Hotel Cafe is often a low-energy singer/songwriter venue, I knew his performance would be unique when he showed up in very colorful clothing, removed all the tables and chairs, and took the time to greet almost every fan that arrived. His charm and stage-presence won over the audience, who danced to both his new material and his most-loved hits. We scheduled an interview the following week, and I had an extremely long list of questions. Where has he been for the last eight years, how often will he be releasing new music, and whose idea was it to get naked at the end of his “Rocks Off” video? I figured I’d hold that last question until the end and only ask it if things went well, which they did.
I notice your very colorful style of dressing. Is the wardrobe choice a product of being an independent artist now?
I used to think that you had to consider the opinions of the people that you’re working with, because they work so hard and they’re so successful and they’re making millions, so they must know what they’re talking about. It doesn’t really matter anymore. I think the make-your-own-decisions, do-whatever-the-fuck you-like [approach] is much better.
Did the label have specific demands about how they wanted you to sound?
Sure. That’s why they didn’t release anything for eight years.
The irony is that when you first started in the industry the label was something you were probably aching to be a part of.
No. Your first job for the mafia, you could become a Don, or you could try to get out, and they could kill your whole family. My version of that is eight years of my twenties.
How does it feel to now be completely independent?
Now that I don’t care whether I succeed or not — I hope that I succeed, I dream that I succeed — [but] I don’t have the same pressure. It’s tough enough fighting this world to get music out without having to fight the business side. I’m very glad that I did it, [but] I never thought it was a golden opportunity. I don’t get excited by success, I get excited by creativity. So when I wasn’t able to release anything, that was difficult. But it was good for me. Now I know what it’s like to desperately want to do something for eight years.
You must get a little excited by success, though.
I’ve had enough to satisfy me, and I know it didn’t satisfy me when I had it. It’s not success that’s ever going to make me feel good. On the day “Gotta Get Thru This” hit number one, it was my 22nd birthday, and I had my first kiss with this girl I had been chasing for two years, and I was certainly more excited about the kiss.
Is it true you wrote the song on the way to professing your love to that girl?
I wrote it in the morning crossing the Tower Bridge on the way to work. My feet hitting the pavement gave me the tempo. After an hour-long chat with my mom she said, “It’s very obvious what you have to do,” so I went up to [talk to her]. We were best friends, and we were trying to pretend not to be in love with each other.
Is “Secret Fear” from your new EP also about a specific girl?
Who’s the girl?
[He shakes his head to indicate he’s not going to tell me]. All my songs are true. As awful as it sounds, it’s that awful, and as wonderful as it sounds, it’s that wonderful. It’s a diary transcript.
Does the girl know it’s about her?
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard my song, “Wrap My Words Around You.” But it’s about whether it’s a good idea to tell a girl that a song is about her, because it can really play with the dynamics of a girl genuinely or not genuinely liking you. You can make a girl like you when she wouldn’t like you otherwise by writing a good song.
Is that a bad thing?
Yes. Because if you leave her, then it was all a lie. You can win someone’s heart and then leave her, and it can really hurt. It’s tricky. My songs have caused incredible devastation to a number of people. You can get absolutely into someone’s head with your song, and it becomes impossible to get out.
You didn’t answer my question. Does the girl know that “Secret Fear” is about her?
The beginning of that song is so shocking, what it says. I’m so frightened that any woman that I date will hear the lyrics and think I won’t be happy with her. It was a deliciously bad feeling writing that. I knew I could be fucking my life hard-core. I was getting-off on the danger. Imagine you’re lying in bed as my wife and thinking of those lyrics.
I also love “Rocks Off” from the new EP, and I like how different it is from “Secret Fear.” Is the variety on your records a calculated choice?
This idea of an artist having one sound is nothing I’ve ever connected with. I don’t think it’s a valid restriction, so no — I don’t think about variety, I just think about the song. I’m not trying to be clever, I’m just incredibly ADD.
I know you’re releasing EPs 3-5 months apart. Do you think this is the wave of the future in the music industry?
Everyone I’m listening to thinks so.
You’re in a family of musicians. Are there moments when you have to tell them to buzz-off?
We are the last people to hear each other’s music. We don’t like playing it for each other. An honest opinion might not have a place in your family. Is the point of family to criticize?
Were you ahead of your time with the social media transition in the music industry? You’re really good with replying to your fans on Twitter.
I really like them! I have an amazing social media coordinator. I told her I didn’t have the time and energy to reply to my fans on Facebook and Twitter. She said, “That’s incredibly sad.” She said so many people are finding a way of interacting with their true fans through this. She’s like a Twitter evangelist. So I started replying, and I now wake up in the morning so happy to see what people are talking to me about. I realize that it’s the beginning of peeling away the wall of managers and record company people that are supposed to protect the artists from their fans.
I read a tweet about your “Rocks Off” video where a fan called it misogynistic, and you said that you’d seriously consider the criticism. I found the exchange very funny.
It is misogynistic. It’s an expression. Art doesn’t have to be balanced.
Whose idea was it to be naked at the end of the video?
Me! I wrote this thing! I’m trying to say something behind that video, and one of those things is that I don’t give a fuck about clothes or what I’m wearing, and I desire to be naked in all my music and in this interview. And also — guys getting stripped by girls . . . I think that’s quite funny.
I’m not sure I’d have the guts to be fully naked in a video.
That’s the point. I found the guts to be naked in a video in front of the planet, and in my next video I’m completely naked, underwater, in fire, and spinning. It’s not a perverted thing. I’m a nudist. I’m naked all the time.
My other favorite song on the new EP is “Don’t Write Me Off.”
Thank you. That’s something that’s very important. There’s a whole crowd of people that want the piano stuff, and there’s a whole crowd of people who just want the rock stuff. [One guy will] say, “Daniel, nobody likes that falsetto.” Then the other guy will say, “The best thing about you is your falsetto.” So if it’s really moving me, and I’m feeling the energy of everything flowing through my veins, then I’m going to release it.
Listen below to Daniel Bedingfield’s EP, Secret Fear — Stop the Traffik, and watch the video for his new single, “Rocks Off.” Note: Be sure to stay tuned for the end of the video — that’s when he gets naked.