Natasha Bedingfield: ‘Prince told me to come over any time – but didn’t give me his number’

'Fame keeps you well-behaved in the same way that religion does': Natasha Bedingfield
'Fame keeps you well-behaved in the same way that religion does': Natasha Bedingfield - Cameron Jordan
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Natasha Bedingfield was on stage at The O2 supporting Lewis Capaldi in 2022 when she realised something strange was happening.

“Everyone was singing along,” she marvels. “They knew every word of every song. Afterwards my agent came running to me saying ‘it’s all young people!’ I think those songs had been sneaking their way into popular culture and then when Unwritten went in the movie [Anyone But You], it just exploded because everyone was leaving the movie theatre TikTokking themselves singing along to it. It’s crazy.”

Though accidental, the timing couldn’t have been better. This year marks two decades since British-born Bedingfield first released her breezy pop anthem Unwritten, and the 42-year-old singer-songwriter had already been planning to celebrate by playing festivals, including this week’s Cambridge Club Festival headlined by Chaka Khan. Just as Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s career was restarted when her hit 2001 Murder on the Dancefloor was used in the film Saltburn last year, Bedingfield is suddenly top billing once again.

“I’ve been working all this time but I haven’t done that much in England. I wanted to come back to my roots this year. Then the song blew up again!”

Unwritten has changed the direction of Bedingfield’s life once before. Though it reached a very respectable Number Six in the UK upon its release in 2004, it was even more popular in the US where it spent over nine months on the chart, was nominated for a Grammy Award and was used as the theme song for MTV reality show The Hills. “The show wasn’t really my cup of tea and I didn’t watch it,” she admits, “but I understand why everyone became so attached to it because it was all about people trying to find out who they are.”

The song went on to be the most-played track on US radio in 2006 and made Bedingfield into a household name there. She sang at the UN, released a charity single with Beyonce, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Mariah Carey, appeared on a Nicki Minaj album and wrote and recorded a song about climate change with Paul McCartney.

“I went to The White House and met President Obama and said to him, you used my song in your campaign!” she remembers. “And he’s like, I know! That’s why you’re here! I sang there in front of Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and Jamie Foxx. Jamie was ignoring my existence and then when I sang, he completely changed and said I could come use his studio anytime. So we became friends and hung out. Very LA…”

The last 20 years have been a series of pinch-me moments for Bedingfield.

“I was at Adam Levine’s house from Maroon 5 once and Prince showed up. I felt like I was in a movie,” she says. “Everyone got in a convoy in their cars and went to his house. I didn’t know where we were going because it was dark outside. We get there and everyone’s jamming, my friend is dancing with Salma Hayek, and me and Adam are looking at each other thinking, we’re at f______ Prince’s house! And I remember Prince telling me to come over any time, but then he never gave me his number and I didn’t know where we were so I couldn’t ever go back.”

Natasha Bedingfield performing at the annual Race to Erase MS 31st Annual Gala, May 2024
Natasha Bedingfield performing at the annual Race to Erase MS 31st Annual Gala, May 2024 - JC Olivera/Variety via Getty Images

It was a different story in the UK. Though Bedingfield’s second album N.B. nudged into the Top Ten, a tour to promote it was cancelled so she could concentrate on her burgeoning success in the US instead. A re-recorded version of the same album, retitled Pocketful of Sunshine, was then released there that included seven new songs.

“Those new songs rescued it but then they didn’t put it out in England and I don’t know why,” she says. “I think artists just didn’t have as much power back then. If you were on a label, you had to get them on your side and do what they wanted really. They had a very clear idea about what kind of artist I was going to be and what worked for them in the past. They’d say, well, this is what Dido did, and she’d just had a big hit before me. She always wore jeans, so you need to wear jeans. My big fight with them was that I wanted to wear skirts so I ended up wearing all these big colourful skirts and that was my big win.”

Worse still, Bedingfield says her label geo-blocked her, effectively restricting access to her appearances in the US to anyone based in the UK.

“My English label geo-blocked me so everything I was doing in the States, you couldn’t see here. When I sang in The White House, my mum couldn’t watch it on the internet. There was a time, even five years ago, when labels were still doing that and I don’t know why. That was hard. But I carried on working. You just go where the love is.”

'The paparazzi were kind to me but very mean about my brother': Natasha and Daniel in 2007
'The paparazzi were kind to me but very mean about my brother': Natasha and Daniel in 2007 - Dave Hogan/Getty Images

As her fame skyrocketed across the Atlantic, it dwindled in the UK and her third album Strip Me was never even released here. Her relentlessly upbeat pop and ever-sunny persona became an easy target for ridicule, and she was mercilessly mocked for everything from her Christian upbringing to her relationship with pop star brother Daniel, best known for his ballad, If You’re Not The One.

“The paparazzi were always kind to me but they were very mean about my brother, just because they couldn’t have two siblings doing well at the same time,” she says. “It’s interesting what that does to a culture because even if they’re not mean to you, there’s a threat that they could be and you end up living in that fear. That culture keeps you well-behaved – in the same way that religion does. There’s a threat of going to hell or someone turning on you and hating you.

“My philosophy is that I don’t take anything too seriously. If people say great things or they say bad things, I just try to take it with a pinch of salt because things can change. More than ever we’re all experiencing that instant feedback now – we’re all famous aren’t we?”

She’s equally matter-of-fact about her unusual childhood, which saw her home-schooled by her New Zealander parents and raised with what she calls an “alternative Christianity”, attending the renowned Micah Community church in South London founded by R&B gospel pioneers the Wade brothers.

“We were quite lucky as children to have that concept of being spiritual beings connected to something bigger than ourselves. That culture of music and spirituality and community was very powerful to me and I think that’s been a huge influence on me.”

In fact, all four Bedingfield siblings – Natasha, Daniel, brother Joshua and sister Nikola – are now professional singers, despite the fact they weren’t even allowed to listen to the radio growing up.

“Isn’t that ironic?” she says. “But I think maybe if you’re brought up in a vacuum and allow your kids to be bored, it’s a gift for them and they end up creating their own entertainment. In the end, it was actually my dad who told me to quit university and do music. How unusual is that?”

It’s taken Bedingfield longer to accept her own trajectory as a pop star. “For a while I felt a bit rebellious about the idea of what pop is because it’s not always cool,” she admits. “I actually write two or three times more sad songs than happy ones, that’s what naturally comes out of me, but it’s not what people like. The ones that are hits for me are more uplifting.”

'I thought having a kid would be the end of my career because everyone told me that': Natasha Bedingfield
'I thought having a kid would be the end of my career because everyone told me that': Natasha Bedingfield - Cameron Jordan

Having her son, Solomon, in late 2017 with husband, Californian businessman Matt Robinson, has shifted her outlook. Though largely based in New York, she’s now excited about focusing her energies on the UK this year, celebrating the unexpected resurgence of Unwritten and getting back to the studio to write new music.

“I thought having a kid would be the end of my career because everyone told me that,” she says. “But I signed a new deal four months after and started making a record and now all this has happened. In the 1980s we were sold this version of feminism that told us we can have it all and a lot of people in my generation have learnt that you have to make choices. You can’t have it all. You have to choose what you’re going to have and really own that. You can be a mum and have a job but you have to have support around you and really work on that, which means I really make the most of the time I have. I don’t take any of this for granted now.”

The Cambridge Club Festival takes place on June 7-9 in Childerley Orchard, Cambridge. Tickets:

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