Daniel Bedingfield’s pop wizardry earned him a BRIT Award, six U.K. Top 10 singles and 4 million in album sales from 2001 to ’04. But with that success came unforeseen consequences: a protracted contractual tug-of-war with a record label resistant to his artistic growth. Now, after eight years, the songwriter who rocketed to the top of the pop world with “Gotta Get Thru This” is back in a a huge way, with new batches of genre-splicing, pulse-pounding music that not only appeals to a broad spectrum of fans but reveals Bedingfield’s resolve to control his own fate. “The record company simply wanted me to keep repeating the same formula,” he says. “If I’d done that, it would have sounded massively dated the moment it came out. Music has to be dangerous. You have to be mortally terrified of everyone hating it, or you’re not doing the right thing. So I don’t mind failure. What I do mind is being stuck in a cage for eight years.” Bedingfield’s new material moves adroitly between dance-floor bangers and R&B-spiked rock, between freak-funk and chilling piano ballads, between effects-heavy electro and sunny island reggae. All brim with his distinctive melodic sense and arching romanticism. “There are a million ways of self-expression, and I can’t hold to one style,” he says. “There isn’t one sound in my head, there are thousands.”
To share those sounds, Bedingfield struck out on his own, mounting a campaign through PledgeMusic that has reconnected him with his still-ardent fans and fostered a spate of new releases — each seemingly springing from a different creative impulse.
His percussive single “Rocks Off” (released in March) and its accompanying video offer a whimsical argument that “nothing, not even the hottest girls in the world, can distract me from my music,” he says. Its B-side, the disco-funk “It’s Not Me, It’s You” only hints at the spectrum of music to come.
The follow-up is a deliriously catchy EP, “Stop The Traffik – Secret Fear,” the proceeds from which in part benefit Bedingfield’s global charity Stop The Traffik, an organization that fights to prevent human slavery and works to prosecute the traffickers.
Two more EPs will follow in 2012, each showcasing a different facet of an artist who is eager to make up for lost time, who is “absolutely unafraid to suffer the consequences of my own mistakes” and who, he points out wryly, does his best studio work stark naked. “Except when people are around,” he says with a smile. “Then I wear boxers.”
The best expectation, he warns, is to have no expectations at all. Which is what Bedingfield started with so many years ago before “Gotta Get Thru This” elevated him to U.K. garage hero.
The son of New Zealand philanthropists who relocated to London to work in the areas affected by the Brixton riots, Bedingfield and his two talented sisters, Natasha and Nikola Rachelle (The Golden Phoenix), were reared in a musical household surrounded by the diverse sounds of the time — the Police, Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan — as well as the reggae embraced by his family’s many Jamaican friends.
Those sounds still inform artist who fully embraces the DIY ethic: His new material, recorded on his M Box in bathtubs, state parks, parking lots, hotels and studios all over the world, draws from a sonic palette as vast as the planet itself.
“When I sit down to write a song, it’s as if my whole self demands its birth — I don’t really have any choice. And it has a core sound that I have to be faithful to,” he says. “Which is why I’m not good at co-writing and why, apart from collaborations with some truly genius musical friends, I’m beginning to play most of the instruments myself.”
Ambitious, bold, brazen even; with this EP Daniel is taking a distinctly different approach from his former pop-loving, uber-calculated chart topping debut and venturing into brave new territory to carve out his claim as the wild and diverse wide-eyed crooner he’s always been.