Daniel Bedingfield Interview - Daniel’s life in the fast lane
EMMA OUTTEN Daniel Bedingfield is back in East Anglia, two years after performing a power-punching set at the UEA in Norwich. Emma Outten, who interviewed him then, spoke to him again before his gig in Thetford Forest and listened to a very different sounding Daniel.
…What a difference a year or two makes. At the beginning of 2003, Daniel Bedingfield sounded as though he was on a real high.
At the end of the previous year, the very lovely ballad If You're Not The One had reached number one in the UK and let's not forget a year before that he had enjoyed spectacular success with a certain single called Gotta Get Thru This.
Some wondered if he was going to be just another one-hit-wonder with his breakthrough single but they underestimated someone who was determined to make it.
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When we first spoke, Daniel was about to come to perform at the University of East Anglia in the April (and to all those of us who went, what a performance it was too).
On the phone, Daniel had sounded happy, if somewhat hyperactive. To his day Daniel can't eat sugar but, despite that, there was definitely something exceedingly sweet about the boy wonder who started writing songs aged six.
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Two years on and Daniel did not sound particularly happy, or hyper. I asked him if he was looking forward to the change of scenery when he plays Thetford Forest - it being Britain's largest lowland pine forest after all. He didn't sound overly impressed. Life has obviously moved on since he came to the UEA. “I've done a few things since then,” he said, “festivals, big open parks, big venues...”
He has also been to East Anglia since the UEA gig, “not to tour”, he pointed out before describing this part of the region with a monosyllabic “great”.
So far so not very good, but at least Daniel was more expansive when asked to talk about a particular life-changing event early in 2004.
On January 2, 2004 the New Zealand-born singer was cut out of the wreckage of his 4x4 off-road vehicle near Auckland. The roof had broken Daniel's neck, and he then had a metal frame bolted into his skull for three months.
Daniel began a physically and mentally-draining course of physiotherapy.
Did he agree that the title of his debut single, Gotta Get Thru This, took on a whole new meaning, at that point in his life? “I do actually, yeah,” said Daniel.
“Everything means a lot more since then. It's underscored the power of life, and the frailty of it - the joy and pain of it.”
He added: “I don't fear anything anymore because I almost died. I've been through the worst physical pain you can possibly go through.”
Then again he said he wasn't really fearful before so he certainly had no fear now.
Fans helped him through. “A lot of people said they were praying for me, a lot of people gave things: get-well cards and flowers, stuff like that.”
I'd read in his website biography that one unlikely benefit to come from the accident was that Daniel's pace of life slowed down for the first time in two years.
“Before the accident it seemed as if whatever I was doing, I was five steps ahead of myself,” he had said.
But when I asked him about life slowing down over the past year or so, I got this reply: “I've been pretty busy.”
As if to prove the point, Daniel said that after the interview he would be going to Heathrow to go wake-boarding (like snow-boarding but behind a boat, he explained to me). So had he slowed down at all? “No.” (And if you take a look at his website, a daredevil Daniel is dive-bombing down a waterfall!).
At the end of May, Daniel was back with a fast-paced single, The Way. “I don't just make ballads,” he told me as if to put the record straight.
So what was The Way all about? “It's about the fact, unfortunately, you can't love everybody the same way forever,” said Daniel. “Sometimes you can't continue to stay romantic with someone.”
Warming to his theme, he continued: “I'm mourning the loss of belief in the stability of my heart.”
He asked me if I knew what he meant, and I said he might have to explain further. (It basically translates to meaning when you realise saying “I'll love you forever” doesn't necessarily mean you really will).
A girl, you may or may not recall, had been the inspiration for Gotta Get Thru This. On his travels, Daniel fell in love with a red-headed Swiss-American dancer who lived in Leeds, avoided telling her for two and a half years, until, finally he wrote Gotta Get Thru This walking over Tower Bridge on his way to share his feelings.
For the last album, he was inspired by a number of women.
But he was at pains to point out about the songs: “I didn't write them all about five different girls!” He was keen to stress that they came into his orbit one after another.
On the strength of the latest single, The Way, the Daily Telegraph described Daniel as “the closest thing we have to a British Prince”. “Isn't that great?” admitted Daniel, although he added: “I'd like to be the first Daniel Bedingfield...”
Since the accident last year, Daniel became a Brit award winner for best British male solo artist. “It was quite cool,” he said. And, noticeably, he has also undergone something of an image change.
But last year was also the year that his younger sister, Natasha, notched up her first number one single. In fact, it was Natasha's year. If anyone thought she was just cashing in her brother's name, she certainly proved the critics wrong.
When he was about nine years old, he had formed a band with his two younger sisters, Natasha and Nicola, at first playing mainly at the counselling seminars their mother gave (his mother was working as a social worker in South East London) and later touring Europe's festivals.
Did he have an inkling of what was about to happen to Natasha when we spoke back in 2003? “Of course I did,” he said, with some conviction. “She's always been talented.”
In a similar vein, Daniel had belief in himself. “I've always known since I was nine years old that I would be doing this,” he had said a Stateside interview.
It all begs the question: what can we expect of the other Bedingfield sibling, Nicola, in the near future? Daniel described Nicola's sound as a cross between Lauren Hill and The Cranberries, but he also added that she was “kind of 'Bjork-y'”, and, “a little bit like Jill Scott”. He then said: “What can we expect? I have no idea what she will do this year.”
Gone are the days when Daniel would work in his bedroom, as he did in his Gotta Get Thru This days.
Though some of the songs on Daniel's second album, Second First Impression, date back to those days recording in a bedroom, others are the result of his production partnership with LA producer Jack Joseph Puig, a veteran whose credits include Beck, The Rolling Stones, No Doubt and The Black Crowes.
“Puig,” an impressed Daniel has said before, “has the whole world in his head at one time.”
“He's a genius,” said Daniel. “He's wonderful.” Daniel also liked the fact there was an equal balance of power in the recording studio. “He's the producer, I'm the artist.”
So for the second album, Daniel left London for a few months in Los Angeles. “It was such a privilege.” Beats the bedroom, I guess.
The title of the second album, Second First Impression, is surely loaded with meaning. Daniel, more than most, has learned all too well in the last year that when life's rare second chances come along they must be grasped with both hands.
“It's a second chance of life,” agreed Daniel. “Even the world is making a 'second' first impression on me.”
Although there is that proverb that tells us one never gets a second chance to make a first impression. Daniel admitted: “A second first impression is pretty much impossible, and so it's fun to go for impossible things really!”
He is promising a back-to-basics approach to his forthcoming performance in Thetford Forest. If his UEA gig is anything to go by, expect a powerful performance that packs a punch, by someone who refuses to live life in the slow lane, pre or post-accident. “I'm going to grab that mike and give it as much as I've got,” he assured me.
That aside, I couldn't help feeling that my second impression of Daniel, two years on, was disappointingly different to the first. t
t Daniel Bedingfield plays Thetford Forest on Friday, July 15. www.danielbedingfield.com