Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Natasha Bedingfield

In Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the years in the rock/pop trenches has affected the ol’ grey matter. This week: Natasha Bedingfield

1: What is the name of the character you played in Lisa Kudrow’s cult series Web Therapy?

“OH MY GOD, I CAN’T REMEMBER! Man, this is deep! (Laughs) Jenny?”

WRONG. It’s Gemma Pankhurst-Jones.

“Gemma! OK, well it was a ‘J’! Lisa Kudrow was doing her own series and reached out to me – we’d met at an event – and asked me to be in it. It was my first taste of improv where you have a loose idea of what it’s going to be but then you have to wing it. It was based on the idea of her being a wacky therapist giving therapy on FaceTime, and she thinks I’m an assistant for Prince William and Kate. When you start acting with Lisa, she’s such a pro, you’re just like: ‘This is a comic genius!’. I was trying to do all these different expressions but when I watched it back, I was just frowning a lot of the time (Laughs).

Have you been offered any other acting roles?

“One of my favourite actors in the world – Faye Dunaway – came to my hotel to audition me. But I didn’t realise it was an audition! She contacted my manager and came to my room and I hadn’t realised she was putting together a movie about her life. She was looking for someone to play her and thought I looked a bit like her. Which is the biggest compliment in the world! But then she met me and realised I had an English accent, and was like ‘Oh!’”

Does Rock n Roll Kill Braincells?

2: Which pop star randomly cameos in your ‘I Wanna Have Your Babies’ video?

“Nadine from Girls Aloud!”

CORRECT.

“My tour manager was their tour manager so we’d often share the same cars and our schedules would overlap. I’m such a fan of Nadine’s singing – her voice is totally underrated. We knew each other and she was in LA, so when I was there filming the video, she came along and ended up in it.”

 ‘I Wanna Have Your Babies’ was a divisive tune. How do you look back on it?

“Radio 2 wouldn’t play it ‘cos they thought it was a bad example for young girls because I was talking about having babies. To me, it was just about what girls are really thinking and not saying out loud. I did get a slap-back from it and realised ‘Sometimes there’s a reason you don’t say things out loud’. I feel like it should have been an SNL [Saturday Night Live] skit. There’s a lot of comedy in it and I don’t think people were expecting comedy from me so they took it really seriously.”

For a bonus half-point, name the two members of Girls Aloud you share a writing credit with on the song ‘Love Made Me Do It’.

“Ooh yes! Cheryl and Nicola.”

CORRECT.

“I wrote ‘Love Made Me Do It’ a year earlier for my album with one of my favourite production teams [The Invisible Men] who wrote ‘Do It Like A Dude’ for Jessie J. We wrote this really fun song then Jon [Shave] called me up and said: ‘Cheryl would love to do this song and she’s written on it as well’. And I thought it was great. That’s how a lot of people song-write these days. You keep adding to the song and changing it and you write over Skype – in the same way people do therapy! (Laughs) That’s how I wrote with Nicki Minaj on her debut ‘Pink Friday’. Her team called me up and said: ‘Look, you have to get on this record’. I was like ‘After touring’, and they were like: ‘No, the album is closing this week’. So I just wrote some stuff in the studio and sent it back – I was never in the same room.”

3: Who once gave you a standing ovation when you performed a cover of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ ‘The Tracks of My Tears’ live?

“The answer is one of the best standing ovations I’ve ever had in my life: President Barack Obama!”

CORRECT. When you performed at the White House for ‘The Motown Sound’ in 2011.

“And also Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson! Obama was lovely. While I was singing, he’d turn around to my husband – who was sitting two rows back – and make comments. One thing I noticed was he had very soft hands! He was super-charming but professional – not at all flirty. I remember walking away feeling like I’d failed in some way because my mum had told me since I was a kid ‘You’re going to meet prime ministers and world leaders’ and then when I met him, I just didn’t have any advice for him. (Laughs) I didn’t solve any world problems! I was like: ‘Aagggh, I’ve missed my moment!’”

If you were asked to perform at the White House now, would you do it?

“I would politely decline. I wouldn’t do a Kanye! (Laughs) Although I love Kanye – Kim and Kanye have always been lovely to me every time I’ve hung out with them. But there’s definitely some things I disagree on with the current administration, so I think that would be difficult.”

In 2014, you talked about climate change and performed ‘Love Song to the Earth’ for the United Nations. Does the rise of the likes of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion fill you with hope?

“Actually, now I’m thinking if I was asked to the White House, would I feel an obligation to go because then maybe I could talk to Trump about climate change? But realistically, would it make a difference? The problem has been that a whole generation has felt like it could say stuff ‘til we’re blue in the face, but our voice won’t make a difference – and now people are figuring out a way to take action to change the system. I sang at the UN and wrote a song about climate change. Nelson Mandela’s widow was there and all the world leaders. I’m not a public speaker, but found my words flowed because it was something I cared about.”

4: You were interviewed on the red carpet at the Brits for Popworld in 2005. Which charity do you ask people to support on it?

“Hmmmmn….wow, well it’s probably my mum’s charity Global Angels.”

WRONG. You appealed for people to support (the Simon Amstell made-up charity) Monkeys For Junkies.

“Oh my goodness! (Laughs) I do not remember that!”

5: In the video for ‘Jet Lag’ – your 2011 collaboration with Simple Plan – where does frontman Pierre Bouvier mail you a postcard from?

“Awww…that’s not fair! (Laughs, before starting to sing the track) I don’t even remember the words to that song. Um, Canada?”

WRONG. It was Chicago.

“Oh well! So my points aren’t going to be that good, are they? Pierre has amazing tattoos. After the video, he stood up on the table and pulled down his pants and showed this incredible whole body side-tattoo of a fish.”

Who’s been the most unusual person who’s said they like your music?

Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers – there’s a whole bunch of artists that age who always run up to me and start singing ‘Love Like This’, which was just their song. I was at a party and Taylor Swift was singing ‘These Words’ with me at the top of her lungs and it was a real compliment.”

6: Which late rapper sampled your song ‘Soulmate’ on his 2009 track ‘Incompatible’?

“I don’t know!”

WRONG. It was Mac Miller. (Although not ‘late’, we also would have accepted Wiz Khalifa for half a point.)

“Noooo! I’ve got to check that out!

You’ve worked with quite a few rappers…

Jay-Z always gives me a little head nod when I come into a room. I feel respected for being in my own lane and not trying to imitate someone else. I have such respect for hip-hop because it’s kind of the modern punk in that you get a freedom to address stuff that isn’t talked about – like Childish Gambino. Two or three years ago, there was a great Roc Nation party and everybody was there – it would be quicker to list the people who weren’t there (Laughs). I remember asking Kelly Rowland advice about juggling a career and babies – I wasn’t pregnant at the time – and she was like: ‘It enhances your life – just go for it.’”

7: What number did your duet with your brother Daniel, ‘Ain’t Nobody’, reach on The Guardian’s list of ‘the weirdest Brits performances’?

“I wonder why it was weird – is it ‘cos it’s a brother and sister?’

Yes – covering a song by Chaka Khan and Rufus about ‘how the closeness between two people can unexpectedly lead to an endless night of tender love-making’…

“Well, it was definitely a different kind of take on it! 25 at a guess?”

WRONG. It was number one. Another coveted chart-topper for the Bedingfield clan!

“Really?! That’s so weird! I was just watching it last night – showing it to a friend. We’re both big personalities onstage and it took a lot of holding back from both sides to let both of us share the stage. We were inspired by Michael and Janet Jackson in ‘Scream’, where they have a sing-off with each other. The music was done by David Arnold, which is probably why it sounds Bond-ish.”

Any chance of any future collaborations with Daniel?

“I respect Dan – I honestly think he’s the best performer I’ve ever seen and learnt everything I know off him. It’d be fun to do something together. But we have different ways of writing – and I feel like he’s just a force. Who knows? It takes a lot for us to work together. I feel there’s a reason we’re friends – maybe it’s because we don’t work together! (Laughs).”

8: You co-wrote ‘Hold Me In Your Arms’ with Daniel for Steps exiles H & Claire. Which of their singles does it appear as a B-side on?

“Is it…..? (Laughs) I can’t even remember which song it is! Um, I have no idea!”

WRONG. It was the B-side to their 2002 double A-side ‘All Out of Love’/’Beauty and the Beast’.

“I don’t even remember writing that song!”

9: In which movie is ‘Pocketful of Sunshine’ labelled as ‘the worst song ever’?

Easy A.”

CORRECT. After a receiving a greeting card from her grandmother that plays the song, the protagonist Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) declares it to be ‘the worst song ever’, before becoming addicted to it.

“I loved that and sent it to all of my friends when I first saw it. It perfectly explains what happens with pop songs – sometimes when you first hear them, they get on your nerves and grow on you. And sometimes it’s the other way round where you love it and then it gets on your nerves because you’ve heard it too much. In real life, there was an advert for the song in Rolling Stone magazine which was like a musical greeting card. Emma Stone took the magazine and used it as part of her audition, and the director loved it, which is why they asked me if they could use the song in the movie. Before it was released, one person in my family said it might be  too annoying and someone in my label thought it was too weird a song – because the verse sounds like a chorus – so I did try and re-write it. But it just didn’t feel as fun – it started to feel like a sad song.”

10: According to an interview you did in 2007, which indie band did you once limbo to at an anti-slavery concert?

“(Raucous laughter) I love doing the limbo because I can really go far back! It gets everybody going. I have no idea though.”

WRONG. It was Razorlight.

“Wow! Okay! Well I guess they get me going! (Laughs) I have a vague memory of seeing a picture in a newspaper of me doing that. It must have been at Stop the Traffik or Live 8?”

Does Rock n Roll Kill Braincells?

 

The verdict: 3.5/10

“Oh good! That’s ok because it’s all been a bit of a blur.”

Natasha Bedingfield‘s latest album, ‘Roll With Me’,  is out now.