The crass proverb tells us that one never gets a second chance to make a first impression. In most instances, that phrase contains a grain of truth. But what if that weren't always the case? What if it was possible to innovate, adapt, develop and expand on those first impressions, and offer something at once entirely new and wholly familiar? What if there were a performer whose music made it impossible not to reassess whatever your initial first impressions of that performer might have been? Enough of the what-ifs. 25-year-old Daniel Bedingfield is that performer. And he's learned all too well in the last year that when life's rare second chances come along they must be grasped with both hands.
Bedingfield was born in New Zealand then raised by social worker parents in South East London. By age six he was writing songs, by age nine rapping along to a boombox at school, and by age sixteen was composing on his first keyboard. When he was eighteen, Daniel wrote the song that would change everything. A song of self-belief, frustration and the first pangs of young love, 'Gotta Get Thru This' sat unopened for months in A&R-man bins around London.
Indeed the track, with its overwhelming and innovative garage sound was still being widely ignored when garage hotshot EZ plucked one of Daniel's self-pressed twelve inch singles for inclusion on the compilation album 'Pure Garage 4'. Almost instantly, the track blew up everywhere from Brixton to Ayia Napa and propelled Daniel straight to number one in the UK charts. Not bad for a song recorded in Daniel's bedroom with one computer and one microphone.
Eventually signing to Polydor, Daniel unveiled an astonishingly diverse debut album, mixing frenetic drum'n'bass and hugely understated classic balladry with funk, soul, ragga and pop. Daniel's emerging talent combined traditional songwriting flair with some impressively sophisticated production knowhow. Impossible to second-guess, the album covered so many syles, tempos and influences that it immediately had the ring of a career-encompassing greatest hits collection and, to be fair, by the time Daniel had finished unveiling singles, it wasn't far off. In the end the album sprouted six singles - 'Gotta Get Thru This', 'James Dean', 'If You're Not The One', 'I Can't Read You', 'Never Gonna Leave Your Side' and 'Friday'. Among these were five Top 10 hits - including three UK Number Ones. To date the album has sold 1.7 million in the UK and 2.9 million worldwide (650,000 in the US.)
"I've always known since I was nine years old that I would be doing this," Daniel said in one of the many Stateside interviews published in 2003, as he watched his album catch the imagination of the American public. "Whatever happens, I'm ready for it." But in reality nobody could have been prepared for what really happened next. On January 2 2004 Daniel was cut from the wreckage of his jeep near Auckland, New Zealand. The roof of the jeep had broken Daniel's neck, and he would have a metal frame bolted into his skull for three months. While the fashion world briefly considered the role of the neckbrace in 2004 catwalk chic, Daniel began a physically and mentally draining course of physiotherapy. One unlikely benefit to come from the accident was that Daniel's pace of life slowed down for the first time in two years. After the transition from bedroom-dwelling zero to chart-topping hero, Daniel's head had already been spinning.
"Before the accident it seemed as if whatever I was doing, I was five steps ahead of myself," Daniel remembers. "It was hard to keep my head above water. And now Well, now I'm just really enjoying life. I have a sense which I know some people only experience far later in life that I know who I am. And I'm comfortable."
These changes in Daniel's outlook have made an understandable impact on his music. Though some of the songs on Daniel's second album 'Second First Impression' date back to those days recording in a bedroom, others ooze a new confidence and self-belief, a result of Daniel's production partnership with LA producer Jack Joseph Puig, a veteran whose credits include idiosyncratic and unique talents like Beck, The Rolling Stones, No Doubt, Weezer and The Black Crowes. "Puig", an impressed Daniel says, "has the whole world in his head at one time".
"Communication was vital to the album", Daniel says. "We had continued and extended conversations about how to retain an essence of what made my music me." To this end the sounds crafted around many of the songs are based on Daniel's own home demos; other tracks were built from Daniel's own primitive beatbox accompaniments and some even retain those percussion effects on the finished CD.
To date, three singles have been released from the album, 'Nothing Hurts Like Love', 'Wrap My Words Around You' and 'The Way'. Like its predecessor, 'Second First Impression' also made some bold and from the outside, seemingly reckless lyrical commitments. "I love putting out really vulnerable music that could just bite me on the ass," Daniel laughs. "There's stuff in my music that I'd literally never tell my closest friend, and yet somehow it just feels right to put it into a song and tell the entire planet. It takes something that is ugly within yourself, some base instinct, or a pain that is really deep and you, and then it permits all that to enter the public consciousness. For me it's an almost spiritual experience."
"Most music these days has lost its power. Music has lost its force, its meaning, its direction. I wasn't going to let that happen to me. I feel the album reaches some places the last one didn't and that maybe my songwriting jumped forward with 'The Way' and 'Sorry'. "I would never have been able to write those songs before."
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Daniel Bedingfield Nominated For Grammys
Posted: Wed Jan 8, 2003 5:35 pm
Daniel Bedingfield has been nominated for a Grammy in the category of:
- Best Dance Recording (Gotta Get Thru This)
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