The Story of 'Unwritten' By Natasha Bedingfield
-So we're in the studio. It's our very first session together. We didn't know the song would be called "Unwritten," and we definitely didn't know we'd write a hit that day. There was this moment we were like, "I don't know what the chorus is."
We had writer's block. -I remember going home and staying up all night trying to figure out chords for the chorus. -We were totally in the dark as to what she'd done. She came in, put the CD on.
-And they were all like, "[ Gasps ] That's it." ♪ Feel the rain on your skin ♪ ♪ No one else can feel it for you ♪ -"Unwritten" had no U.S. release at that point. -There was no certainty at all. -I remember going into the meeting, and they're like, "This isn't gonna do well in America." -They're like, "No, that's too pretty. Let's write something more sexy."
I've had many times in my life where people have very "kindly" told me what my limits are. [ Camera shutters clicking, indistinct shouting ] -She was literally never stopping. There was no time to breathe. -The moment that you get famous, it's not very natural. It's not very healthy. -It was everywhere. "Unwritten" was literally everywhere.
She did everything to keep that song going. -The song is speaking to a new generation in a different way. -I'm just like, "15 million views?!" -♪ Ooh, ooh, yeah ♪ -♪ Yeah ♪ -How do I start a story like this? ♪ Today is where your book begins ♪ ♪ The rest is still unwritten ♪ [ Bedingfield vocalizing ] It feels really good to sing again. I had a nice long break, and being onstage just -- It -- It -- It feels wonderful, actually. It feels really good to just kind of use my -- use the thing that I was given that I'm the best at. I come from a family that is a really wonderful, creative, loud family from New Zealand.
My parents emigrated to London just before I was born. We didn't have a lot of money growing up, and my mum was very thrifty. We only wore secondhand clothes. Even though our childhood was, like, late '80s, I mean, we looked like we were from the '70s [Laughs] because we'd always get clothes a little bit late. My parents homeschooled us, which was really unusual in England. I'm the second child. There's four of us.
My sister Nikola Bedingfield is two years younger than me. She's my best friend and an amazing singer. This is my younger brother, Josh. My mum had Josh when I was about 8. I felt like a second mum to him.
I get very tender towards him. This is a picture of my older brother, Daniel Bedingfield, and me. Daniel was the most talented kid I've ever seen. He's definitely the guy who trained me on how to do music, and he was very hard on me. Like, if I was out of tune, he'd tell me.
-We were so driven, and all we wanted to do was sing. -When I was about 16 or 17, my brother wrote "Gotta Get Thru This," which is really -- It's a proper, like, dance song. -♪ I gotta get through this ♪ ♪ I gotta get through this ♪ And "Gotta Get Thru This" is blowing up. I've got a number-one hit.
And so when I had my platform, I wouldn't stop talking about my sister. -Honestly, he wouldn't shut up about me. Like, every -- every interview, h-he was always like, "My sister's incredible, as well."
-What's next for you? -Working on a new album. This is m-my sister, Natasha Bedingfield. -Hello, there. -She...
-I think people kind of rolled their eyes a bit, like, "Oh, yeah," you know. -There might be 10 people in the world that can sing as in tune as Natasha. She has perfect pitch. -I started writing songs, I think, around 18. Daniel's management started to manage me, and we met Phonogenic, which is a brand-new imprint of Sony. Andrew Frampton is a co-founder of Phonogenic.
He's an amazing songwriter. He kind of looks like a wizard. He's very tall, and he's very wise, and a co-writer on -- on a number of my songs. -Phonogenic was four partners -- myself, Steve Kipner, Paul Lisberg, and "Tops" Henderson. And there was a hesitation initially with her being Daniel's sister, because Daniel had just come out with a couple of real big hits. It was like, "Do we want to have our first signing be a sister of a famous pop star?" -There was definitely a hesitation in us.
There are not many family members who follow other family members and are more successful or even as successful. -I've had many times in my life where people have very "kindly" told me what my limits are to protect me from disappointment. -We met her at Olympic Studios. We asked her to play us some of her demos. -We listened to them, and they were -- They were good, but they didn't necessarily show uniqueness or excitement. -But then she put one particular song on that she didn't yet have a chorus recorded for.
I said, "Why -- Why don't you just sing what you've got as an idea?" -She was riffing over her own song and coming up with a whole different melody line. -This whole other voice came out of her. -We were so excited. It was like -- It was that goose bump moment where we're like, "Can you come to the studio in a few days? We want to make some demos with you."
-Next step was, we got on a flight to L.A. to start writing the album and just started creating the thing the next day. -So my younger brother Josh is who I wrote "Unwritten" about.
He was 14, and I think Josh helped me remember what it was like to be 14 and the pressure that you feel, and everyone always asking me, "What are you gonna be when you grow up?" And for some reason, that question was so crippling to me. I didn't know what I wanted to be. So I'm in a writing session. And I had a little piece of paper where I had written down just a very basic poem.
It was something like, "Life is a blank page. I hold the pen and no one else." And instantly they're like, "No, that's too pretty.
You know, let's write something more sexy." I totally get it, too. Like, it's very hard to make a positive song not be cheesy, but I just remember putting that idea in my pocket and being like, "I'll just have to try and write that with someone else." And then one day, I'm in a session with these guys, and they're like, "We're bringing in a female writer."
Open the door, and in walks Danielle Brisebois. And it was just, like -- There was a moment. For some reason, something about the door, when it opened, it was like...
[Vocalizing] [ Laughs ] But she had really cool, funky, like, short hair with fringe. And it was just like, "Yes, that's my girl." Like, we just -- Our hearts connected. I don't think I would have written the same song with anyone else. ♪ No one else ♪ [ Laughs ] And she found an amazing track guy called Wayne Rodrigues. What I love about him is, he was actually an old-school deejay who was actually, like, mixing beats with records. -Danielle and I were working a lot together, and I remember Natasha coming to the studio in Santa Monica and just going through some of the beats and tracks that I had.
And when it got to the one that became "Unwritten," they were just like, "Oh, what's that?" At that point, it really was just a simple, you know, guitar idea. And so that's really how the song started. And then they started working on lyrics and melody, and then I just turned around, went to my laptop, and started programming the drums. In the early 2000s, hip-hop was kind of making its way into the pop world.
You know, you had Dido. -♪ My tea's gone cold, I'm wondering why ♪ -Other songs like "I'm Like a Bird," Nelly Furtado. -♪ I'm like a bird, I only fly away ♪ -That's kind of where my mind was at. And I was programming a lot of mid-tempo hip-hop grooves at the time. You know, the interesting thing on "Unwritten" is, there's scratching on it, and it's -- it's throughout. With this particular song, I had Natasha record just some long "ahhs" and "oohs," and I would make samples out of it.
And at that time, I had a little CD scratcher and scratched her vocals. So I was kind of... [ "Unwritten" plays ] ...doing that. And it just sounds more musical, so you don't notice it as much. And that's -- that's in the record.
It's just there's so many other vocals, but that really helped support the groove of that -- that reintro. I was just in my zone making beats. And Natasha said, "Hey, I have a -- a poem that I wrote for my little brother." -At some point, I'm like, "Maybe this room is the right room to share my little piece of paper." And I remember Danielle just like, "Yes." We didn't know the song would be called "Unwritten," and we definitely didn't know we'd write a hit that day.
My voice was very broken that day. It's been a whole month of songwriting, staying up late, not sleeping much. ♪ I am unwritten ♪ ♪ Can't read my mind ♪ ♪ I'm undefined ♪ The incredible thing is, when I was in the studio, I was like, "Ooh, I kind of like it." Yeah. And it kind of went along with the theme of the song, which is, you know, we've been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can't live that way. ♪ We've been conditioned to not make mistakes ♪ ♪ But I can't live that way ♪ ♪ Oh, oh ♪ This kind of perfectly imperfect thing, you know. These imperfections actually make something interesting.
♪ Ohh ♪ ♪ Ahh ♪ I was very like... ♪ Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi ♪ And the guitar's doing... ♪ Dum, dum, dum, dum ♪ A lot of music from India does that, where it has this kind of, like, one note flowing through. You know, this kind of, like... ♪ Mmmmmm ♪ We're just droning. We're going for it. ♪ Mm, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah ♪ ♪ Ooh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah ♪ -♪ Ooohhhh ♪ -♪ Oh, oh-oh ♪ -♪ Ooh, ooh, yeah ♪ -♪ Yeah ♪ -So that is all my sister.
♪ Ooh-ooh ♪ She's got a low-- like, a lower voice than me, but also more so-- Like, she can do more falsetto, as well. Like -- But that was her. Like, she just kind of brought us into that moment right there. -After we got to a certain point, I know we just said, "Hey, this part would just be awesome if we did a gospel choir."
-We didn't have access to a choir. So I was like, "Well, my sister's in town, and -- and one of my other best friends, Jessie, is in town. Why don't we just get them over, and we'll just stack up the vocals?" -♪ Ooh, yeah ♪ -We just said, "Hey, why don't you guys just -- You know, don't think about it. Just feel it." And it was like church in there. It was magic.
This gives you a sense of how much fun they were having in the studio. -Go. [ Woman laughs ] -Do -- Do -- Do this. This, this. [ Woman vocalizing ] ♪ Oh, oh, yeah ♪ [ Woman laughs ] -Good. -And all together.
-♪ Staring at the blank page before you ♪ That would probably be hundreds of times that we sang that to build it up. You know, let's all have low voices now. [ Low voice ] ♪ Feel the rain ♪ [ Normal voice ] You know, like, we just -- Anyway, we just went there, and it was so fun, and we couldn't really, like, take it out. Once it -- Once it was in there, it was just so inspired that we were like, "That -- That stays." ♪ Release your inhibitions ♪ Danielle and I, it was like this fire.
And we wrote these amazing verses, but it started to slow down when we came to the chorus. There was this moment we were like, "I don't -- I don't know what the chorus is." -Probably the most challenging part was coming up with the chorus chords.
-I remember a couple of hours of just being like, "Ugh." Writer's block. Some point, one of us called it. It was like, "Let's just come back and write it tomorrow." -I remember going home and staying up all night trying to figure out chords for the chorus so that when we got together the next day, I would have some ideas to play them. I started playing the -- the chords for the chorus, and it wasn't really coming together. I was playing them more, like, every bar.
It wasn't until I sped up the way I was playing it and did more of a push with the chords that they then wrote the chorus. -Lyrically, we were just like -- like, "Yes, yes, yes, yes!" you know, almost exploding and, like, really needing to get the words out. -It was probably around 3:00 in the morning when we tracked the vocal that became the record.
-♪ Feel that rain on your skin ♪ ♪ No one else can feel it for you ♪ ♪ Only you can let it in ♪ -♪ Only you can let it in ♪ -♪ No one else, no one else ♪ ♪ Can speak the words on your lips ♪ -♪ The words on your lips ♪ ♪ Drench yourself in words unspoken ♪ ♪ Live your life with arms wide open ♪ Oh, it's so fun to hear that all separated out like that, isn't it? ♪ The rest is still unwritten ♪ ♪ Yeah ♪ I do remember it having this kind of magical, almost religious feeling. I definitely feel like the lyrics to "Unwritten" have been quite powerful. It's amazing when something's just beginning and it's all possibilities. And when you feel that heat inside you that you know you want to say something, you know, and you know that there's more to you than what people see.
-I think a couple of days later, she came back, and gave us a CD and said, "It's really rough. It's really rough, you know." -I was probably quite shy at that point and just like, "Check this out. You know, listen to this." -We put the CD on, and we listened once, and we just looked at each other, and we just said, "Well, we're the luckiest guys on earth because that's a monster song." By the time we got to the chorus, we were jumping up and down and telling her that she'd written a smash. Yeah.
-They were all like, "[ Gasps ] That's it. That's it. That's -- That's the song." So we released "Unwritten" in England, and it did really well. -But just from a chart level, it only reaches number six in the U.K. -At that time, if you released something in England, it didn't mean that it would come out automatically anywhere else.
It was before the British invasion of Adele and Ellie Goulding and Amy Winehouse. -There was always a question mark to -- to whether she would get a U.S. release because not a lot of U.K. artists do. -Nothing sounded like it on the radio, and there was some hesitancy.
-I started meeting with different publishers, and I remember one particular publisher going into the meeting, and they're like, "I don't get it. This isn't gonna do well in America." -So you had to convince the American part of the label to invest in you. -About a year after it was released in the U.K. and throughout Europe, it was released in America. -The idea that the label came up with was that I would go to the radio stations directly and meet people and sing for contest winners.
-Bearing in mind she was now famous in the U.K. and Europe, she had to start again in the U.S. She would go and play little barbecues at the radio stations, you know, where there's 10 people. -It was six months of traveling to different radio stations and singing it for contest winners as the -- the radio station gave them pizza, you know, and people coming up to me, going, "I think you're gonna be big one day." One of the radio presenters that I met and really connected with was Cubby.
He was totally an early adopter of the song and was a champion of "Unwritten." -First time I heard "Unwritten," I was like, "Okay, this is a smash for so many reasons." Lyrically, it's perfect, tempo is perfect. And me, being the music director, looking for a balanced record to bridge all the different genres we have on the radio station, that's perfect. It just checked off every single box. -I have him to thank for this because when he says, "I'm gonna play this," then a lot of other people are watching and will play it, too.
He just knows what's good and what's cool, and people just follow him. -Z100 is still the biggest Top 40 station in America, and in 2005, 2006, Top 40 was thriving. -I think the first moment when we realized something was happening was -- was when it just was getting added to every radio station. -Radio is what made "Unwritten" a success. [ Radio tuning ] -Z100, New York's number-one hit music station.
I'm Cubby. It's Natasha Bedingfield. "Unwritten" is on Z100. -♪ I am unwritten ♪ -That's when things just went super-crazy, and it just became this phenomena.
The album was flying off the shelves. -It was just like, "What just hit me?" -She did everything to keep that song going. Doing all the late-night talk shows, and -- and -- and it was everywhere. "Unwritten" was literally everywhere. -We started to see it show up on the charts.
Then it became number one. It started getting licensing for different TV commercials. -MTV approaches our team, and is like, "We've got this new show, and we'd love to use your song." ♪ Today is where your books begins ♪ -When they licensed the song for "The Hills," we really didn't know anything about the show. -But I didn't think I knew how big "The Hills" would be and how that song really did become attached to the show.
I think it's just because the show is about a group of kids trying to find out who they are, you know, which is exactly what the song's about. -For Natasha, she was just so busy, there was no time to breathe. -The moment that you get famous, it's -- It also can be quite overwhelming because everybody wants a piece of you, and it can feel a little bit like a trauma of some kind because it's not very natural. It's not very healthy.
It's not very balanced, you know? So you have the touring, the people controlling your schedule, and not really being able to even plan days off, which makes the whole thing feel like a washing machine. Like, you're just like, "What hit me? Like, this is so fun, this is so weird." -And then we were doing it together -- two famous siblings. And she was handling it, and I was not. I really wasn't. -My brother was, like, at the height of his success.
And then he goes to New Zealand, and he has a car crash. -I'm driving, offroading in a jeep on a very dangerous road. It's supposed to go this way when you turn a corner, and it went this way. So the car spun out.
I broke my neck, and I'm in hospital with 10 breaks in my neck, and I can't move. -He wouldn't let me be there actually when he had his accident. He didn-- He didn't want everyone to be over him and doting on him. I think he didn't want me to worry.
And that really broke my heart. I still look up to him so much, and he's my hero, you know. -I'm lying in bed in terror, and Natasha's carrying on, looking after the world, releasing music, bringing hope. And I could rest. I'm really proud of that. Amazing woman.
-It's funny because I wrote it for my brother as a young teenager. As I'm getting older, that song relates to me more and more. And when people are going through a harder time, they want to have more positive songs. -As the years started to roll by, it became an enduring hit, and it just kept going and going and going, right up to today when people are TikTok'ing it. -So there was a remix done, and on TikTok last year, the song just exploded.
-♪ ...blank page before you ♪ ♪ Open up the dirty window ♪ -Back in March of 2021, I'm just doing what everyone else does when they're on TikTok. You're just scrolling, you're scrolling, you're scrolling.
The beat was the first thing that caught me. Then you hear Natasha in the background. ♪ Feel the rain on your skin ♪ [ Humming "Unwritten" ] And that. And I'm not even gonna lie. At this time, I didn't even know it was Natasha's song, but I fell in love with it immediately.
The moves are just coming to me little by little. And I'm like, "Okay, I like this right here. What's next?" We went to Orlando, and that's when we did it in public at Universal. So you have thousands of people walking past.
And when I first uploaded the video, I promise you, I did not see these views coming in like crazy at all. -I started getting videos from friends. Just text messages. "Have you seen this? Have you seen that?" My phone just, like, kept blowing up. -I look at my video. 15 million views?! 20 mil, 30 mil, 40 mil. I'm just like, "This is insane."
-This sound blew up. People wanted to dance to it. Lizzo is dancing to this version of "Unwritten." It's like, "What is going on? This is crazy." -I took a leap of faith, and I decided to just go ahead and D.M. Natasha and be like, "Hey, I can teach you this dance."
It was -- It was just a click of energy right there. We became instant friends. -It's been amazing to see how the song has just taken on a new life.
It's speaking to a new generation in a different way. And it just continues to surprise us. -Do you want to see the stage? -Yes. -Yeah? -Yes.
-Did you guys see the back of... -Okay, here we go. -Our audience awaits. -Wow. -Yes. -Wow. -Wow.
-So tonight, Rony Boyy is gonna come and join us onstage. See, what you can do, is, you've got the numbers here, and they help, you know, so you and I could go on two and two. -Okay. -Maybe. The fact that "Unwritten" keeps on reconnecting with the next generation, it just makes me so happy because it brings me back to how I felt when I was a teenager. And there's just so much possibility.
-The song, to me, is timeless. You wouldn't know that song was done in 2004. It still holds up today, and to me, a true hit will never go away. -It feels like she's singing to the whole of Generation Z, all of the Millennials, "Write your own story.
You can live your life however you want." And it feels like this explosion of hope. -When "Unwritten" was released, you know, early 2000 was an unsure time in the world. We'd had a lot of political instability.
There was a lot of stuff questioning what was going on in the world, as there is at the moment. -We all go through times in our lives when we need someone to say, "Hey, it's gonna be okay." And it's amazing to see how it's lived on and it's continuing to encourage people. -I think the key to "Unwritten's" longevity is that it has many layers. It's just a pop song. It's simple. Everyone can sing it.
It's accessible, but it actually has a deeper meaning, and you can keep finding new meanings within it. It just makes me so happy, and it's beyond anything I could have ever imagined. ♪ Release your inhibitions ♪ ♪ Feel the rain on your skin ♪ ♪ No one else can feel it for you ♪ ♪ Only you can let it in ♪ ♪ No one else, no one else ♪ ♪ Can speak the words on your lips ♪ ♪ Drench yourself in words unspoken ♪ ♪ Live your life with arms wide open ♪ ♪ Today is where your book begins ♪ ♪ The rest is still unwritten ♪