The male voice of Above & Beyond, Richard Bedford has long emerged as one of the most distinctive vocalists in dance music. First lending his unmistakable chords to Above & Beyond’s music on “Tri-State” classics such as “Alone Tonight”, the Yorkshire-based vocalist is back on firing form for the Anjunabeats bosses’ latest album “Group Therapy”.
Having featured on the hit single “Sun & Moon”, Bedford’s heart-wrenching tones are also again ringing out on the club floors and radio waves thanks to current single “Thing Called Love” – recently enjoying its third week on the BBC Radio 1 B-list. With the single hitting the stores this week, we caught up with Richard to talk about how he first hooked up with Above & Beyond, all things “Group Therapy” and how he relaxes when he finally gets home to Yorkshire.
How did your relationship with Above & Beyond first come about?
“We met through a friend of mine from college, Dan Myles. He was working at Anjuna at the time and had been asking me to send a vocal demo over to the boys for months. I had actually taken a break from singing and sold most of my home studio, but Dan, ever persistent, sent me over a few Above & Beyond tracks; “No One On Earth”, “Satellite” and “Far From In Love” if I remember correctly, and I was pretty much hooked from that moment. I managed to borrow a friend’s old 8 track, dusted off my guitar and recorded a rough demo called “Stars Collide” which, of course, turned out to be an existing lyric from “Alone Tonight”. A week or so later I was in the studio with Tony & Jono.
Tony was once quoted as saying “I’m so glad we found Richard, he sings like I’d like to sing”, why do you think your vocals work so well with Above & Beyond’s melodies and have you been giving Tony the odd singing tip after that comment?
“I’m not sure Tony needs singing tips from me! I love his vocals! Every track I’ve worked on, from “Tri-State” to “Group Therapy”, has always felt instantly sing-able to me. I tend to start off from an emotional place to try and connect with a track, and the boys write these really gorgeous, resonant songs. I tweeted a while ago that “without emotion there is no song, only singing” I think that mix of honest, heartfelt vocal delivery works well with the Above & Beyond sound.”
“Sun & Moon” has proved to be a big success, finding fans old and new. Why do you think that song connected so much with people?
“Again, “Sun & Moon” resonates and connects to the listener. I remember after the first day of recording, sitting in my hotel room, listening to it over and over with a huge smile on my face, I was instantly hooked. I think “Sun & Moon” expresses itself in a way that hits the mark quickly and feels somehow personal. Losing those close to us, and wishing we could have done things differently are shared parts of the human experience and “Sun & Moon” reflects that in a very accessible way.”
What has been your proudest moment working with Above & Beyond?
“Definitely our live show in Beirut, it was amazing to be a part of it. I remember a moment at the end of the gig; I was back stage and had just sung “Alone Tonight”. I was watching open-mouthed as the boys performed with Zoë, and suddenly confetti exploded everywhere, the lights went up, and I remember thinking, what a beautiful experience, the sense of oneness with the crowd and with each other was quite overwhelming.”
How would you think the overall sound of “Group Therapy” differs from “Tri-State”? Did you need to approach the songs any differently?
“In terms of my approach, I just try and give my all to the vocal performance, find the right voice, the right feel for each line, each phrase. I guess I am a little less green with regard to the shifts in trends in dance music, but I’m not sure how much that altered my approach. In terms of sound, I feel as though “Group Therapy” is a progression, a natural step. There is a thread that exists through both “Tri-State”and “Group Therapy” of course, those beautiful widescreen cinematic moments, strong heartfelt songs, great production and a sense of flow from one track to the next, but “Group Therapy” feels more contemporary to my ears.”
All the tracks that you lend your vocals to on “Group Therapy” have a very personal and slightly vulnerable element to them. Which tracks on the album do you feel especially close to?
“I can’t pin down a favorite, it constantly changes. At the moment I keep diving into “On My Way to Heaven”, but I think each of them has its own character. In some ways it feels easier to enjoy Zoë’s singing, not just because she so incredibly talented, but because there is a distance from myself. “Love Is Not Enough” is blowing me away on a daily basis at the minute! “
I understand you once appeared as a dancer in a pop video, did appearing in the “Thing Called Love” music video take you back to those days? How did the shoot itself all unfold?
“Ha ha, I knew that would come up! It was a pretty different experience to be honest. The “Thing Called Love” shoot was great. Inside all the chaos and action was the calm figure of Ferry, the director, he obviously had a clear vision of what he wanted and how to get it. When I have been involved in video shoots in the past, there have been seemingly endless takes, acquiring as much footage as possible. But Ferry knew when he had the right shot and moved on; it was a really fresh and dynamic way of working.
Growing up, who influenced you musically and did you always know you wanted to be a musician?
“I tended to bounce between art and music, never quite sure which I would settle on. I used to do some early VJ stuff for a few club nights in Bradford and Leeds and had always played in bands, firstly as a keyboard player, before I finally bit the bullet and started to write and sing. My earliest influence was Depeche Mode, certainly their “Violator” album, but as my journey unfolded different influences were added to the collection, usually slightly dark and often with an electronic element. I would say my biggest influences are probably Radiohead, Kent, Jeff Buckley and Granddaddy.”
Which vocalists do you most look up to and why?
“Jeff Buckley was an incredible singer. I love some of the subtle, unexpected moments from Stevie Wonder and the vulnerability of Chris Martin’s vocals on the Coldplay debut, “Parachutes”, was also quite special. In our genre, I loved Jan Burton on his work with both Gabriel and Dresden and Super8 & Tab, Ashley Tomberlin’s voice has a warm, intimate sensuality about it… mate… there are too many to mention…”
How would you best describe your own vocal style?
“You described it best, personal and vulnerable.”
Are you working on any musical projects right now?
“I’m currently sorting through my collection of songs and trying to make sense of an album. Things are taking shape nicely, but the tracks are in a varied state at the moment, and although I know my way around a few bits of kit, I wouldn’t really call myself a producer. I will certainly be looking for a little assistance in that department shortly, but at the moment some of it feels like reading through an old diary and some feels like a fresh page. Hopefully I will be able to make sense of them sitting together.”
Between your collaborations with Above & Beyond and all the work that you’ve been doing on your own album you must be exhausted! How do you relax when you’re at home in Yorkshire?
“Well, I do a little mountain biking, there are some great trails around this neck of the woods. Play a little golf, do a spot of fishing, and play chess… ha ha Rock & Roll!”
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