Six years after she made her debut on the Hot 100, British-born Natasha Bedingfield is in new chart territory, breaking into the top 30 of the Hot Country Songs chart this week as "Easy," her collaboration with Rascal Flatts, jumps 31-29 with a bullet. For the week ending Sunday, Aug. 7, the song garnered airplay on 123 of the 128 radio stations that report to the panel that makes up the Hot Country Songs chart, for a total audience of 7 million.
Rascal Flatts reached out to Bedingfield specifically to team up with her on the Katrina Elam/Mike Mobley song.
"I flew to Nashville and that's were we really became friends, during the actual recording process," Bedingfield told Billboard.biz from Zurich, where she is making a TV appearance. "I went into the studio with Gary [LeVox, Rascal Flatts' singer] and we were in a separate room with our own mics while the band was playing live. As solo artists, you hope you're going to sound good together but you don't always know. It was an amazing moment when we could feel our voices blending."
The recording process with Rascal Flatts was very different from Bedingfield's solo studio sessions.
"They had a big audience there, including some pro football players and a bunch of Gary's friends. I usually lock out the room. I get very deep into the writing and recording process," says Bedingfield, who prefers not even having label folks present when she records.
Bedingfield admits to falling in love with Elam and Mobley's song as soon as she heard it. "It was an instant connection. It really resonated, that scenario of when you're having things going on in your life but you smile and make it look easy, as if there is no problem at all." She likens it to a classic song she performed at the White House in February as part of a Motown tribute. "I sang 'The Tracks of My Tears' with Smokey Robinson sitting in the audience. Like 'Easy,' you're smiling, but if you take a good look, there is pain there."
On "Easy," Bedingfield sings in her own style, making the single a fusion of country and pop. "The whole reason they reached out to me is that the world is getting smaller and musical styles are starting to collide. People don't listen to one radio station. On iTunes you can mix different worlds and bring country and pop and folk and live music together with a mass audience. I could have sung 'Easy' in a country way but I just sang it how I sing. I think it's a really nice blend."
Bedingfield also sings on Nicki Minaj's "Last Chance" on "Pink Friday" and on an upcoming charity album for Amnesty International featuring Bob Dylan songs. "The common denominator is a love of music," she says of her recent diverse projects.
Bedingfield is not the first female pop artist to break through on the country songs chart by collaborating with a country act. Sheryl Crow has appeared on the same chart in team-ups with Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Loretta Lynn, Miranda Lambert and Kid Rock, a crossover artist himself.
"Easy," which is also on the Hot 100 (debuting on the current chart at No. 87), is the third Rascal Flatts single from the 2010 album "Nothing Like This." It marks the second time Rascal Flatts has charted on Hot Country Songs with another artist, though the first time as the lead act. In 2005, Carrie Underwood performed the threesome's "Bless the Broken Road" on the season four finale of "American Idol" with the group and though not released on an album or as a single promoted to radio, their version earned enough airplay to chart, peaking at No. 50.
Bedingfield and the Flatts performed "Easy" on an ABC special earlier this year and recorded a video for the song.