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Dido Greets Motherhood With 'Girl Who Got Away'

Kendrick Lamar, Brian Eno, Jeff Bhasker among her collaborators

Dido
Guy Aroch, Courtesy RCA Records
March 1, 2013 1:25 PM ET

Since her previous work, 2008's Safe Trip Home, the singer-songwriter Dido had her first child. However, she tells Rolling Stone that her fourth studio album, Girl Who Got Away, due March 26th, is definitely not an album about motherhood.

"All of the album was written before Stanley came along," she says. "I actually thought it was coming much sooner, sort of at the end of 2010, and then I found out was pregnant – which was fantastic – at the end of 2010. There's a whole heap of different flavors on this album, and different emotions, and in a way it sort of covered more ground for me emotionally and musically than any other record I've done, but in quite a simple way."

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To get those flavors, she worked with a variety of collaborators – some familiar, like her brother Rollo (from the band Faithless) and Brian Eno, and some new, including Kendrick Lamar. Dido says the Lamar collaboration, "Let Us Move On," came about from the involvement of Jeff Bhasker, who's enjoyed a lot of recent success with the band Fun. However, it was Bhasker's work on another record that attracted Dido's attention.

"I'm a big Kanye West fan. I think he's great. I'd love to do a track with him one day," she says. "That 808s [& Heartbreak] album I just love. I just thought that was a great record. That's one of the reasons that I wanted to work with Jeff Bhasker."

Dido is a big believer in bringing new blood into her circle of music. "You always learn something more, and it makes the music and songs more exciting," she says. "I wouldn't have written a song like 'End of Night' with Rollo. I like that variety. That's what gave No Angel a lot of its variety – working with different people at different times."

Yet she absolutely understands the value of long-term relationships and familiarity. Case in point: she calls the most autobiographical song on the record one she didn't even write the lyrics to. "'Sitting on the Roof of the World' is actually written by my brother, but it just feels so relevant to me," she says. "I think that's the beauty of working with Rollo. He's the only other person who's ever written lyrics for my stuff, 'cause it sort of feels like this extension of my brain . . . I get really nicely surprised by his lyrics. I might sing them one way at first, thinking they're about this, and then suddenly it'll become about something else."

While the new songs predate the birth of Stanley, she admits that she now hears them differently after having a son. "A song like 'No Freedom,' for instance, on this record, was written about one thing, and then since Stanley was born I listened to it with fresh ears, in a way, and it sort of becomes about something different, which I love. I always feel pleased if a song does change meaning in that way, because I feel like I've written a good song," she says with a laugh.

Right now Dido has no confirmed U.S. tour dates, but if she does make it Stateside, she is looking forward to exploring with her son. "What's great now is I can do a whole heap of things again, and sort of seeing them through Stanley's eyes makes it completely fresh. You get the glorious Technicolor version of things you've seen before, and they look even better when you see them through his eyes," she says.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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