It’s a rainy day in London, and in a moment of weakness, Julia Fordham wishes she were in sunny Southern California.
Mind you, she wouldn’t want to live there permanently. It’s a nice place to visit, maybe even to record an album, but home is very much in Britain.
“At first, I felt a little bit out of place,” the bubbly singer-songwriter said of her three-month stay in L.A. to cut her fourth Virgin album, “Falling Forward,” out July 12.
“I went there initially to record three tracks with my producer, Larry Klein, and I did feel it took me a while to find my feet the first month or so, but after that I really got into it. Power walking along the seafront, ordering in food, driving around.”
More importantly, the change of scenery did the 31-year-old Fordham a world of good musically. Her previous albums – “Julia Fordham” (1988), “Porcelain” (1990) and “Swept” (1991) – were recorded in the safe confines of a London studio near her home. For “Falling Forward,” she said she needed to break the barriers and challenge herself, so she looked to the West and hooked up with Klein (Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin).
Fordham’s overseas adventure also extended her lush vocal style.
“I spent a bit of time up front with this record, demo-ing at home beforehand and trying different vocal techniques,” she said. “I felt the kind of material I was doing on ‘Porcelain’ and ‘Swept’ needed the kind of approach that was more intimate.
“I felt some of these (new) songs needed a fuller approach, so I stretched myself out that way. I tried all sorts of things – using different mikes, different reverbs, warming up and going straight in. There’s no shortcut to those things; you just have to work through and see what it’s about.”
The result harkens back to Fordham’s seductive self-titled debut, which spent 25 weeks on Billboard’s pop albums chart in early ’89. With “Falling Forward,” she’s certain to maintain her hold on the VH-1 generation, who first embraced her with “Porcelain” and the single “Manhattan Skyline.”
While she tries to avoid a formula musically, Fordham sticks with what she knows best lyrically: relationships.
“For the most part, the songs are autobiographical, but I think I’m more of an observer,” she said. “I see things happening to myself and other people and write about them. That seems to be my niche. It still intrigues me, I’m not bored with it yet, even though there’s plenty of uplifting, get-in-touch-with-your-soul kinds of songs on this album.”
A lot of time has passed since Fordham sang “Woman of the ’80s,” off the first album. She laughs when asked to describe the woman of the ’90s.
“I don’t think I ever really knew what the woman of the ’80s was like, that’s half my problem,” she said with an infectious giggle. “The ’90s have a different flavor than the ’80s, in a way. There’s more of a new-age appeal. Less shoulder pads and more getting in touch with your spiritual self. That’s certainly where I’m at, anyway.
“Politics have changed to reflect that. People are less supportive of the Reagan, Thatcher thing, aren’t they? That’s the ’90s vibe. And I like it better this way.”
BWF (before we forget): Fordham’s fifth album, “East West,” was released in August 1997. … Check her out on the Web @ www.eden.vmg.co.uk/.