Dido doles out advice to her stand-in Florence Welch for Oscar night
When it was announced a few weeks ago that Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine was filling in for Dido on the Feb. 27 Academy Awards to sing her nominated song, “If I Rise,” tongues started wagging as to why Dido wasn’t going to be on the show with co-writer AR Rahman.
As she posted shortly afterwards on her website, Dido was missing her “dream of going to the Oscars” for the best possible reason: she and her husband are expecting their first child this summer and she didn’t feel it was wise to travel from her British home. But even revealing that much about herself took some deliberation.
“I’m not a particularly public person about my private life,” she tells Hitfix. “I wanted to explain why I wasn’t going to be there. I didn’t want to upset fans. It’s the one thing you really can’t hide unless you sit in the house and don’t leave,” she laughs.
While she is “gutted,” that she won’t be at the show, she is delighted that Welch will stand in for her and had a hand in Welch becoming her replacement. “We all threw some [names] around and she seemed like the best choice,” she says. “I can’t wait to hear her. I was so happy she could do it." Her advice to her fellow Brit on that big night? "I just want her to enjoy it. She’s got a unique and special voice.”
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The song, which plays in a pivotal scene in the movie, came about as she and Rahman were working on another song, one which may appear on her next album. “Literally, we just sort of met up,” she says. “I’d always loved what he’d done. His melodies are amazing, he pushes me. I’d never sung to a melody written by someone else.”
During that process, the opportunity to collaborate on “127 Hours” come up. And if the words to the woozy “If I Rise” don’t make sense to you, don’t worry: they don’t to her either. “A lot of people have been trying to decipher [the lyrics] and have been sending me notes,” she says, but, she adds, they aren’t supposed to be linear in any way. Director Danny Boyle wanted Dido’s energy and her ethereal voice, but felt the more lyrics, the more it could distract from the scene. So Dido improvised. “I just closed my eyes —I know it sounds bananas— and just sang what I was feeling at the time, using the instruments and voices as well... When I actually saw it in the context of the film, I was so happy we decided to do it that way.” She says each take, of which there were only a few, was completely different. Now, her biggest challenge is figuring out what she actually said so she can sing it for the video she and Rahman are making.
When she and Rahman connected, she was in the middle of recording her fourth studio album, which she plans to release this year on Arista. She compares it to her first and breakthrough set, 1999’s “No Angel.” That album, as you'll recall, catapulted Dido to fame after Enimem sampled "Thank You" in his song, "Stan," and the two made a video together.
“This record, I’ve written a huge amount on my own,” she says, “in the hotel room or sitting at home. I love the solitary thing at the piano. A lot of this was done in the studio, but a lot of this was done on my own, and then bringing in [Dido’s brother] Rollo [Armstrong].”
Much of it was written during this past summer, which she spent driving around California. “It’s just my favorite place and I just can’t stop writing,” she says. “It’s something about the driving and the music and the bigness of everything. The sunshine helps. I love what I wrote out there. I ended up recording huge amounts in my hotel room: I had a microphone propped on some books and my computer and my keyboard and [we] built around those minimalist tracks.”
In addition to writing solo, she worked with longtime collaborator Rick Nowels, as well as Greg Kurstin (of The Bird and the Bee fame) and Jeff Bhasker, who is best known for his work with Kanye West.
As fans know, Dido leaves the intimacies for her music, preferring to remain a bit of a mystery to her fans. “I pour so much of myself into my songs. If people knew too much about me, I’d feel self conscious and stop being so personal in my songs,” she says. “If I stopped to think about what I was writing, I might not do it, but, thankfully because I don’t have the feeling of people knowing me, I sit at the piano and let it all pour out.”
And even with the impending arrival of one bundle of joy, it’s clear that Dido has no plans to walk away from her other love, her music.: “I want to try to do some shows this year and lots next year,” she says.
You can see if Dido wins her first Oscar when the Academy Awards are handed out Sunday, Feb. 27 on ABC.