Betty Who has spent the last decade analysing every inch of the music industry, becoming a seasoned singer-songwriter/renowned bop-star early on in the process. If it wasn’t for the virality of 2012’s ‘Somebody Loves You’ that captured people’s hearts, then it was her relentless activism and close relationships with foundations GLAAD and The Trevor Project that cemented Betty as an LGBTQ+ icon that strives for inclusivity in every move she makes.
Her debut studio album ‘Take Me When You Go’ produced a surplus of hits that soon took on lives of their own by becoming fully-fledged queer anthems, whilst her sophomore follow-up ‘The Valley’‘ saw Betty embrace her sexuality unapologetically for the very first time. But ultimately, it was the transition from being a major label product to an independent artist that witnessed Betty become the most authentic version of herself.
2019’s self-titled ‘Betty’’ marked a rebirth as she began to learn the ropes of all that entails as an indie act, whilst still maintaining credibility in the pop department. Three years on and we arrive at ‘BIG!’‘ – Betty’s loudest, tallest, and most confident body of work yet. As she faces her insecurities and celebrates her uniqueness, ‘BIG!’ is a self-liberating memoir that documents Betty’s journey to becoming her truest self.
As all celebrations go, Betty plans to throw one over-the-top blowout for this current era of her life, taking ‘BIG!’ on a round trip to Europe and North America along with guests Neve, Shea Couleé and Slayyyter. Sitting down with Noctis Magazine ahead of her debut performance at London’s Heaven, Betty discusses queer icons, unexpected self-discoveries and the triumphs of making this new record.
Hello Betty! Let’s catch up. How have you been doing?
You know what, I’m doing okay! Feeling a little wild getting ready for tour, a little overwhelmed but mostly excited. I’ve been waiting for a moment like this for a long time so I’m really trying to stay present and mostly grateful!
We’ve been following your journey since Take Me When You Go, a record that feels so nostalgic to us (High Society still absolutely slaps, by the way). How much would you say you have grown, musically and/or personally, from the person you were releasing that album 7 years ago to now?
Wow, thank you, High Society stans rise up! I have grown exponentially since Take Me When You Go, of course, as you’d expect. I was such a baby when that record came out and so much is what I think people loved about that music was my reckless abandon – the fact that I didn’t know too much, and wasn’t trying too hard.
It’s been a really interesting experience having my most critically acclaimed record be my first album, when I knew the least! I had a lot of time to reflect over lockdown about why that is. I think it has a lot to do with instinct and heart. In many ways, I’m trying to get back to who I was back then, but with all my new experience points.
‘BIG!’ is your fourth record – what would you say has been your biggest triumph during the recording process?
I think finishing this fucking monster! It was such a labour of love, heavy on the labour. I received the finished album in my email the day I was burying my brother so it all felt very emotional and overwhelming. So much of myself went into the album, and to have it coincide with a really huge life event felt very metaphorical.
This is your second release as an independent artist, huge congratulations! We’re interested to know if there were any hardships you went through whilst making ‘Betty’ independently, that you were able to overcome when it came to ‘BIG!’?
‘Betty’ feels like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? 2019???? Somehow was 10 seconds ago and also a million years have passed. Something I was really adamant about on this record was writing on guitar/piano. I was tired of sitting in the room next to a computer while a producer worked on drum sounds. I wanted to write songs. at an instrument. The way I learned to. Trying to capture some of that magic from when I was 18 writing songs that made it onto take me when you go.
This feels like your most cohesive record yet; just one big ‘moment’ in your career. Do you feel the same?
I learned a lot making this record. I think I have grown and I’m really really proud of the work we turned out. Maybe I’m braver. Ultimately, I do feel the same. I knew that going in – no matter how much this record thrived or flopped, I’d wake up in the same bed, next to the same husband and dog, making the same coffee in the same kitchen. Maybe that’s part of what i learned through this process – that I am happy and valuable regardless of the world’s perception of my success.
We always like to ask artists what their personal favourite track is from their album, I can imagine it changes constantly… If you were to pick a favourite from ‘BIG!’ right now, what would it be?
Ugh, that is always the question and it’s so hard to answer. Yes, it does change all the time. but I keep coming back to ‘Blow Out My Candle’. Normally after 8 months of talking about a song and promoting it, I’m so over it and never wanna hear it again. but every time ‘candle’ starts, I feel my soul just light up. it feels like such a gift. to sing a song that is so specific to my journey, so honest about how many people haven’t seen my vision, yet it keeps encouraging me to stay on the path and not give up? Man. What a special place to be. And the idea that it might motivate others? Make them feel seen or inspired? I could die happy.
Aside from the ‘artist’ label, you’ve rightfully been given the title of ‘LGBTQ+ Icon’ – who are some of your own LGBTQ+ icons?
I’m obsessed with Dylan Mulvaney. She is smart and articulate and non-judgemental and beautiful and the way she shares herself with the world and educates those who don’t understand the kings and queens and everyone in between who no longer choose to conform to their born gender? She is what the world needs more of.
Discovering your queerness was no doubt one of the most significant self-discoveries you’ve come to make – have there been any other discoveries about yourself/life/anything that you’d like to share?
A huge realisation that helped me come to terms with myself was that I have been trying to be the artist I wished I was, rather than the artist I actually am. It changed my whole perspective and made me more authentic and more powerful.
Let’s discuss the mammoth European and North American tour. 28 dates, that’s wild! As this will be your biggest tour to date, will there be any special moments planned?
I’m really excited about Washington DC. It’s our biggest show of the tour and I’ve always had this crazy community there who show up for me and make me feel so seen and loved. I could cry just talking about it. So I think that’s the thing I’m most looking forward to; getting in front of those fans, having a chance to say thank you for the way they make me feel.
Are there any songs from your back catalogue that you never get tired of performing?
I LOVE ‘YOU CAN CRY TOMORROW’ AND ‘LOVIN START’!!! THEY WILL NEVER GET OLD!
We can’t not discuss the spectacular support acts that will be joining you on the road: Neve, Shea Couleé, Slayyyter – this is the ultimate queer dream line-up. How did you first connect with these incredible acts?
So much of this tour planning gets done behind the scenes but when I heard Shea was coming on tour, I immediately DM’ed her and gushed over what a superstar I think she is. I’m so excited to get to know her more and see her incredible show every night.
You graced the stage of the iconic queer venue Heaven in London. We’ve been on PLENTY of messy/fun/totally outrageous nights out at this place… We’re keen to know what a full-blown night out with Betty Who would look like.
Okay. Heaven. Is. The dream venue. So many ICONIC girlies have come through there. Charli, Rita, Rina… the list goes on. I truly feel like it’s a rite of passage to play at this insanely memorable venue and I won’t waste a FREAKIN SECOND OF IT! I’m gonna soak it all up! I’ve also had my fair share of drunken nights at G.A.Y. dancing to Britney music videos so… I’m ready.
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Words: Jordan White