Expat Aussie pop starlet Betty Who recently wowed local audiences when she performed the support role on the local leg of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Kiss Me Once’ tour.
She played fan favourites (including the smash single ‘Somebody Loves You’) from her recently-released debut album ‘Take Me When You Go’ – an album that had our reviewer Brad singing its praises.
So as part of her visit, we sent Brad along for a face to face chat (AKA fan girl experience) with the statuesque Sydney starlet for a little career update.
We haven’t talked to you since November, so what have you been up to since then?
Quite a bit! I did the Katy Perry tour in November. Since then, I’ve been writing a little bit and exploring some options. I was on the Kylie Minogue tour and I just sang at Mardi Gras, which was so fun and crazy. In the next week I start the Kiesza tour in the US. That’ll be a six-week tour, we’re doing all of North America.
Oh wow! How do you cope with all that travel?
You just do it! I guess I’m young so I definitely take advantage of that fact. It definitely is hectic! But it’s all fun and it’s worth it in the end. The shows are fun, especially on the Kylie tour. The shows have been easy, it’s like a 20-minute show, it’s really awesome.
We saw you and your vocals were spot on.
How do you put together a set list as the opening act?
It’s tough when you only have 20 minutes and you have to make an impression. I pick the songs that I’ve found to be the crowd favourites and that people respond to the best and go from there. It’s definitely like… play the bangers and get out of their hair! I think it’s hard to be the first person on stage no matter what. We do what we can and we hope that people walk away liking it.
During ‘Heartbreak Dream’ you were jumping the whole time. How do you keep your energy up?
I think a lot of it is adrenaline. You’re there and there are like 13,000 people in the arena. I never really get nervous when I go on stage anymore for this kind of thing. You have to have such low expectations of yourself and the crowd because when you’re an opening act, you can get booed. The worst version of it can be really bad! I’ve been so lucky, everyone’s always been really nice to me, so I don’t really get nervous, I just show up and hope people like me. That being said, I still try and take a moment in the middle of a couple of songs and be like ‘This is really happening right now, this is crazy!’
So your new single ‘All Of You’… Is it one of the songs you did in your producer’s basements?
Yes it is! I literally did the vocals in his basement. It’s an old song of ours, but a new song for the record. We weren’t going to put it on the record initially but we felt that it was a really good single and we hoped it would connect with a bunch of people and so it was the last addition to the album. It’s definitely one of my favourite songs and people seem to really like it. We played it at the House of Blues in Chicago on my last tour and I thought the floor was going to collapse (because of the crowd reaction).
The video is quite different to the one for ‘Somebody Loves You’, who came up with the concept for that?
I worked with this friend of mine, Steven Taylor, who’s a photographer and it was his first video. He and I talked a lot about the vision for the video and were discussing a Bonnie and Clyde kind of vibe. When we were talking about it, I was like ‘I want to be Bonnie and Bonnie’. He loved that and then everything we talked about from then on was about ‘You’ve got your best friend, you’re going to kick this guy’s ass, freak him out…’ We wanted to do something that was showing strength and was a little scary and tough, which was so different from my first video. I want to do stuff that’s different every time.
I believe it’s already topped the US Dance charts.
Yes it has!
At what point in a single’s release do you go, ‘That’s it, we’ve taken this song as far as we can go, on to the next one’?
I’m not sure. We definitely have more time on this one; it’s not done yet. It’s so much about how people respond to it. There are a lot of different factors that dictate when you move on but hopefully we won’t have to move on from ‘All Of You’ for a while!
You know, I have to tell you that ‘Tell Me When You Go’ was one of my favourite albums last year, it’s one of two I keep on my phone.
Oh my gosh, that’s wonderful, what’s the second?
Sam Smith’s ‘In The Lonely Hour’
Again, emotional power pop.
You have a type!
‘Runaways’ was probably my favourite song.
Amazing. I love that song
How did you come up with it?
The lyrics to ‘Runaways’ were inspired by… my emotional love affair with the 1975’s albums. We already had the title ‘Runaways’ and we were working to that and I was like ‘This song is about being in a 1975s music video’. Like actually driving down the coast of California with this person that everybody thinks is the worst for you.
It’s very cinematic.
Yeah! Well that was what I was writing it to. Did you ever watch ‘The OC’?
Do you know when they drove to Tijuana in the first season? Ryan and Marissa were fighting and then they ended up sharing a bed and Seth and Summer were sharing a bed. It was kind of dark but it was all about the beginnings of love. That’s kind of what I was imagining when I’m thinking about spending the night in my hotel room or when you don’t have enough money to go anywhere and you just sleep in your car at the beach. All of those things that are typical “I don’t actually want to be living a real life right now and I want to go do something where no one will find us”.
One of the other songs I love is ‘A Night To Remember’. Is there a person you thought about when you wrote it?
‘A Night To Remember’ is an interesting song, because it’s about a bunch of different things. It’s not one specific story for me; it’s about different experiences that encompass that feeling. It’s a little bit about…when you’re growing up and figuring your way out around relationships. You’re learning what to expect and how to feel and when you spend the night with someone and you’re like ‘Oh, we’re going to be together forever’ and then you realize ‘Ohh….but it’s ok that we’re not going to be. I’m an adult, I’m figuring it out!’
For me, it’s about having these grand ideas about someone and them not living up to it.
Yeah totally! Having an image of someone in your head that’s kind of putting them up on a pedestal a little bit and expecting so much out of them when really it’s not fair to do that. That’s kind of what that song was about to me. I did that for years! I think I’ve gotten a little better at it but I think everyone’s kind of bad at that for a while.
When I hear that song there’s always one person that I think about that perfectly encapsulates that feeling.
Absolutely! It’s like ‘I always thought you were going to be that person for me’ and then it’s like ‘Oh you’re not, but that’s ok!’ But it’s still sad.
Yeah, now aren’t you a bit young to be singing a song like ‘Glory Days’! You’re literally a week older than me!
No way, in 1991?? Oh my gosh I love that! The thing about that song is that I’m not writing about a past time in my life. It’s about what’s happening right now, that’s the glory days! So much of that song is true for what I’m doing right now. I get to experience really cool stuff but I try to stay present enough that I can walk away and live in the now rather than be 40 and be like ‘Those were awesome times, I should have appreciated them more.’ I’m trying to drink everything up and take it all in now.
Since we’re the same age, did you also grow up reading ‘Smash Hits’ and watching ‘Rage’?
I loved ‘Rage’. I listened to all of the ‘So Fresh’ CDs. Some of my favourite songs from the early 2000s were straight off a ‘So Fresh’ compilation! ‘You Make Me Sick’ by Pink… that Samantha Mumba song, do you remember that?
‘Gotta Tell You’?
Yeah ‘Gotta Tell You’! Shaggy, all of those songs… I think they were all on the same one? The second or third ‘So Fresh’ album in 2001. I was definitely in that scene! My first CD was a Britney Spears one, I was a pop girl my whole life.
Has anyone ever told you that you sound like Melanie C?
I get that all of the time, which is so surprising to me! I can’t hear that but everyone tells me that. That’s the best news ever. Sporty Spice was my favourite Spice Girl.
You’re like the bastard child of Missy Higgins and Sporty C.
I will take that! I just watched ‘Spiceworld’ the other day when we were loading in for the Kylie show. They were setting up and I had a bunch of time to kill, so I sat and watched ‘Spiceworld’ on my phone, it was great.
Speaking of ‘Spiceworld’… (awkward segue alert) all things ‘gay’, you were on ‘Glee’ recently…
Yes! ‘Somebody Loves You’ was on Glee
How did that come about??
Well I’m friends with a bunch of people who are actors on ‘Glee’ and I’m sure that a couple of them had been pushing for one of my songs to be on the show for a while now. I’m really glad that it made it into the last batch of songs they did because I love those guys so much, they’re such good people and it was really exciting. I maintain that the first season of ‘Glee’ totally changed my life; it came out when I was in high school.
Isn’t it weird that you watched the first season of ‘Glee’ and now some of them are your friends?
It’s definitely a weird turnaround. Now when I watch it I’m like ‘This feels weird because I know everybody!’ It’s a real milestone for me personally to have had that because I feel so passionate about the people on that show, and I’m so grateful for having them in my life.
‘Somebody Loves You’ has been used a lot in the gay media; do you feel that you’re becoming a gay icon?
I hope so! The gay community has definitely embraced me. I love being involved in the gay community because it’s the most fun ever! The fact that I get to play pride festivals all the time is the best! I’m so happy to be involved and be a voice and a face for people who don’t want to or can’t speak up. I’m happy to be involved in that way and to stand up for what’s right.
Cool! You mentioned earlier that you had started working on new material, what can we expect?
It’s too early to tell I think. I’ve only just started writing. I did some writing for some other people and wrote for me as well. It’s all very preliminary and just exploring ideas. We will see what happens. I definitely want to work more this year and hopefully it won’t be seven years before my next album. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about it in the next few months!
I just want to bring up something you said in our last interview… “It’s so much work. There’s so much to think about and you can’t even imagine how much you have to keep in mind to do this kind of work.” Can you expand on that a little? What do you think about on a day-to-day basis?
It comes from a hectic schedule and being like ‘Wait, where am I supposed to be at this time? Am I being filmed? Do I need hair and make up? Is there going to be photos taken on me?’ and then it’s like ‘Well if I’m going to sing later, how much should I talk? Should I have a coffee but is that going to dry my voice out?’
The number of things that you go through just spin around in your head, and then you can expand it and blow it out and be like ‘What am I going to do if this single doesn’t do well at radio? Do we do another single from this record? Do we do a new song? Should we release a deluxe edition of the album with new songs on it?’ It’s like… the options and possibilities are endless, but the neuroses are endless too!
What do you do if a single doesn’t work at radio?
I don’t know…we’ve had a lot of luck with dance radio, and that’s great. I’m definitely happy with what I’ve gotten so far. Radio’s a really tough thing to do and get right and so I’m trying not to think about it too much and I just keep working on other stuff. Touring takes up so much of my time that I try not to pressure myself in other places. I just try and be present where I am in the moment because if I’m thinking about all the things I could be thinking about whilst doing an interview or playing a show, I’m not totally there and that’s not really fair to the people I’m with. That’s also something you have to think about…trying not to think about all the things that you want to think about. It definitely gets overwhelming and it’s easier to do some days than others.
Well let’s end things on a positive note! What would you say to your childhood self, listening to Samantha Mumba?
Oh my gosh…I would probably tell her to take more dance classes (laughs) I would also tell her how quick ten years go by and how much changes in ten years. When I was 13 or 14, I went to go see Kylie Minogue at the Sydney Entertainment Centre with a friend. It was the craziest thing ever, I cried when she came out… it was a very emotional experience for me as a child! It’s been just under ten years and I’m opening for her at the same arena. I don’t know if it’s me being conscious of it or whether it happens to everybody but I have had a lot of full circle moments. Whether it’s watching Glee and then having my song be on the show, or seeing Kylie and now opening for her or watching the Katy Perry movie a thousand times and then going on the Katy Perry tour. I’ve had a lot of moments where I was drawn to something and really excited about it and then years will go by and it will be in my life like it was never a big deal. I would tell her to keep that in mind and dream big!
‘All Of You’ is available digitally now.
‘Take Me When You Go’ is available physically and digitally.