BETSY | MUSIC INTERVIEW
BETSY | MUSIC INTERVIEW
Betsy is a soul/pop artist from west Wales who’s threatening to become pretty big in 2017. Buzz spoke to her ahead of a brace of gigs in these parts
Chances are you will have heard Betsy’s huge single, Lost And Found, when it garnered huge radio play; and you might have read that she grew up on a goose farm in west Wales. Something that the Welsh singer/songwriter isn’t yet fed up of talking about. “My story is such a weird one – from goose farm to Paris fashion house to record deals. I get why people like to talk about it. Also it reminds me to keep cracking on, because lord knows I don’t want to be gutting geese again.”
Growing up in rural Pembrokshire, Betsy says that she always wanted to do music – a big part of her childhood. “There was always loads of singing in school and church, plus Eisteddfods. My father and uncle were in a local band so it was a big part of family life. One of my earliest memories is being fascinated by these two bearded men strumming their guitars and singing around a campfire.”
Betsy’s artistic nature took her from the goose farms of Pembroke to working – via studying womenswear in Central St Martin’s – for Balenciaga in Paris. A job that she jokingly describes as “hell of a fallback plan” and admits that is was a bit like TV’s Absolutely Fabulous: “Lavish parties, endless glasses of champagne and a sea of supermodels. Of course, it wasn’t all Ab Fab, there was the monumental amount of hard work that goes into producing the collections; the dreaded late nights and weekends at the office. But it was very glamorous all in all.”
It’s this talent for art that can be seen in Betsy’s music videos; I ask if I was correct about noticing a David Lynch reference in her video for her first single, Fair.
“I love David Lynch, and yes you’re spot on. The video for Fair was a nod to the scene in Wild At Heart where Lola’s mother goes nuts and paints lipstick all over her. I think because of my background in fashion and art, I have a whole catalogue of inspiration in my brain that helps me when it comes to my own creative direction. I have always been very keen on the visual side of my music. My managers always laugh because I make a mood board for everything. I love coming up with fresh ideas for my artwork and videos. I aim for both the visuals and the music to be as iconic as possible.”
As for Betsy’s vocals, they have been likened to singers such as Cher and Shara Nelson, of whom Betsy says, “I’ve not heard that one before. I love her! I have to say both Shara and Cher have influenced my music.” Nelson’s collaborations with Massive Attack are singled out in this regard; as for other influences, ones who Betsy hasn’t been compared to, she names Annie Lennox as a particular favourite, along with “big soulful vocals that sound like they have lived and really mean what they are singing; voices that shake you to the bone.” The likes of Amy Winehouse, Aretha Franklin, Shirley Bassey, Billie Holiday and Tina Turner are duly namechecked, while she also credits her father’s record collection for its importance to her sound: “Bob Dylan and Fleetwood Mac to Stan Getz and Vivaldi. When I compose, my inspiration comes from all kinds of different genres. I think this is why you can hear elements of different genres across my music.”
From getting incredible radio airplay of her singles to playing a Cardiff gig as part of Swn Festival’s 10th birthday, 2016 was a successful year for Betsy. With her debut album coming out this year and two Welsh dates featuring on a UK tour this month, 2017 is set to be a bigger year for her, but she’s ready for it.
“I was born famous, darling! I’m a firm believer in living the life you are aspiring to. My mother always says you’ve got to live it to be it. For me as a child growing up in rural Wales, being a musician meant glamour, fast cars, excitement. I’ve been trying to live that life ever since. When fame comes I’ll be ready to greet it with a pina colada and lipstick red Mercedes.”
As for her mother, she is clearly Betsy’s biggest fan: if you attend Betsy’s Cardiff gig you might notice mum encouraging the crowd to dance (something I can attest to!). Betsy says she is “a hell of a woman” who, along with the rest of her family, will keep her grounded in the way only a valleys mother can. “They, my friends, and my two dogs Archie and Charlie are the most important things to me … that’s not to say I won’t get carried away with a bit of glamour and a fast car or two. Life is for living after all!”
Betsy, Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Thurs 11 May. Tickets: £7. Info: 029 2023 2199 / www.clwb.net; Memorial Hall, Newport, Pembrokeshire, Fri 12 May. Tickets: £7. Info: 01239 821114
words CHRIS WILLIAMS