Q&A: Betty Who
Rising pop star Betty Who has spent her summer shaking up the Internet with “The Movement”
Betty Who is not like the other girls, but that’s why she’s so popular. Born in Australia but native to Los Angeles, the 21-year-old has been involved with music her entire life. While she claims to have grown up on pop music, she learned to play cello at age four, which led her to move overseas to the U.S. so she could attend the Interlochen Center for the Art in California when she was 17 years-old. Somewhere along the way, she made the transition from classical to pop music, and she hasn’t turned back since.
During her teenage years, she found musical inspiration through singers like Britney Spears, the Spice Girls, Missy Higgins and Joni Mitchell. In Betty Who’s own words, she described her innovative sound as “definitely very ‘80s synth based and influenced by people like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper.”
Last April, she released “The Movement,” an EP consisting of four songs. The whole process of putting it together was spread out over the course of six to eight months. However, Betty Who made the decision to release her EP for free, like many independent artists. It was a risky move, but ultimately worked in her favor.
Sydney Gore: With all the time and energy you put into your music, I feel like you invested so much yourself into this EP. Why did you decide to give it away for free?
Betty Who: It was my first impression as a musician. Giving it away for free was my introduction of being like, ‘Hi, you don’t know who I am, and why should you care about who I am, but here is my life’s work and what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.’ I just wanted people to hear it. I think that giving it away for free for me was a no-brainer. Why would I make people pay for something when they don’t even care about me yet?
SG: So tell me more about “The Movement”. What exactly are you trying to promote and what does “The Movement” mean to you?
BW: It encompasses the idea of the movement as the joy of the movement. That whole idea that this is a project to be watching, like ‘get on board now’ or ‘get in while the getting’s good’. My goal for the EP was for the listener to be moved in some way whether it was emotionally or physically like wanting to dance. I wanted it to be a moving body of work and a reaction. I think the name is a play on words and what I wanted the EP to feel like.
SG: You seem so sure of yourself in everything that you do. How did you get to that high level of confidence that you evoke?
BW: It’s been an interesting journey. I think the fact that I write the music with my producer definitely builds the confidence in my music because I love the songs that I write. It’s not like I’m singing a song that eight people spent a year writing. It’s like I sat down at four in the morning and banged the song out myself. I am very confident of my ability to convey my emotions. A huge part of it is believing that who I am is enough. I would hope that people would fall in love with the way that I am. My music is such a reflection of who I am. I’ve never wanted to expand or blow out who I am as a person. I don’t need to put on a silly outfit or do something totally over the top to get people’s attention because if you really like the music, that means you’re tapping into who I am fundamentally. I think that makes a really big difference, just being so honest in what I do.
With a few shows booked before the summer ends, Betty Who is already hard at work on her next EP and will be recording the project in Los Angeles, Calif. She still isn’t signed to a label, and doesn’t plan on it anytime soon.
Keep an eye and an ear out for Betty Who— she’ll be touring this fall, and definitely wants to make a stop in D.C.
Correction: A former version of this story quoted Betty Who saying "right" instead of the corrected "eight" in the sentence "it's not like I'm singing a song that eight people spent a year writing"