With the 2022 release of her fourth studio album ‘BIG!’, Australian-American pop trailblazer Betty Who set about laying the foundations for what was to become the most daring, and creatively fulfilling era of her recording career so far!
Exploring themes of perseverance, identity, insecurity, and self-love, the 11-track opus finds Betty (real name Jessica Anne Newham) in a reflective state of mind, as she bravely shares a vulnerable yet relatable tale of personal triumph and determination, that offers die-hard fans insight into the plethora of life experiences that helped shape her into the powerful woman she is today…
Fresh from unveiling her cover of Kate Bush’s iconic “Running Up That Hill”, and still ridging high from the runaway success of the widely praised remix of ‘She Can Dance’ featuring Brazilian pop icon Pabllo Vittar, Betty is currently travelling the world playing sold out shows to hyped audiences on her biggest tour to date!
Launched in Amsterdam at the end of January, before visiting Berlin, Paris, London and Dublin, Betty returns back to the US this week for stops in major cities accompanied by RuPaul’s All Stars winner Shea Coulee, as well as hyperpop mainstay Slayyyter who joins the duo for the tour’s stop in Washington, DC on March 10th.
Here we catch up with Betty to talk ‘BIG!’, life on the road, learning to be vulnerable and what fans can expect to see, and hear from her next…
‘BIG!’ feels to be something of a rebirth for you, both personally and artistically – it’s empowering, it’s vulnerable, life-affirming… you’re making a statement and declaring your independence! How would you best describe this music to anybody listening to it for the first time?
Wow, thank you!.. you’ve done a pretty good job describing it yourself! (Laughs) I’d say it’s uplifting, self-exploratory and high energy. I hope it makes everybody want to get up and dance.
So many journey’s have lead you to this point in your life, and I wonder now the records out, and it’s had a chance to breathe and the time for people to really connect with it, how do you feel about the project now?
With every show I play, I grow more and more grateful for this album and the way it seems to be speaking to people. A song like ‘Blow Out My Candle’ spoke to me so much as we were writing and producing it that I actually didn’t even think about how it would affect other people, so seeing everyone scream it back to us on the European leg of tour was pretty crazy – I was like holy shit this song really goes off! It feels like something special.
Social media, and all of these new online / tech platforms can get a bad rep sometimes, but as an independent artist, do those channels become super beneficial to you in the sense that you can make direct connections with your audience, and keep them in the loop of what you’re doing career-wise?
Social media is obviously a huge tool for artists like me who need to be able to speak to their fans directly, and promote themselves… but it also feels like you’re screaming into the void most of the time! I don’t know, I try not to put too much of my self-worth into the validation I do or don’t receive online. That’s why I love touring, we’re actually in person together celebrating something we love – it’s what this whole thing is really about for me.
There’s no doubt that this music has empowered you, but there’s also a vulnerability there too that runs throughout the course of the album. So many of your fans and followers really look to you as being this beacon of strength, who is fearless and confident beyond confident… but we all have our insecurities, fears, and issues! How hard, or not, was it for you to share more vulnerable side of yourself?
It was much harder than I expected it to be. I don’t think I realised how many walls I had up, or how afraid I was to stand in my true self and say this is me, like it or not. I thought I’d been doing that my whole life but turns out I’m actually scared shitless of it! So I’ve been practicing, and experimenting with who this version of myself is on stage. It’s been painful, and enlightening all at the same time.
Lyrically there these beautiful moments, where a phrase or a hook will jump out, and really grab your attention – it’s pop music with purpose, and you’ve clearly got something to say this time around! How cathartic has it been to write these lyrics and put them out into world?
During lockdown I had a lot of time to think about what the “purpose” of all of this is for me. Ultimately I realised all I wanted to do is connect, and empower people who feel different or unseen. To lead with love, and encourage unbridled joy and warmth, and the things that I think humanity is really about. The environment that creates when we bring this show to different cities is palpable, and we’ve been so beautifully received by our community all over the world! I think we have the ability to create really meaningful and impactful experiences for our concert goers.
Speaking of sharing this music with the world, that is exactly what you are doing over the course of the next 3 months – as you are playing live shows EVERYWHERE! How exciting is it for you to be finally hitting the road again and bringing this music to life?
It’s my whole reason for living baby! I have been having the best time, and am counting down the days till we hit the road in the states.
Can you talk me through your creative process, and how you go about putting one of your sets together?
It takes months, and your entire life away from you (laughs). But it’s so worth it. I couldn’t do any of it without my creative partner, and choreographer Khasan Brailsford – he is my knight in shining armour who keeps me organised.
What can fans expect from these gigs?
The show is sexy, and fun as hell! It’s silly and heartfelt, and will hopefully make you feel all the feels.
Aside from taking a long holiday, what plans do you once the tour is finished and for the rest of 2023?
I have a couple ideas, but we’ll have to see where the chips fall… but definitely performing lots more if I have my way.
Betty Who’s new album ‘Big’ is available to download / stream now.