Trading in a fashion design career with Balenciaga to pursue the dream of cutting it in the music business would seem a move reserved only for the stealthiest of risk takers: BETSY is one of those.
Fleeing Paris and her internship with the luxury fashion house to set up camp in a caravan in rural Wales, the 26-year-old found her (insanely huge) voice crafting demos of lovelorn, soul-laden ballads that would ultimately result in her glorious debut record. Acquiring a sizable gay following in the process of her rise, 2017 has seen the siren grace the stages of numerous Pride festivals across the UK and Europe with the rest of the world now rightfully up for BETSY’s taking.
The artist sits down with Music Editor Bill Baker to divulge on her self-titled debut, taking control and how growing up an outsider shaped her artistic integrity.
Your debut record is out this week. What are the emotions right now?
‘What the fuck am I meant to do now?!’ seems fitting. Making an album is such an all-encompassing process which now opens up a whole new era for me. I feel very weird about it all, it’s strange to have it all done. I keep approaching management like, “what about this song I wrote today?!” before being told it’s definitely too late… [laughs]
Do you like having full control over the whole process of creating the record?
Yeah, totally. When I signed my deal, I was very adamant that I have control and I have the final say. Having said that, I know there’s a worry going into signing a deal that you could change who you are as an artist but I feel like I’ve been very lucky and everybody’s bought into who I am from the start. They’ve definitely steered and guided me but there’s been no attempt to make me something I’m not. I’m just so proud of the album, its bloody fabulous darling!
Is there a personal preference of writing or being in the studio or touring?
I think it changes… There are times where I’m really hungry to write and then really hungry to produce. Right now, I just want to get out there and play it live. There’s no part that I hate, only the singing practice bit. I’m not really about that sort of professional side of things… [laughs] I really never realised how much perform live takes it out of you until we started the live shows! I had to add some small choreography to our set, purely to stop me moving as much as I had been before. I have a great, full set but most of the plans go out the window once I’m on stage. I think of myself as a bit of a drunken barmaid sometimes, forever the party vibe! Coming to see me isn’t just seeing a gig, you’re here for a party. It’s a whole experience that I hope to deliver, get everyone into my BETSY world.
There’s a beautiful dichotomy surrounding your music, having made the switch from Paris’ high fashion world to living in a caravan in Pembrokeshire. How did both of these experiences feed into the record?
A lot of these songs, like Wanted More, were inspired by people I met whilst working for Balenciaga which then came to life once I’d recorded them in the caravan, so it’s definitely all over. I try to make sure that it’s my visuals that really bring the two worlds together. My first promo pics were shot just outside the caravan, actually, though they don’t make it looks as absolutely fucking horrible as it actually was. Also, I think when you meet me it was makes the most sense. I love to look glam and dress up but as soon as I open my gob, it’s clearly all Welsh girl who loves a drink. I love people like Lana Del Rey who hold that mystery and mystique but with me, it’s purely trashy opulence. I can’t hold that back.
Is this confidence, as such, something that’s followed you into adulthood from your childhood and teens then?
No, not really. I didn’t actually speak in school till I was eight as I was such a nervous child, having to change schools and all that. I’m actually very dyslexic so I really struggled whilst I was there. I didn’t have any friends till I was about 15 either so I was convinced the best thing to do at the time was to shave all my hair off to look like a boy. At the time it was pretty fashionable, just not to anyone in deepest, darkest Wales so I got bullied quite a lot. My breaks were spent in the library, on my own, unable to read anything! [laughs] I’ve never been a confident person but I’ve had to overcome it. You’ve either got to let it drag you down or just face your demons and get on with life.
Obviously, androgyny and gender identity are such major talking points in today’s social climate. I can totally understand the rural countryside not being the most accepting of places for it though…
It really was so fashionable though, I used to have the short gelled hair with circular sunglasses, trying to be as 90s as possible. My mum thought I was crazy and I must’ve looked so strange to everyone else but to me, I was just trying to be true to myself. That look landed me years in that library…
BBC Radio 2 has been integral to your career, where did the relationship with them begin?
I came up through BBC Introducing so they were the first to pick me up. Really fucking lucky, to be honest. Then I did some sessions with Dermot O’Leary and Jo Whiley and Steve Wright who have all been insanely supportive. Every single, bar one, has been their Record Of The Week. The exception being when Liam Gallagher released his fucking comeback the same week as me, I’ll fight him if he pulls that stunt again.
Having taken to the stage in Birmingham, Amsterdam and London, what’s been the highlight of your summer of Pride performances?
They’ve all been absolutely nuts. Amsterdam really know how to throw a party so that one was insane, the whole city encapsulates the joy and collectively of Pride. All of them have been phenomenal but the best one to perform has definitely been London, they know me more so that was really special. I guess I appeal to an LGBT audience as they’re the people I’ve grown up with throughout my life and it’s who I surround myself with in my own friendship circles and coming from a fashion background. It also helps that I’m incredibly camp…
Have you found there’s an element of responsibility to possessing such a huge LGBT following, in that there will be young people constantly looking up to you?
I hope people can relate to my story. I can identify with the bullying and isolation, as with my years at school. Growing up where I was, short hair was freakish so I can’t imagine the struggle of being LGBT and growing up in similar areas. I’ve never thought about it in a responsibility sense, more how there’s a community for my listeners to connect to with me and each other. I really hope some people find my album an empowering record.
And finally, how would you sum up the album in a sentence?
It’s going to make you want to dance, cry and go out and buy a porsche… [laughs] I hope everybody feels fabulous after listening to it.
BETSY’s self-titled debut record is out this Friday (29/09).
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