Betty Who Creates 'A Space That People Feel Joy In' With 'Betty' Album Australian pop singer Betty Who reflects on her latest album, Betty, and the paths she's been able to explore as an independent artist.

Betty Who Creates 'A Space That People Feel Joy In' With Independent Debut

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/740221905/741237717" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The pop artist Betty Who got a big boost early in her career. In 2013, her single, "Somebody Loves You," was the soundtrack to a marriage proposal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEBODY LOVES YOU")

BETTY WHO: (Singing) Who's around when the days feel long?

SHAPIRO: The video of the engagement checked every box. It had choreography, grandparents, tears and, as of now, more than 14 million views on YouTube. When Betty Who visited our studio the other day to talk about her latest album, she told me this was not an obvious song to launch a life of wedded bliss.

BETTY WHO: "Somebody Loves You," ironically enough, was actually a breakup song when I wrote it because I was kind of seeing this person who, they were like, I'm not ready to be loved. And I was like, that seems like an ish-you (ph), not an ish-me (ph), and, like, I have lots of love to give. And, like, I'm sending it your way, babe. And, like, if you're not down, like, I don't know why I'm still here, really. And then, of course, the video happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: And I would be honored if you would be by my side for the rest of life.

BETTY WHO: That video's so moving.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Will you marry me?

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

BETTY WHO: To see these two boys - in a Home Depot, which is the most random, but also so funny. But their entire families are there. They have people on Facetime, on iPads as they're all coming in. And it's really - I have goose - I could cry right now (laughter).

If you have, like, a purpose on this planet - my purpose is I want to provide a space that people feel joy in, people feel safe enough, also, to cry in and to be themselves in. But, like, the No. 1 compliment anybody can give me is, they're having a bad day, and they listen to my song and it makes me feel better.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEBODY LOVES YOU")

BETTY WHO: (Singing) Somebody misses you when you're away. They want to wake up with you every day. Somebody wants to hear you say, ooh, somebody loves you.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk about your latest album, "Betty."

BETTY WHO: Sure.

SHAPIRO: Your third album.

BETTY WHO: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: The first one that you released independently without a major label behind you.

BETTY WHO: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: Do you think we can hear that in the music, or is that just bureaucratic, behind-the-scenes?

BETTY WHO: I can. I can totally hear it.

SHAPIRO: Where do you hear it?

BETTY WHO: I hear it in "The One."

(SOUNDBITE OF BETTY WHO SONG, "THE ONE")

BETTY WHO: "The One," for me, is a song that I was always wanting to make. It is very Britney and 'N Sync-esque. I wanted to feel like Britney Spears every night. That's why I wrote the song. And I think if I had been signed to a label, this song would have either not come out, or it would have been totally misunderstood for something else than me being, like, I'm a 27-year-old who is literally living 10-year-old me's actual dream. Ten-year-old me had a dream, and it's this.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

BETTY WHO: And it was to be Britney Spears. And I'm an adult now, and I'm an independent artist, and nobody can tell me what to do. So I'm going to make a song that I get to, every night, I feel like I'm in 'N Sync.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE ONE")

BETTY WHO: (Singing) If I'm not the one, good luck finding something better. Give you all my love. Are you crazy? Boy, you'd better recognize.

SHAPIRO: You recently did a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR - when an artist shows up and does a few songs usually kind of unplugged.

BETTY WHO: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: And you performed one of your new singles, "Taste." First let's listen to what it sounds like on the album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TASTE")

BETTY WHO: (Singing) You know, the worse they are, the better they taste. All my cravings come at me. This ain't love. It's sacrifice.

SHAPIRO: And now let's listen to how it sounded at the Tiny Desk.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BETTY WHO: (Singing) You know, the worse they are, the better they'll be. All my cravings come and...

SHAPIRO: What listeners can't see is that you are accompanying yourself on the cello here.

BETTY WHO: I am.

SHAPIRO: And this was the first time you'd ever done that publicly?

BETTY WHO: Yeah. I was so - that's why I did it first. I was really nervous. You know, I play guitar and piano all the time, but I've never played cello publicly.

SHAPIRO: But that was your first instrument. That's what you grew up playing.

BETTY WHO: I know. It really...

SHAPIRO: You weren't just taking lessons. Like, you went to the Interlochen Arts Academy. You've studied at the Berklee School of Music. You were really serious about it.

BETTY WHO: Yeah. I really played.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

SHAPIRO: Why did you hold off? Why did you wait until now?

BETTY WHO: Because I had a very specific vision of the kind of artist that I want to be. And I didn't want to be the girl who sang and played cello because that girl felt so far away from the girl that, like, gets up and, like, dances and kills, like, this huge pop show. And I wanted to dance. I wanted to establish myself as a performer first because I think so much of my life had been taken over playing cello, and all I wanted to do is sing.

SHAPIRO: So do you think it's a sign of the point you've reached as an artist, your maturity as a singer-songwriter-performer, that you're now integrating these two versions of yourself?

BETTY WHO: I think so. I always knew I wanted to do it. And I'm very, very proud of how far I've come.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BETTY WHO: (Singing) Better they taste.

SHAPIRO: Tell me about the song "All This Woman."

BETTY WHO: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

BETTY WHO: Yes, happily. I love this song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL THIS WOMAN")

BETTY WHO: (Singing) I think I need attention. I think I need your touch. Don't have to say a word 'cause you know what I'm thinking of.

I feel inspired by artists who make me feel certain ways, right? So, like, when I listen to a really sexy Beyonce song or when I watch her live, and she goes, like, are you flawless? I'm like, yes, Beyonce. Like, there's a tear just rolling down my face. I'm like, I am flawless.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

BETTY WHO: And so I really especially - like, I think women can especially make other women feel that way. And so "All This Woman" is basically about, like, my level of confidence is pretty high, and I have - we have a joke with my friends where so many girls, like, if a guy's playing hard to get, they're like, oh, my God. I have to have him. If a guy plays hard to get with me or anybody plays hard to get with me, I'm immediately, like, so out. I'm like, no. If you don't - if you're not obsessed with me, I don't have the time for this. (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL THIS WOMAN")

BETTY WHO: (Singing) Hope you're ready for all this woman, all this woman. Boy, you're mad if you've got all this woman and don't want every inch of all this woman.

SHAPIRO: OK. We started talking about a marriage proposal.

BETTY WHO: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: And you have a track on this album called "Marry Me."

BETTY WHO: I do. I love that song.

SHAPIRO: So are you trying to fill a niche here?

BETTY WHO: Send a message? (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: Yeah. I mean...

BETTY WHO: Me, like writes, "Marry Me," and sends it to my fiance?

SHAPIRO: No, no, no. I mean, like, use my music at your wedding? Use my music for your proposal?

BETTY WHO: Oh, my God. Are you kidding? I was, like, the amount of gay weddings, I want videos. Like, people, hit me up. Like, I need to see this.

SHAPIRO: And straight ones, too, I would imagine, now that you're getting more popular.

BETTY WHO: Totally.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

BETTY WHO: Yes.

SHAPIRO: Straight people can also get married.

BETTY WHO: They can. You know? I've heard.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

BETTY WHO: I've heard it's legal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARRY ME")

BETTY WHO: (Singing) You and me and this feeling. Do you want to take it all the way? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

It's funny. I got engaged then lost, like, all of the interest in being married. So now I've been engaged for, like, three years.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

BETTY WHO: I'm a little busy so I kind of - I'm just like, we'll get married whenever. It's not about that. But I was so in love, and I was so excited about, like, the prospect of the fact that I found the person that I even wanted to spend the rest of my life with. That was so - it happened so much earlier than I expected it to. I thought I was going be, like, a clean 33. I thought I was going to hustle. Like, by choice. Do you know what I mean? I thought I was going to, like, take my 20s and work my butt off. And it wasn't even on my mind. Which is, of course, how it happens. I know. So yeah, you best believe that when I wrote the song, of course, I sent it to my man (laughter). And I was like, just a cute little hint here and there.

SHAPIRO: This was before you were engaged?

BETTY WHO: Before I was engaged. Yeah, sent it over. He was like, OK. (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: Subtle.

BETTY WHO: I get it now.

SHAPIRO: Really subtle.

BETTY WHO: Yeah. I hear you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARRY ME")

BETTY WHO: (Singing) You think that we're meant to be. So I'm like, do you want to marry me?

SHAPIRO: Betty Who, thank you so much.

BETTY WHO: We could just do this all day. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: I'd love to.

BETTY WHO: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: The latest album is called "Betty."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARRY ME")

BETTY WHO: (Singing) Know you want to marry me. I get tired. I get crazy.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.