Betsy Talks Fashion, “Fair” & Her Unlikely Path To The Pop World: Interview
Betsy caught us all off guard in the winter months, as new artists often do, and broke our hearts with her fragile, unconventional ballad “Fair.” Since then, the Welsh singer has flourished throughout 2016, releasing her six-song Fair -EP and a brand new single, “Lost & Found.”
I met up with the blonde singer a few months back at the New York offices of her label, Columbia, and was taken aback — yes, once again — to find that the joyful, joke-cracking Betsy sitting across from me is the same artist who recorded the heartbreaking “Fair.”
Head below to learn how this new musical talent forged a path from her family’s goose farm to the fashion industry, and then, ultimately, to the world of pop.
Let’s start with a simple question: What’s your preferred method when it comes to writing lyrics? BETSY: Pens, really. I have started using a computer because it’s kind of easier, since I can move around and I love to color the lyrics. It’s almost like when you take things off a list — if I write a verse and it’s done, I’ll color it pink, so I’m like, this is good! That’s one bit done. I quite like that.
I first heard “Fair” in the winter and it completely blew me away. How did that song come about for you? BETSY: Do you know my general story? Goose farm in Wales?
So that’s true? I assumed that was an urban legend. BETSY: Yeah, that is completely true. My parents are goose farmers. At Christmas we had to like — I did all the kind of plucking and that kind of thing and all the gruesome stuff. I wasn’t looking as glamorous as I am today. [Laughs] I was in overalls and moon boots, because it’s freezing outside. That’s where I’m from and I always, always wanted to do music. But being from a farm in the middle of nowhere, it kind of seemed like such a massive job. My parents were quite keen for me to have a job and I think I was probably really shit at that point so they were really like not encouraging me. So I went to London, studied fashion and I got offered a job halfway through my degree to go to Paris to design for Balenciaga. It’s one of those one-in-a-million jobs, but I wanted to do music.
Of course, [fashion is] as intense as music, so you can’t do fashion and music; you have to choose. I [knew I’d] always regret not trying, so I left the job, went back home to the farm and made a little demo using Garage Band, posted it to a load of fake addresses — it’s terrible, it’s the yellow pages kind of thing. If I had a copy now and I looked at it I’d be like, “I know none of this people”. I sent all those out and then one of them got to my friend’s brother in a PR company in London. Then when I met my managers — I think I was working in a bar or something — they said, “Here’s 500 quid; quit your job, don’t work for two months and go write. So I went to live in my caravan. The caravan in the background of the publicity photo is in my brother’s backyard. I went to live in there and I wrote the album and my most of what the EP is and everything. Then from that I got signed.
Your record deal came about pretty quickly. BETSY: Because of the way I write — because I use Logic only now, but before I was using Garage Band — you can hear what the songs are going to sound like. Yes they sound rough, but I’d written string parts; I’d written all the main hooks;, I’d written all the lyrics and melodies. It was all there. And there were some rough drums beats and stuff, so I think that’s how I probably managed to get the deals. It wasn’t like, “Oh, maybe we should put her in and get her with some writers,” and, “I wonder what kind of music she’s gonna make?” It was clear what my songs were. It’s not random. So that’s why it was kind of been quick.
I was going to ask what the most unusual place is you’ve written lyrics, but I think I might know the answer to that. BETSY: The caravan is pretty unusual, yeah. There had been a bloke living in it before me for a couple of months. He was like a farm guy. This caravan is really old, and there’s a hole in the floor and a hole in the roof, water doesn’t work and it’s really stinky because this guy would only fry food. There was grease all down the whole of the caravan and he’d been smoking in there as well. I spent three days bleaching the whole thing. But it was so inspiring because in a sense you’re like, “I have to write my way out of this.” It’s kind of shit or bust situation. I’d just given up a really good job.
Since this all happened pretty fast for you, what’s it been like to sit back and watch the reaction to your music this year? BETSY: I kind of thought it would kind of sit there amongst the world and the massive Internet. How many millions of songs are out there and just kind of do a little floating around kind of thing? I was actually kind of surprised when they told me [“Fair”] had million plays on Spotify. Also, there are people on Twitter or Facebook saying, “Oh, I’m going through this right now,” or “That song’s exactly about something in my life.” I’ve had people say that to me since. For me. that’s what I strive for when I write and things, to make something that is gonna resonate with people. When I sit down to write I always want to write something that hopefully my grandkids are going to listen to and be like, “Shit, that was just a really fucking good song.”
If you hadn’t pursued music, would you still be involved with the fashion world? BETSY: Yes, probably, because I did like it. I am apparently quite good at it. I suppose I would be doing fashion or I might be like living in Sicily, farming chickens or something.
Betsy’s Fair – EP and her new single “Lost & Found” are both available now on iTunes.