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Betty Who talks gay love, sophomore album, and working with Troye Sivan
Chances are if you don't know of Betty Who's music yet, you'll have heard the name - and certainly her voice. From her infectious gay proposal sound-tracking debut single 'Somebody Loves You to her collaboration with Attitude favourite Troye Sivan on a song about coming out, over the last couple of years Betty cemented her status as on of the LGBT community's greatest pop gals.
Following the success of 2014's debut album Take Me When You Go, Betty's been working hard on the eagerly-anticipated follow-up, and recently returned to placate braying fans desperate for new material with a sparkling re-imagining of Donna Lewis's classic '90s anthem 'I Love You, Always Forever'. We caught up with the pop powerhouse and fierce LGBT ally to find out more about 'I Love You Always Forever', working with Troye, and just when we can expect that eagerly-awaited sophomore album...
Hi Betty! So, you're getting ready to release a new record and we're as excited as everyone else. How are you feeling about entering the second major phase of your career?
Oh my God, I am so excited! In October it will have been two years, but it feels like it has been a million years. I have a lot of people who put a lot of time and effort into making it excellent, making it exactly how I want it. I am really, really excited to share it. I miss touring. I am really looking forward to getting out and playing shows consistently and consecutively, it's my favourite thing to do in the world.
It's great to hear you again on ‘I Love You Always Forever’… What was it about this track in particular that made you want to come back with it?
I was desperate to put out new music and it is really a kind of exhausting and sometimes impossibly-busy process to try and get a song out into the world. ‘I Love You Always Forever’ was sort of like a peace offering - I know I keep talking about this record, I promise it does exist! Whilst the second record is still not out and still not perfect, here is something that we did that makes me really happy. It’s one of my favourite songs to perform now. I really wanted to play it this summer at all the festivals I have been doing.
The video is also fab for portraying same-sex couples. The LGBT community has always been so tied to your work - is that something you've always thought is important to do?
People have asked me before ‘how did you end up such a big part of the LGBT community?’ I remember when I was like 18 and started to make music. My mum was like 'Sure, but you have to set your platform for something that is more important.' I played my first show and the crowd was almost entirely gay men… I remember thinking ‘oh! this is what it is’. I have always thought that love is love and I don’t know why anyone sees it as anything but that. And this song is called ‘I Love You Always Forever’ so I wanted to explore what that looks like for everybody… How unconditional love can be between friends, parents, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives. I wanted to show how love can be really sweet and exploratory, ‘I'm just in love with this girl or boy’.
Who are the artists who you grew up with who shaped your music?
My Dad gave me Sting and my Mom gave me Joni Mitchell. The first tape I bought was Britney Spears' 'Baby One More Time'. I really do think it’s important to have stories in songs, you’re like 'Oh my God, I know what you are talking about, that is the most important thing for me in the world'.
You mentioned the second album… What kind of headspace have you been in while working on it? What can you tell us about the vibe?
I think for me the difference between my first record and second record will be emotional content. It’s a lot more honest as opposed to my first record, which was really romantic. Maybe I’m not perfect, love isn’t prefect. Maybe love is really hard, but that is what makes it so good when it is good. I think those are the stories on this record. I think I have written 50 songs for the record. I have 20 or 22 ‘songs’, so once we decide 'this is the first single officially coming out' it will be boot camp overdrive! We are just waiting on that first single to be chosen.
Obviously a lot of gay fans will know you for your collaboration with Troye Sivan on 'Heaven', which deals with his feelings about his sexuality - how did that all come about?
Isn’t he such a dream? The first time I met Troye was when he came to see me perform at the Troubadour [club in LA]. I was like, 'who is this beautiful 12-year-old?!' We were talking after the show and he was saying 'I really want to make music, I want to sing with you one day!' He sent me 'Happy Little Pill' before it came out asking what I thought. I remember the first time I heard [Heaven] - there are only a couple of songs in the world I wish I had written and 'Heaven' was one of those songs. I am just happy to be part of it, it's one of my most favourite songs in the world and it makes me so happy singing with him. I think he is such an important face to young LGBT kids or anyone who is themselves and is ok with that.
You can really tell how much that song means to him when he's on stage too.
Yes! People come up to me in my shows and say ''Heaven' is so good!' and I go 'I didn’t write that but I know!'. It is one of the most important songs that has come out in the last couple of years. I sang it with him in New York and LA when he was on tour and to see the way that people responded to it and were so emotionally moved, it really is a special thing.
You mentioned you've changed and grown, not just as an artist but as a person. What are the stand out things that have really stood out over this crazy last couple of years?
Last year I sung a set to the President [Barack Obama] which was pretty crazy! It was at an LGBT dinner for the DNC [Democratic National Convention. He said in his speech 'give it up for Betty Who!'. If I could go back [in time], I probably still wouldn’t have believed my future self.
In terms when you do have those rare moments to relax are you someone who likes to do that alone or someone who likes to go crazy and blow off steam, or just have that time to yourself?
Well I was actually just in Mexico this weekend partying and blowing off steam. But if you would have asked me a month ago, I would have been like, 'I’m going to watch Stranger Things again, curl up with a bottle of wine and not talk to anybody'. It sort of depends on what kind of stressed I am!
And of course we're keen to know when you'll be heading back to the UK?
Oh my gosh do you know how much I love the UK? I want to live in London! It’s my dream to rent a flat in London for six months and make a record. I am so totally obsessed with the UK and I cannot wait to come back and do some shows. The second I start putting music out I will definitely be asking ‘ok, when can we go?’
'I Love You Always Forever' is out now, with Betty's second album expected to follow in late 2016.Words: James Hawkridge/Interview: Will StroudeMore stories:Neil Milan quits Clean Bandit: ‘It’s the right decision’Hollyoaks’ Duncan James: ‘Ryan and Ste could end up in bed together’