Written by Alex Brown
Having earned comparisons to dance anthem queens Katy Perry and Robyn, Australian-born, New York-based singer Betty Who, 22, appears next in line for power-pop stardom. (You might recognize her single “Somebody Loves You” from the mega-viral Home Depot proposal video.)
For Betty Who, whose real name is Jessica Anne Newham, joyful ballads and bubbly pop jams have always been a go-to. Her just-released second EP, Slow Dancing, provides all the fun, catchy, and totally dance-worthy tracks that a great pop album should. In advance of two Canadian concert dates—she was in Toronto on April 15 and Montreal on April 16—she shares her musical influences and sartorial inclinations with Flare.
You’re trained as a classical cellist. How has this informed your music?
I don’t think I’ll pull out my cello anytime soon and sing a ballad or anything, but growing up around music and being trained classically with an instrument is really helpful as a musician. It gives you a whole different understanding of what music is and what music can be.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Probably Michael Jackson. I heard the Thriller album and realized that I didn’t know music could be like this. The 80s was just such a good time for happy, joyful, playful music. Joni Mitchell was a big [influence] too. Joni and Carole King said things that mattered in a time when women weren’t saying things that mattered in their music.
People tend to underestimate the power of pop music. What do you hope to bring to the it?
I’ve always unashamed of my affinity for pop and that’s always been who I am. I think it’s a shame when people say that pop music isn’t real music. I know what that’s like because I went to classical music school. If you say you don’t like it, then maybe you haven’t heard the right kind of pop music. It’s called popular music for a reason!
Do you have any particular routine for getting ready for a show?
It’s basically a lot of me running around with the band and trying to stay hyper. We all huddle around each other before we go on stage so we have this one moment of togetherness before we split up and take our different entries on stage.
How do you like to dress when you’re on stage?
I have a couple different versions of a leather jacket in different colours. It’s like a letterman jacket. My whole band has matching ones. I have the same kind of look and idea for my shows since I started. I’m definitely thinking about what’s the next step for that.
What’s the one thing you always take on tour?
I have this necklace that my dad gave me when I was 16. It’s a long, dogtag chain with a little heart on the end. He engraved it with a note to me when I was 18. I wear it all the time and it goes everywhere with me.