Standard Sounds

'Betty Who' Lights Up The Standard, East Village

Betty Who's big break came about in a Salt Lake City Home Depot. Her song "Somebody Loves You" was featured in a highly choreographed gay marriage proposal that went viral and then onto the Ellen Show and the next thing you know we've got a young Kylie in the making.

Shortly before her sixteenth birthday Betty Who, née Jessica Newman, relocated to the States to attend a prestigious arts academy and later the Berkley College of Music where she realized it was synth-pop, not cello compositions, that she wanted to create. We called up the energetic 6'2" blonde for a little chat before she takes the stage at Chez André. Here's how it went:

Ring, ring ...


Hi... Betty, it's Standard Culture.

OMG, hi!

Hi! So... let's get started.

Marriage proposal on aisle seven

STANDARD CULTURE: "Betty" is fifties slang for housewife. You don't seem like you have many housewife aspirations ...
Betty Who: It was more that I felt like I was never going to fit into that realm.

Oh, so it's more like "Betty Who?!"
Yes. But I do intend to have lots of babies, that's always been my plan, just not yet.

Where in Australia are you from?

How is the transition to New York?
Beautiful. I'm obsessed with New York. I wanted to live here since I was a kid, so it's just kind of a long time coming at this point.

What do you love the most?
Last night I was laying in bed, having a really tough night, on the phone with my dad, telling him how much I missed him, and I looked out my window and saw the peak of the Empire State building and thought, "Oh my god, I live here, this is crazy. What am I talking about? Life isn't that hard." It's a daily reality check.

Are you still close with your mum and dad?

If you don't turn out to be the world's next pop star what will you do?
I would probably be homeless, singing on the subway, begging for change. I don't know what else I would do, I've consciously and unconsciously dedicated my life to music.

You seem to have a very romantic idea of the '80s, but you were born in 1991, how does that work?
To me the '80s are a snap shot of a John Hughes movie. I hope that no one ever tries to remake The Breakfast Club, but it's always been my dream to write the soundtrack for the movie.

What are some of your musical influences?
I loved singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Carol King, Bob Dylan, Missy Higgins, and Ingrid Michaelson when I was growing up.

Just before Valentine's Day you released a new single called Heartbreak Dream, what exactly is a heartbreak dream?
It's a place you get to with somebody when neither person is happy but neither one of you is strong enough to leave each other. You're stuck in this place where you constantly think, "I don't want to be with you anyone, you treat me like shit, and I really don't like this," but also, "I love you so much, never leave me." It's a really dark place.

Why did you write the song?
I was in it!

Is this dark place a stepping stone?
It's probably more of the last straw. It's like, 'we can't keep doing this anymore.' It gives you the strength to leave that person.

So you left?
Yeah, I did. (chuckles) And then I wrote this song:

Love it, very catchy. I read somewhere that you're Valentine's Day was happily spent with your boyfriend at Disney Land, is that true?
Yes! We had a fantastic time... I was happily not in a heartbreak dream. We had an amazing dinner at Blue Bayou, the Pirates of the Caribbean themed restaurant.

Do you write songs about him?
I do. I try to not sound like a 15-year-old girl in braces and head gear when I share them with him, it's more of a "hey this song is about you," not "baby, this song is for you."

Speaking of love songs, your song Somebody Loves You was the soundtrack to a very serious, meaningful, and heartfelt proposal, how did it feel to be involved?.
I was so overwhelmed, and I am so blessed to be a part of that. I understand the gravity of it, the fact that potentially a lot of people in Salt Lake are going to be upset about that video. It was a moment of showing that it doesn't matter what your religion is, it doesn’t matter that there were 15 Mormons in that video, everyone was just there to support the people that they loved. That to me is the most beautiful part about it and why I felt so lucky.

Is LGBT rights something that you are willing to stand up for?
I am absolutely prepared and intend to fight for LGBT rights for as long as I need to, if I can lend my voice to equality I will.

Related Stories

Book Now