Australian native Betty Who is in the middle of her North American tour. She’s sitting in a hotel lobby in Nashville, and there’s a cacophony of twanging guitars behind her. “They’re blaring the Country Strong album, and they’re really committing to it,” she apologizes.
Maybe you don’t know Betty Who, and shame on you if you don’t. Her hit single from last year, “Somebody Loves You,” was the soundtrack to the Home Depot flashmob video. Spencer and Dustin’s video went viral — even garnering the couple an appearance on Ellen — and it sent Who’s song to the top of the charts. “I sang at their wedding. It was great,” she gushes. “But how dare Ellen send them to Australia for their honeymoon without me!”
Born Jessica Anne Newham, Who made the move to New York while in her teens to study music. It was there that she met her longtime friend and producer Peter Thomas, who helped shape her dreamy, pop-synth sound.
Though the move from the land down under to America was fairly painless (“People still make fun of me when I say ‘reckon’”), being so far from home was manageable with the help of her parents. Who’s most recent tattoo features script from both her mother and father, and they plan to come see their daughter perform for the last leg of her Slow Dancing tour. She credits much of her success to her stable family life and her family’s willingness to see her succeed.
And succeed she has. Her EP The Movement was released April 2013 to rave reviews; the viral engagement video solidified her success. Now backed by RCA Records, her debut album, Slow Dancing, is set to be released in early April. “I feel great; very anxious, but I feel good about it and confident. I’m hopeful.”
Who has an effortless, deep and soothing timbre to her voice. Coupled with catchy hooks and an 1980s sensibility, she regularly finds herself compared with Swedish pop-diva Robyn; certainly not a bad comparison, and one that she is gracious to receive.
“With Robyn, she’s the kind of artist who’s super committed to quality, and not a lot of pop artists are that way,” she says. “Her entire career has been about putting out great music and great-quality art. Everything she does is so impressive, so inspirational and really encouraging to me.”
“I think it was super important to maintain who I am and everything I believe in. When I started making music, I very much intended to be exactly who I am and be all the things I am, and so when you listen to my songs, you know me.”
It’s not hard to feel like you know Who. It’s true that her lyrics feel honest and frank, but she tries not to let her career path take away from the things that help keep her grounded: namely, an unabashed love for television.
“Pretty Little Liars is my favourite show; I’m obsessed with it,” she says. “I am so involved and have so many theories, especially about what Alison’s mother is behind. I don’t trust her.” Being Australian herself, Who is also excited to see hometown star Courtney Act grace television screens on the new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. “I am obsessed with RuPaul. The whole show, and all the girls are amazing. I love it.”
With two months left on the road, Who will make the trip north of the border in the coming weeks. “I’m in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto soon. I have a long history of loving Canadian people. I’m surrounded by you guys.”