ROSE BETTS – Interview

Als mich vor einigen Wochen der TikTok-Algorithmus auf die Seite von Rose Betts gespült hat, wusste ich noch nicht, dass das Schaffen der gebürtigen Engländerin, die jetzt in Los Angeles lebt, um einiges vielfältiger ist als die kurzen minimalistischen Songvideos erahnen lassen. Mit Driving Myself Home – einem Lied über ein Date, dessen bester Teil die Autofahrt nach Hause war – ging sie viral. Heute erscheint ihr Debütalbum White Orchids, das eine andere, poppige und detailverliebte Seite der Künstlerin zeigt. Auf der Platte verarbeitet sie eine Trennung und beleuchtet diese aus verschiedenen Perspektiven. Dabei verzaubert sie nicht nur mit ihren starken Narrativen, sondern auch mit ausgefeilten Popklängen.

Wir haben mit ihr Anfang März über Zoom gesprochen. Im Interview erzählt sie, warum das Album für sie auch ein Besuch in der Vergangenheit ist, welche Musik sie in der ihrer Zukunft sieht und warum die Clips auf TikTok so anders sind als ihre anderen Songs. Außerdem sprechen wir über die Inspiration, die sie aus der Literatur zieht und warum sie so viel Wert auf das Artwork ihrer Kunst legt. Wir freuen uns darauf, die vielen Seiten der Rose Betts weiter kennenzulernen und legen euch das Debüt sehr ans Herz.

I was very excited to discover your music and to see that I won’t have to wait very long for a full album to come out. Other fans had to wait longer, you have been making music for some time now, you have published an EP in 2018, so why the album now?
The album has been tied up and nearly done for a year and half. I had a lot of these songs ready for quite a while. The main reason is that Covid happened. I was stuck in the UK; my management and my team are in the US. I moved over in summer and we started to grow a fan base. I was doing my TikTok thing and it kind of got to the point that we realized there was no perfect time for an album. We were trying to be as strategic as possible, but in the end of the day, you just have to drop it. I was at a point where I got so many songs written since that album that I want to start sharing. I just wanted to put it out there, so I can move on from that time and from those songs. But also share them.

Did you touch them again before the release now?
Everything that was changed was very subtle. The songs were grouped together, they had their identity pretty much done. There were a couple of songs that we added since, which were written between LA and UK. But most of the songs were written in the UK and produced in LA. But essentially, it has been pretty tied up.

Is it a debut album in the sense of a collection of your best songs at the point of the recording or did you write it fresh in its entirety?
It is a collection of my best songs at a certain time. But I was very conscious about not just throwing songs into a big bowl but finding a connection point. There was a particular time and a particular relationship in my life that all these songs are born from. My focus for the album was finding different songs exploring the aspects of that – giving a full picture of what I learned from that and keeping the theme alive. For me, the theme of the album was coming of age. It is a loss of innocence, first heartbreak and what you gain and lose by that experience. But also, how that sits with you, how you digest it and how long it takes for some things to really complete their cycle. Sometimes you can have a relationship you can go in and out of, it does not really stick to you. In this particular time in my life, some friends and I had a mansion in North London that was empty, and they needed people to live there to protect it. We were living there very cheaply in the crazy circumstance of having this amazing place. We put on all these artistic things, we had plays, we did music videos, we had parties and painted. It was a strange potent time, where I felt the echoes of it through my work. I was exploring a sense of loss, what that means, and how you untangle yourself from experiences that have a big impact.

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How is it for you to revisit that time through your music? There is a big distance timewise and location wise now. Is it like looking at picture of your younger self feeling connected and like a stranger at the same time?
It is like that. I went through a phase where I did not listen to it for a while. I just came back and listened to it again. It is hard to be objective about it when you are immersed in the music, and you know every single tiny detail. When I listened to it again, I was surprised by how grounded it felt. In my head the album was a little lighter, a little wispier. It is far punchier and assertive than I remember. I feel that I have moved beyond the person that wrote those songs. In a way, you keep all the colors and that sort of thing, but it is definitely like looking back at an old photograph and I recognize myself, but I am not that person anymore.

The songs you publish on social media and your previous tracks are more minimal than the songs on the album that are more tuned and detailed. Thinking that those were recorded a while ago, is it an evolution of your sound or just another aspect of your work?
It is definitely the latter. The initial EP was done a while ago and I did not have contacts or could work with producers who could realize my vision. One has different corners. The songs on TikTok are very simple. That is a way I managed to connect with people through the very stripped back: piano and vocal or a little guitar and vocal. That seems to really land on TikTok and opened a doorway for people to find me and my music. That has been the most effective way to make TikTok work for me. But it has also been a wrestle, because Driving Myself Home is not like many other songs on the album. It was written more recently, and I did not take it very seriously. This thing happened to me and I wrote a song about it and everything in this song is completely true. I just took the story and turned it into – what I thought – a very trivial song, but somehow it really connected with people. It has been an interesting thing that I have this whole other body of work that is so much more detailed and produced. Some people might find that tricky, they might expect a whole album with Driving Myself Home songs. I love that side of myself, but that is not all that I am. I am definitely a bit more cinematic and bigger in the way that I dream many of my other songs.

What connects the songs is their strong and very direct but detailed narratives. It reminds me of songwriters like Bob Dylan or Courtney Barnett. Who inspires you?
That is lovely, I take those. I did not grow up with pop music and writers like Dylan. But I read a lot of literature, especially Russian literature. I find the way Tolstoi, Tschechow, or Puschkin write so inspiring. I am always reading translations, but they have a way of very simple visual pictures and minimal language that give you this ridiculous real feeling of where you are and this other person with just three words and tiny descriptions and moments. How can you do that with words and songs and narratives – make people fall into a world. We are all saying the same things. I am saying the same things hundreds have been saying. I am just falling in love like everyone else. It is about: How can you find a way of saying it in a way that someone else has not heard it before? That is why I would say that my main inspiration is always from writers. Lyrics are such an opportunity and often that is not taken. Or they are not taken as seriously as they could. Musically I grew up with a lot of classical music and some British bands from the Noughties like Coldplay and Keane. I am a sucker for a wonderful melody.

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Your music is very personal. As a listener we often automatically assume that the stories are about the artist. How much is your music autobiographical?
It is all very autobiographical. As soon as I had a heartbreak and had real emotional moments happening to me, I realized the power of it through these songs. Even if you cannot pinpoint it as a listener, if the chore of a song is a real experience, it has a weight which you cannot fake. I was listening to some of my old songs. My journey as a songwriter has been to be vulnerable and honest. I used to hide a lot when I was younger. I was very frightened to put the truth into the lyrics. I managed to shed that. All my songs are completely personal. Of course, I take in other people’s lives and sometimes write a song from a perspective of a loved one, but the album is intensely personal. So personal that I know that certain people are going to hear it and they are going to think to know who the song is about. That is a bit excruciating, but I have accepted that now. People will believe songs are about them because they are. I do not hide.

What are your plans for after the release?
I am planning a little tour around the South-East of America. And I have a lot of music that I have been working on as I have been going. I have a project with an English producer that is a very different thing. I have also been working with a Cellist over here. I am interested in an album that is quite orchestral and simple with piano and strings. There are also many songs on TikTok that I feel very connected to that have not made the album. There is an idea to have a deluxe album, which will take some of these songs and expand them, but keep them grounded to honor the kind of songs that people really connect to on TikTok. It is so lovely that you get a sense of what people connect to. It is a particular kind of song. If I always did that, it would be very samey. But there are some songs that have done well on TikTok that I would like to add to the album afterwards or have a little separate project. Who knows…

You also care a lot about the artwork. Your photographs and the video you made to announce the album are very special and beautiful. Do you do that yourself?
I do that, yes!

You have many creative outlets then.
Yes, that is why I love music. I can be creative and nutty in every way I like. I love visuals and I love film and telling stories through it. A lot of the footage from that album announcement was stuff that I have collected over the years. They are things that I see and then film then for a bit and who knows where they end up. I have made a lyric video for every single song with something I filmed. And I love it, it is another way of adding to the story.

Thank you for the interview!

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