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Betty Reed: “Her” Story

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Newcomer Betty Reed is shaking up Nashville with her edgy sound and contemporary take on country music. From her expressive vocals and clever lyrics to her rocking country-pop sound, you are sure to become a huge fan.

Drawing inspiration from her late grandmother, who appreciated the little things in life, and in doing so, exposed Reed to the wonders of nature, art, and music to rise above all the craziness in this world. (Ed. Note: her stage name is a tribute to her free-spirited grandmother.)

Music became her escape. She would journal random thoughts, poems, stories, song lyrics, and titles that spoke to her soul. As she began putting thoughts into songs, Reed knew she needed more. It was then when she started vocal lessons to help take her music and performing to the next level. Her parents began to realized music wasn’t just a hobby, it was her passion.

What songs/artists do you associate with growing up in Massachusetts?

My musical tastes, like most kids, were formed by what my parents were listening to (indie rock, classic rock, punk rock) and what was popular on radio stations. I gravitated to pop-rock artists like No Doubt, Pink, Avril Lavigne, Spice Girls, Green Day, Fall Out Boy. I liked a lot of popular music, especially Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Destiny’s Child. When my sister moved to Savannah, GA for college, she introduced me to contemporary country music: Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Carrie Underwood. I believe that being exposed to different types of genres throughout my early years influenced my wide-ranging taste in music.

Any stories to share about your relatives who also had careers in music?

My great-great-grandparents composed music and performed at the Yiddish Theater located in New York City during the early 1920s. My great-grandmother was a piano teacher and my grandfather was a wedding/nightclub band singer and bass player.

Read that you performed on stage at age four and began writing lyrics seven years later. Do you remember the first song you wrote?

The first song I wrote, at eleven years old, was called “Invisible”. I was in sixth grade and my parents were working full-time jobs. I would come home from school and feel alone. In some ways, I felt invisible. If nobody sees me, am I really here? Like the tree in the forest: does the tree make a sound if no one is there to hear it?

What writing challenges have you overcome because of dyslexia?

Those challenges still exist. Spelling is an incredible struggle. Vowels are not my friend. But I don’t let it get in the way of my creative process. Just because words are spelled wrong on a page, doesn’t affect my ability to generate ideas for songs.

What was your favorite class at Berklee College of Music?

My Ensemble Classes because I got to play with other students on a wide variety of genres. The way that Ensemble Classes worked is that students were hired as backup musicians for the vocalist (me) to learn how to compose and perform as a group. Of all the ensembles I took, my favorite was Rock/Pop/Country with the incredibly talented Paula Cole (who was also one of my favorite professors).

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How did you come up with the idea for the Side A country and pop/Side B personal message for your debut EP?

I got the idea from old cassette tapes, where there was a Side A and Side B. My parents had a lot of them! My mom also told me that old 45 records would have two sides, Side A being the popular single and Side B being a lesser known song on the album. So I liked this whole Side A/Side B concept and thought this be an interesting way to showcase both my “light” side and “dark” side. “Side A” is the country-pop side, which I believe will appeal to listeners across genres. “Side B” is the personal singer/songwriter side, message-driven, with more of a rock vibe. I also have two goals in my career, so this was an interesting way to express that duality: writing “radio-ready” songs for other artists and performing my own songs. With this EP, I hope to showcase my songwriting range.

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What is the best advice your producer Bill McDermott has given you?

I really appreciate his advice regarding the need for confidence… for striking a balance between being too polite and too assertive. Find the middle ground, and make my voice heard. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

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You said “Her” was written about a guy who chose heroin over you. How difficult was it to write such personal lyrics?

Believe it or not, I did not find it difficult. I actually found it relieving, almost cathartic. There was something I needed to say to him, that when I sang it out loud, it got me past the hurt.

Why was it important that you wrote all the songs on your EP?

I felt had I had something to say. Especially, the Side B songs. “Denial” is about the devastating effects of climate change and how it affects my generation. “I’ll Get By” is about coping with depression and believing tomorrow will be a better day. And “Love Trumps Hate”… well I think that’s obvious. I wanted to prove to myself that I could write lyrics and music that would appeal to wide audiences, whether it was just fun stuff like “Drunk On You” or more serious like “Her.”

What’s the story behind “Good Days”?

There is no story! I basically came up with a concept — the classic story of a couple starting at the honeymoon phase and slowly the flame extinguishes. It’s a universal phenomenon that everyone can relate to.

Read your goal is to write at least 100 songs within the next few years. What topics do you want to write about?

Everything! But seriously… I’m young and want to experiment with different subject matter. This EP touches on that a bit. “Drunk on You” is a fun song with quirky lyrics. “I’ll Get By” is about depression. That’s a wide swing. There is so many topics to explore, whether it’s about serious relationships, social and political issues, personal shortcomings. In fact, I’m writing a song about the wildfires in California.

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What did you mean when you said, “Some days I need the music and some days I need the lyrics.”?

I don’t recall saying that. I probably meant that sometimes the melody comes to me and I then I have to come up with the lyrics. And sometimes I write down lyrics and need to come up with the melody.

Favorite song to cover and why?

Redemption Song” by Bob Marley. I love the message. I love Bob Marley. And it’s very pretty and fits my voice. It’s one of those songs that doesn’t require a whole lot of instruments to sound wonderful. Just me and my acoustic guitar.

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Have you written any songs about the places you’ve traveled to? Bucket list of places you want to visit?

I have not written songs about places I’ve traveled to. But I do have notes from places I’ve been, but have yet to create songs based on those experiences. I would like to see the places my ancestors came from. That would include Netherlands, Eastern Europe and Germany.

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“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” What are you in pursuit of?

To feel confident in myself through my music. Depression weighs on your psyche and your body. If I can get out of the bed in the morning and pursue my dreams, I hope I can motivate others to get out of bed every morning and pursue theirs. I want to truly feel happy and do something I love and am passionate about.

What message do you hope fans take away from your music?

Like the concept of the EP and my own personal experience, there are many sides of a human being. It’s important to explore all these sides and figure out what makes you happy.

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