Hailing from Nashville, Betty Reed is an alt pop singer-songwriter, using expressive vocals and clever lyrics to share her life experiences. The latest release, “Without You” is a a hard-driving pop/rock single about breaking free from toxic people who hold you back. We caught up with Betty Reed to chat about the song, the Nashville music scene, and what made her want to become a performer.
From The Strait: Tell us about the new single, “Without You”.
Betty Reed: “Without You,” a hard-driving pop/rock song about prospering in life by breaking free from those who hold you back and then proving them wrong. The song draws from actual experiences in my own life about people who you think would support you, but instead tear you down. The best revenge against the naysayers is succeeding in life on your own terms. When people try to strip you of your confidence, it is very demoralizing. You have to claw back your dignity, which is no easy task. In essence, this is a song about gaining independence and fulfilling your dreams.
A music business consultant put me in touch with producer and guitarist Evan Redwine. Evan totally got what I was going for — an edgy (almost nostalgic) pop/rock sound with a hint of punk. One of my favorite parts of the song is the bridge, where the electric instruments fall away and the acoustic guitar serenades my vocals and then, bam, all the instruments come back in and we hit the final chorus like an anthem.
FTS: Nashville is known as a world class music hub – what’s the scene like there, and how do you manage to stand out among your musical peers?
Betty Reed: Everyone in this city is talented. And I mean that. On some level, it’s daunting and intimidating. But on another level, it make you want to elevate your game. I try not to think about “standing out” because I think would stress me out. I’m just doing what I do best—write meaningful songs and perform them authentically. I have a strong work ethic and I believe that, and meeting more industry people (which was impossible during the pandemic), will help get me to the next level.
FTS: Who were your musical influences growing up, and how do they differ from your current ones?
Betty Reed: At a very young age I was exposed to practically every genre from classic rock to indie rock to Grateful Dead to alternative to new wave to punk because my parents had wide-ranging tastes in music! If I took a road trip with my dad, I would listen to Pearl Jam, Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin. If I was with my mom, I would hear Pixies, PJ Harvey, and The Mountain Goats. And when my older sister was in the car she insisted on tuning into pop music. As a teenager I gravitated to pop-rock artists like No Doubt, Pink, Avril Lavigne, Green Day, and Fallout Boy — I guess what you would consider the edgier side of pop. At Berklee College of Music, I took a lot of music history classes and fell in love with Ma Rainey, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald. Maybe this explains why my own music is not very genre-specific! But if I had to pick one artist that truly influenced my songwriting, I would have to say Tom Petty. I loved his style of storytelling and his melodies crossed genre lines from rock to pop to country to folk. His catalog is so vast and so diverse, I can’t imagine that most songwriters aren’t influenced or inspired by him. I currently draw inspiration from female singer/songwriters who map somewhat closely to the pop/rock vibe I’m going for, like Olivia Rodrigo, Dove Cameron, and Demi Lovato.
FTS: What first made you want to be a musician? Was it a song, an artist, or just an undeniable pull to make music?
Betty Reed: I think music is in my blood. My great-great grandfather was a composer for the Yiddish Theater and his wife a singer. My great grandmother was a piano teacher. My grandfather is a singer and bass player. My parents have always been into discovering new music and going to concerts. When I was four, I went to a daycare center where a woman came in once a week and played guitar and sang. I can’t even express how wonderful that weekly guitar session made me feel. When I was nine, my dad bought me a small “child’s” guitar and my aunt Cathy taught me three chords: C G7 and Am. A year later I begged my mom for guitar lessons (“Rockin’ In The Free World” by Neil Young was the first song I learned to play). I started to feel lonely and depressed in middle school and one day after camp I came home to an empty house and wrote my first song, “Invisible.” I probably didn’t realize it at the time, but it was like therapy — getting my private thoughts down on paper and singing them to myself.
When I expressed the desire to perform, my mom signed me up for School of Rock, where I learned to play electric guitar. Soon after that, I started working with a wonderful vocal coach. In my senior year, I joined my high school’s gospel choir. But it was at Berklee College of Music (where I majored in vocal performance) that I had the opportunity to really learn the craft of composing a song by taking a lot of classes in music theory and songwriting.
FTS: What’s coming up next for you?
Betty Reed: When I recorded “Without You,” I also recorded “Shallow End” and “Reasons Why” with producer Evan Redwine. I would categorize both as pop/rock, but “Shallow End” is a down tempo song (about how I feel when I am going through bouts of depression), while “Reasons Why” is an uptempo love song (again, autobiographical about all the fun things I love about my boyfriend). Not sure yet when I will release them. My plan is to spend the rest of this year writing new songs, networking with the local music community, and playing as many live gigs here in Nashville as I can.