Who, in her right mind, drops out of graduate school, chucks a mortgage-paying day job and empties her savings account to launch a music career at the ripe age of 26 — within weeks of writing her first song?
BettySoo, that’s who.
Oh, relax — it worked out OK in the end. Or rather, it’s working out for her, given the Austin-based singer-songwriter is eight years into said music career and shows no signs of stopping — not with half a dozen albums to her name, fistfuls of glowing reviews, and an ever-growing international grassroots fan base. With hindsight, the craziest thing about her decision was she didn’t do it sooner.
In fact, it was a fortuitous beginning to an immensely satisfying musical adventure — one that has found her playing to listening room and festival audiences from coast to coast as well as in Canada and Europe. Like many self-critical artists, BettySoo is quick to dismiss the merits of her charmingly modest debut, but subsequent releases — 2007’s Little Tiny Secrets and Never the Pretty Girl EP, 2009’s Gurf Morlix-produced Heat Sin Water Skin, and 2011’s Lie to Me, an all-covers collaboration with Canadian Doug Cox under the duo handle Across the Borderline — have all been embraced by critics, peers, and folk, AAA and Americana DJs. (A second duo album, More Lies, was released in Europe by Continental Records in 2012.)
The future Kerrville New Folk winner (2008, for “Never the Pretty Girl”) developed a connoisseur’s taste for quality songcraft at an early age. By high school, she was devouring mix-tapes her sister was sending from college in Atlanta, introducing to her Lone Star poet Nanci Griffith and a slew of indie songwriters like Shawn Mullins (pre-“Lullaby.”) Thanks to local radio, hometown hero (from neighboring Klein, Texas, anyway) Lyle Lovett became a playlist staple for her, along with a smart collection of his fellow Texas troubadours.
The songs she absorbed were as much her college education as her official classes, so it’s little wonder she proved so adept at writing her own, when she finally put her mind to it. As a performer, BettySoo’s wry humor and natural stage presence coupled with her crystal clear, room-filling soprano invariably make the strongest first impression. But it’s the melodic beauty and emotional depth of her songs that linger: from her debut album’s “Family Man” and “For Bethany” to later catalog jewels like “Whisper My Name,” “Never the Pretty Girl,” “Just Another Lover” and “Still Small Voice.” Sometimes she sweetens her lyrics with humor (“Secrets,” “Goodbye”) and tenderness (“The Story of Us”), but never at the expense of unflinching honesty.
If that all sounds like a bitter pill to swallow, though, BettySoo’s music, and her whole career, in fact, serves as a reminder that beautiful things can be born out of human imperfection and adversity.“I think I tend to write a lot about brokenness,” says BettySoo, “because that’s what I believe about the world and about life. Everything’s not just OK. So a lot of my songs, whether they’re about love or death – or funny, or serious, there’s always a very human element about our imperfection, about things that are disappointing.”
Honors and Awards:
Kerrville New Folk Winner
Mountain Stage NewSong Competition Winner
Big Top Chautauqua Songwriter of the Year
Wildflower! Festival Songwriting Competition Winner
Sisters Folk Festival / Dave Carter Memorial Songwriting Competition Winner
Kerrville Folk Festival
Vancouver Island MusicFest
Calgary Folk Festival
Tin Pan South
Sisters Folk Festival
Festival Wilderness Songs (NL)
Texas on Tour
BBC2 with Bob Harris (UK)
CBC Radio (Canada)
Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour
Folk Alliance International
FAR-West Folk Alliance
Southwest Regional Folk Alliance
Northeast Regional Folk Alliance
Ontario Council of Folk Festivals
Acoustic Alaska Guitar Camp
Sisters Folk Festival Americana Song Academy
Kerrville Folk Festival Songwriting School