In Conversation With . . . BettySoo

BettySoo is an Austin singer-songwriter who sings her own country-flavoured ballads in a tender, evocative style. She has just released her latest album, Heat Sin Water Skin (see Voice review this issue), to ecstatic reviews. She’ll soon be touring with this CD and plans to go to Europe this fall. Recently BettySoo took the time to talk with Wanda Waterman St. Louis.

How Did I Get Here?

I actually didn’t plan on a singing career at all. I was in graduate school to be a counsellor. I was also getting married and just sort of leading a normal life. A good friend and mentor of mine sat down with me one day and shared something. She was the kind of person who could look into a person’s life and be very discerning.

She told me, ?Look, this is what you should be doing.? I said, ?You’re crazy!? I kept it to myself for a few days, but then it started to bother me. Finally I went to my husband and told him and he agreed with my friend. The more I thought about it the more I realized I did want a music career. I went back to my friend and asked her how to go about it. She told me to start writing songs and then go after it.

A Musical Home

My whole family was really musical. I grew up playing the flute, piano, and violin. I wasn’t really exceptional at any of them. My sisters were all much better than I was.

Never the Pretty Girl?

I was on the way to my high school reunion and thinking of my high school class in yearbook terms. Our class had a ?class favourites? section for those voted most beautiful, most likely to succeed, etc.

I wasn’t any of those things and it took a long time for me to realize that those who were chosen were six people out of five hundred kids, but when You’re 16 or 17 you feel like You’re the only one that hasn’t been picked. Not being singled out for being exceptional sometimes feels like being singled out for being unexceptional. Not being picked actually makes you normal.

Regarding Gurf Morlix

It was great working with Gurf?so comfortable. He’s so funny and interesting and has such great stories. He’s a person with really long friendships and I think that speaks well of him. Every summer he goes up to New York where he grew up and then to Canada to visit old friends. He stays connected with everyone he feels close to.

As soon as I started working with him I thought, I want to be one of those long friendships. He’s such a champion of people and people don’t always realize it because he seems so quiet. He seems dark and brooding but he’s really not.

What’s So Great About Austin?

Part of it is the really great community. People really support each other. In a town that has so many musicians you’d expect it to be competitive and cutthroat, and That’s just not the case. The prevailing thought is: If It’s good music, then it belongs. People will always buy bigger hard drives or more CD racks. If It’s great music you’ll get it even if you already have 400 CDs.

A Funny Thing Happened on Tour . . .

Not all small towns in the South are used to seeing Asian people. At one town I went to they had one of my posters on the wall and next to my poster was a blackboard. Somebody had copied my poster onto the blackboard and on the blackboard version, in the place where my show information was, they had a running haiku contest.

Every day they would choose a haiku that somebody in the bar wrote and that would be the haiku of the day. And they had a countdown of the number of days until I got there.

It was the funniest thing because they meant it as such a tribute, but a) I’m not really a poetic writer, and b) I’m not Japanese. But it was their way of trying to connect. It was sweetly intended, so how could I take offence?


I’m a Christian, a Protestant. Politically I’m pretty split. Depending on which group of friends I’m around I’m either the most liberal or the most conservative person in the group. The sad thing is that the kind of polarized thought that we have in this country really makes any line of thinking inconsistent. You can’t say You’re the party of the people and then cheat half the population. And you can’t say You’re the party of compassion and values and then spit fire at people. To me It’s amazing that the people who oppose the death penalty and the people who oppose abortion hate each other. Either you really believe that all life should be preserved or you really don’t. There should be some higher values that most of us do agree on.