Earlier this year, Sarah Bettens launched a solo career after ten years of partnering with her brother Gert in the internationally successful band K’s Choice. Bettens’ solo recording, Scream, showcases her husky alto in a blend of hard-rocking anthems and intimate ballads.
Bettens, who is originally from Belgium and lives with her partner and two stepchildren in Tennessee, spoke with AfterEllen.com the evening before Thanksgiving. She was in California, celebrating the holiday and spending a week with extended family. Her parents had flown in from Belgium and were meeting her partner of four years, as well as her partner’s parents, for the first time. According to Bettens, the meeting was proving to be a success.
AfterEllen.com: Since coming out, do you feel like you have to battle to keep your personal life private?
Sarah Bettens: It’s been totally fine, actually. Right in the beginning, after I came out, I really didn’t feel like talking about it. I feel like in Belgium the press really had a hard time not talking about it. I just really wasn’t ready for it, because I just didn’t feel like I had anything good or interesting to say about it yet. And I felt like they were a little unrespectful about that. But aside from that, no one’s usually really that interested in my personal life. You know, people want to know what the songs are about, and they’re interested to hear what kind of family I have—and obviously I have two kids. But the things I feel are really private, I feel like people don’t really ask about that. So it’s been fine.
AE: And how long ago was that that you came out and there was a media frenzy?
SB: A little over four years ago. It was all… The reason why I didn’t really feel like talking about it is that it was all new to me too. So it wasn’t like I had been living in a closet for ten years and finally I was ready to, you know, take the plunge, and that I have so many things to say about it. It was all new to me too, so it took me a while to kind of adapt and just get some sense of what that meant for me personally. Now I feel like I want to talk about it, and I definitely want to show girls that they can be out and happy and comfortable and fine and successful—all at the same time. So now I have more of a sense that I want to contribute somehow. I want to do something more even, but at the time then, that first year, I just didn’t feel ready.
AE: It’s like people expected you to come out and have a speech prepared.
SB: It was always about that, and I had a brand new record and I just wanted to talk about my record? I thought, come on, you guys. I just made a record. This is important to me. This is what I want to talk about. I don’t want to be the lesbian, you know?. I just want to be the singer who happens to be a lesbian. So, that’s just something I had to get used to, I guess, at the beginning.
AE: You said that now you feel ready to talk more, and you want to do more. Have you actually been able to branch out from your music?
SB: I’m just kind of slowly, slowly getting there, I guess. I was very happy to play at this Power Up event [in Los Angeles] a couple of days ago. It’s this organization that supports lesbians in film and TV. It was great to be a part of that. I’m doing a benefit in about a week and a half in Salt Lake City for a girl who’s fighting for custody with her lesbian partner, or ex-partner, I should say. In my songs I feel like I’m more involved than I used to be—more politically involved—and I think that’s something that’s going to continue. And I will keep looking for projects and ways to be more visible that way.
AE: Being a celebrity you have this public forum where you can do this—but I would imagine that you also have people approaching you, where you’re able to do this on a more personal level. One-on-one, as people come to you.
SB: Right. Which is great. I’ve always been, even before I was in K’s Choice, very approachable with fans. And I love to hear their feedback about my music and feel why it was special to them. It’s always been great to talk with people about the songs you write, because they’re always personal to me too, and they mean something. So to know that they mean something to someone else too, and maybe for a different reason, is always interesting for me to know.
I’ve gotten letters and people have come up to me, and I know there are girls out there who are struggling with some of the same issues that I struggled with or am still struggling with. So to know that it can help them, or to just be the support that they need, it’s sort of an easy thing for me to do. So it’s nice to be able to do that.