Interview with Sarah Bettens

AE: I’m really surprised. I know the industry is biased towards young artists, but, I don’t know, I guess I like to think that early thirties is still in the young category, but clearly not!
SB:
Yeah, it’s very sad, not only that this happens because I know that this happens but to think that it’s come to a point where people aren’t even embarrassed about that. You know, they’re not even embarrassed to say it. They don’t even try to say, like, “You know what? We have too many artists right now, or we already have an artist on our label that’s kind of the same.” They don’t even try to cover it. They’ll just flat-out say it and it’s not even a problem. I think that’s very sad, that it’s gotten to that point. Especially when you know that so many people are still buying real music. There’s a market for that, and I just feel like people don’t really tap into that.

It’s a struggle for anyone to make a new record, and you can only imagine what it’s like for a woman over 35. It’s like Hollywood or something, where after a certain age you can either play a mom or someone’s grandma or evil stepmom, but the really interesting roles will go to 20-year-olds.

AE: I don’t think there’s any excuse for it but I can almost see some justification for it in acting, in that you have roles written for a specific age and you need people who are able to portray that. But when you’re talking about music, I don’t understand.
SB:
And especially because a lot of people don’t care, you know? And not just the people who come to my shows, just people in general. Unless you are 13, you don’t have to someone who is also 13. Anyone grown-up that I’ve talked to, nobody cares. People just want to put on a record and enjoy it. Even the most unattractive people have made fantastic records, so it just doesn’t really matter. Or it shouldn’t matter. But then it still does. And then things like American Idol now, it’s all about instant entertainment. But we could talk and complain about this all day long, but all we can do you in your job and me in mine is continue what we love to do, what we think is good. And then just hope that the tide at some point will maybe turn back our way.

AE: I think it’s all about connecting audiences to potential fans — they’re just looking for something that moves them. Unfortunately it gets mediated by this industry that’s deciding who they’re going to get to hear or even get to know about. But it is a reality. Do you think it’s any different in Europe, in the different industries in countries there?
SB:
No. Not really. Every country’s different. In Belgium it’ll be a whole different thing than in Holland, and then in France you get a whole different industry world again. But every country struggles with the same problems. It’s mass media. And there’s an American Idol in Belgium and there’s one in France. It’s all this instant, fast pop songs, where people write songs from 9 to 5 and give them to the best-looking person. And then people think that that’s what people want. I like to think more that people want, like you said, that people want to be moved, you know? For real. They really want to be moved. That’s what music is about. Yet it’s still the instant-ness of a pop hit that people keep looking for. They don’t want to invest in artist development, and sign an artist that’s going to make four records with them and hope that by the fourth record they’re ready to play bigger shows. What people really want is someone who doesn’t even necessarily have to sing live.

You know, that horrible Ashlee Simpson thing was so sad on Saturday Night Live. Not because she wasn’t singing live but because it’s so obvious that she doesn’t, that so many of them don’t. I just thought it was sad that people made such a big deal about that, as if no one knew it. Or that Saturday Night Live is one of those rare shows where there’s live music”I think it’s sad that Saturday Night Live has artists that don’t sing live. Those guys should take a stand and get real artists to play someone who can sing live and a band that can play live. I don’t know. It surprised me that nobody knew. Of course it’s all taped. And it’s sad that people don’t care about that. But again, I think you can expect more of people, and in the end, maybe people care more than we think that the media just keeps feeding what’s fast and easy, because it’s not costing them a lot of money to just get a pop star and get her to pretend to sing a song.

AE: So, in what ways do you want to challenge yourself in the future? With future projects, is there any direction that you see that you want to grow in?
SB:
Um, I hope I keep doing just that, like you said, just challenging myself, and maybe do movie projects and write for other people. I’ve been wanting to do that for a while. Set up something for myself so I can easily write songs and then send them to people. I like to write for a specific project, you know, where it’s not necessarily for my record. Really something where I can pretend to be someone else and then write a song. I’ve done that before and I’ve always really enjoyed it, so I want to go a lot further in that and then hopefully continue into writing for TV and movies. And hopefully continue to make records that I really enjoy making, and that I can be very proud of.

AE: So, if you hadn’t been a musician, what do you think would’ve become of you?
SB:
Um, I might’ve been a photographer. I was studying photography in college when I quit because I just could not do both. It’s a very time-consuming hobby, so I couldn’t combine it and stopped doing that. But it’s still a hobby of mine, and I think when this all fails, I’ll probably do that again, and maybe a little more professionally than I’m doing it now.

AE: Well, I have to tell you, I love the record.
SB:
Thank you very much.

AE: Yeah, it’s fantastic. It’s so funny. You know, I get sent copies of things to review or to interview artists, and once in a while, one like yours comes along where I actually feel a little guilty that I got it for free. So I have to make a point of buying a copy for a friend and telling other friends to buy it because I really liked it.
SB:
[Laughs] That’s cool.

AE: Thank you so much for speaking with me.
SB:
Thank you.

AE: Sure. And I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving and a good time with your whole extended family there.
SB:
Thank you very much. Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

For more information, visit sarahbettens.com

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