Betty Who isn’t your average fledgling pop star. In fact, the 6-foot-1-inch Australian singer-songwriter is a classically trained musician whose initial grassroots rise is a prime example of how the Internet can give birth to success.
Betty Who (real name Jessica Newham) released the single “Somebody Loves You” as a free download in 2012. After a fan posted a video in 2013 that used the song as an integral part of a marriage proposal to his partner at a Salt Lake City Home Depot, the track (and the video) became a YouTube sensation, and today stands at nearly 13 million views. “Somebody Loves You” has since gone to No. 1 on the dance charts and was used in an episode of the Fox television series “Glee.”
Needless to say, Betty Who now has a rampant following in the LGBT community, but her early success is also an indication of pop moving toward less-manufactured artists than in the past.
Who, for instance, didn’t create her unique, fashion-savvy look – which includes a shock of short white-blonde hair – as a way to stand out. “My hair looked like this before. I was always going to be 6-1. I didn’t do a lot of brand management,” she says.
With artists like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry writing or co-writing their own songs and social media erasing the line between fan and star, the idea of the studio-created pop star is an old one, Who says.
“I think the age of the singer-songwriter is coming back into play,” says the 23-year-old classically trained cellist. “(People say) ‘She writes her music.’ It’s so funny people talk about that now. That was definitely a ’90s thing, where 16-year-old girls would have songs handed to them. Now you have to be involved. There’s too much exposure because of the Internet. People know too much about you to let that slide.
“I think people want to connect to the artist personally. My songs are things that happened to me.”
It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.
“The Internet is a breeding ground for new artists,” she says. “Everyone has a Soundcloud page and everyone’s a singer and a songwriter.”
Her favor in the gay community is another engine that’s fueled her career, but it’s not a demographic she targeted.
“It’s been super organic,” she says. “I haven’t even really worked really hard to find the LGBT community. The first show I ever played in New York was for 80 gay men pretty much.
“I haven’t gone out of my way to pander to them or anything. I’ve always been an artist who preaches self-love and tolerance and acceptance. I don’t think it should matter. You’re a person. We’re all made up of the same stuff.”
Courtney’s blog: cltsoundbites.blogspot.com
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday.
WHERE: Visulite Theatre, 1615 Elizabeth Ave.
DETAILS: 704-358-9200; www.visulite.com.