Although she left the world of fashion behind, swapping a design career for a future in music, fashion still finds a place in Elizabeth Humfrey’s beguiling sound—be it visually or just in spirit. The rising Welsh artist, known by her stage name Betsy, always knew her heart belonged to music and so decided to pursue what she truly loves. In a caravan set in the secluded Welsh countryside, her powerful, soul-infused dance anthems were born. Ready to release her self-titled debut album this September, Glamcult found out what binds the string of Betsy’s tracks, some of which include a more heavy-hearted tale. “My favourite ones are the songs that sound uplifting but have melancholic lyrics.”
Your self-titled debut is coming soon. What was the overarching idea behind the album?
This album was a real journey for me. Some of the songs on it are the first songs I have ever written. My managers gave me enough to live off so I didn’t have to work and could completely focus on writing. So, I retreated to the caravan in my brother’s backyard, a horrible old caravan that took me three days to clean and which had no electricity or water. Which is perhaps why I feel the album doesn’t have a conscious theme. Rather, the whole album is about me proving to myself and everyone else that I can write. Apart from that, all the songs are autobiographical. They are about real people and events that I’ve experienced. I always need to tell a certain story; it’s like therapy for me. If I need to get something off my chest, I write about it.
And how does it feel to have the album completed?
To have it finished feels quite surreal. It’s like a time capsule of my life. With it I’m closing the door on a chapter and moving on to the next. We are forever changing. I’m a different person to the one I was when I wrote a lot of the songs, so it feels as though I’m looking back at my teenage self. I feel incredibly proud about it.
How does a typical Betsy song come into existence? What role do you have in the production and writing process?
A lot of the songs are 100% written by me, so I start with the chords, then the melody, and as I am writing the melody, the story I want to tell occurs subconsciously. It’s like I don’t even know I want to write the song until my inner voice urges me to voice and give shape to it. After that I add in riffs. For example, with Lost & Found I started with the drums, then added in piano, the vocal, and my favourite part: the strings. I work with a producer to bring it all to its conclusion. For this album we worked with an orchestra, which was so incredible—truly a dream come true.
You grew up in Wales. How has the location influenced your music and creative output?
Coming from such a secluded place, you become intrigued by the outside world and desperate to be a part of it, or at least I was. It really drives your curiosity and creativity. I have a lot to be thankful for, as Wales is an incredibly musical place. I would sing in school and church choirs and both my father and uncle were in a band together. I remember lots of summers spent singing around campfires with these two bearded men and their guitars.
You covered Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time. Is she an artist that inspires your own sound?
I love Cyndi Lauper. Her voice is so strong and her songs are dramatic and emotional. This is something I also want my music to be: powerful and filled with drama and emotion. My parents used to have a varied record collection, from Stan Getz to Vivaldi to Hendrix. It was a massive mix. These still inspire me today, although some of my favourites are Annie Lennox, David Bowie and Amy Winehouse: incredible artists, with standout vocals and an unforgettable appearance.
What’s the thought behind setting upbeat music to sometimes heavy-hearted, melancholic and serious lyrics?
I just love the combination. Although I do have some cheerful songs that are upbeat, my favourite ones are the songs that sound uplifting but have melancholic lyrics. For this reason, I love the tracks Massive Attack, Unfinished Sympathy, Candi Staton & The Source and You Got The Love. Amazing songs.
What are some of the themes you address in your music and what gravitates you towards them?
I have to write about something I’ve experienced, otherwise it doesn’t feel real or connected to me. I have to be able to feel the emotion. I have songs about love, depression, death, memories, and betrayal. It’s a very human record about things we all experience.
What made you realize you wanted to pursue music instead of fashion?
I’ve always wanted to do something in music, and fashion happened along the way. The music industry seemed a million miles away, so out of reach. And I knew I needed to have a degree. Because I have always loved fashion and art, it was a natural move to study fashion. The plan was that it would get me to London, where I could meet musicians. Turns out there weren’t a lot of musicians at Central Saint Martins at the time. I was hoping Pulp would be walking around, but sadly that wasn’t the case. During my studies, I was offered a job at Balenciaga in Paris, which was an amazing opportunity. With no money and no musical connections I travelled to Paris thinking I would also be able to make music, but the job took over. I decided that I didn’t want to live regretting not ever trying, so I quit and ended up in the caravan writing.
What is it that music gives you that fashion isn’t able to?
Music allows me to feel like I’m in the right place in the universe. It feels like an extension of me.
How does fashion remain influential in your life and work
Fashion is a massive influence and my time in fashion has set me up brilliantly for planning my videos and artwork. I’m also very lucky that I have a great team behind me. Renowned fashion photographers and my favourite people ever, Sean and Seng, do all my press shots and have also shot the album cover. I was recently asked by V Magazine, Karl Lagerfeld and Mario Testino to sing at their fashion week dinner, which was amazing. So, fashion is still a very big part of my life.
What’s the one thing you took away from your time spent at Balenciaga?
I learnt so much there. It gave me an insight into fame and glamour, taught me so much about hard work, and has inspired me in making my music. But one defining thing I learnt is not to fall in love with male models: they’re handsome and entertaining but not to be trusted.
How should the album make listeners feel?
Like they want to dance, cry and party. It’s an album for life!