Interview with Betsie Larkin about her album “All we have is now”, out now on Black Hole Recordings. The New York based vocalist and singer/songwriter Betsie Larkin, best known for her collaborations with Ferry Corsten on "Made of Love" and "Feel You", has been working hard to finish her debut album “All We Have Is Now”. The release is finally here. The first single and title track, produced by Finnish duo Super8 & Tab, has already sent waves through the dance music community, shooting up the Beatport and Music Week Club charts. Talk of Betsie’s album started with DJ/producer Ferry Corsten, soon after the release of his album “Twice In A Blue Moon”, for which Betsie was featured on the tracks “Made of Love” and “Feel You”. Ferry was quick to discover Betsie’s talent for crafting songs, and invited her to create an album with backing from his new label, ‘Premier’, a joint venture between Flashover Recordings, and Black Hole.
In a recent interview, Ferry said: "When I was looking for collaborators for my last artist album, I listened to literally hundreds of vocalist and songwriters both known and unknown. The beautiful, dreamy, lush vocals and insightful, intelligent and captivating lyrics of Betsie Larkin, completely blew me away. I knew that she was special”.
Betsie enthusiastically began the preparations for her new album and reached out to a list of heavy-hitters in the EDM scene, and crafted a song or two with each producer. The result is twelve tracks that successfully fuse each producer’s unique style with Betsie’s signature song writing and vocals.
From Made of Love I fell in love with her voice and I often dreamt of having an interview with her. I’m so glad to have the opportunity with the release of her first EDM album, that I managed to ask her some very interesting, deep and thoughtful questions, and get back such interesting and thought provoking answers.
Enjoy the interview!
Dimitri: First of all, many thanks for accepting my request for this interview.
Betsie: My pleasure!
Dimitri: I would like to go back in time, and ask if you came from a family background that had any kind of connection with arts and culture, particularly music?
Betsie: There are a lot of singers in my family. My grandfather in particular was very good. He had an offer to join a pop act when he was younger, but decided to be a family man instead. Before he passed away he let me know that he was proud of what I’m doing.
Dimitri: Do you feel that your parents encouraged you to get into the music business, and are they still supportive of your decision to follow your heart and aspirations?
Betsie: I come from a very practical family. While they never prevented me from following my dream of being a singer/songwriter, I was always under the impression that I needed to have a “fall-back plan.” I went to college and got a degree in mathematics. I think that put everyone’s mind at ease, and now they love to follow my progress and talk about my adventures as a recording artist.
Dimitri: It would be great to choose for us your all time favourite singers and songwriters that you believe have influenced you the most to get into singing and song writing process and also had an impact on the way that you sing and write your lyrics.
Betsie: I was a huge fan of the Cure, and logged quite a few hours listening to them. I also loved Depeche Mode, the Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Fiona Apple, Doves, Arcade Fire, etc during those formative years. I’m guessing that that the music of some of these artists found its way into my creative process, but I can’t say exactly how.
Dimitri: Do you believe that is important for a singer to learn the techniques of singing and lyrics writing through formal training? Did you have the chance to learn how to sing and write lyrics, or are you totally self taught?
Betsie: I’m self-taught for the most part. Trial and error was a big part of developing my approach to writing lyrics. I had some voice lessons and think that helped tremendously for breaking down bad habits.
Dimitri: Your involvement in music started while you were attending University. Is it possible to tell us how this first band was formed, and if you had a motive behind it and clear vision of what you wanted to achieve with this band?
Betsie: I met the guitar player and another musician who had a home recording studio very soon after I got to Boston. We put together a full group and were practicing regularly – the idea was definitely to “go all the way,” but looking back, I don’t know that it was really me. I think I needed the steps that followed; breaking up with that band to find who I am as an artist. Working with Brendan Hawkins in Los Angeles was crucial, as was deciding to work on a solo alternative rock EP. Both situations were very open and nurturing, and gave me the freedom to explore what I wanted to say lyrically and go through the process of finding my sound.
Dimitri: USA is presented by the media as the country that anyone can achieve his or her dream. Is this true for the music business also? Was back then easy for you with your band, to attract the attention of a record company and get an album deal?
Betsie: America is the land of opportunity in many ways, but it’s also very competitive. My band went pretty far – we released two albums, were on major radio stations, had loads of gigs, endorsements, etc, but ultimately we had to break up because it just wasn’t working on a creative level. I think success in the music business is very elusive – you have to be ready for it and that’s not just a matter of how hard you work. You have to be honest with yourself and be willing to stop and try something new. Much of my success came when I decided to take a break and see where it led.
Dimitri: The Dance music scene learnt about you through your collaboration with the superstar DJ and icon of EDM scene, Ferry Corsten. Is it possible to tell us how you managed to get in touch with Ferry, or if this happened the other way around, how did Ferry get in touch with you?
Betsie: Ferry’s former manager, Alan Stewart, put us together. I met Alan at a dinner party; he liked my music, and told Ferry about me. That’s pretty much how it all started.
Dimitri: Did you send Ferry many tracks, and then he choose to produce “Made of Love” or was this track his first choice straight away?
Betsie: I got a few of Ferry’s instrumentals from Alan a few weeks before he was scheduled to come to NY for a show. I wrote over two of them, and those became “Made of Love” and “Feel You.” It was really fun working with him in NY because everything was just flowing. He liked what I had done and I really liked his ideas for additional backing vocals, arrangement, etc. We were both giving it our best, and it turned out to be a great fit.
Dimitri: You performed with Ferry at his ‘Full on Ferry’ events, and I guess in many other instances as well. Can you tell us the similarities and differences between performing live for a rock concert, and performing live in a EDM event like ‘Full on Ferry’?
Betsie: It’s night and day. At rock shows the audience is, in general, much more composed. ‘Full on Ferry’ was the first of many shows Ferry and I did together. I was completely floored – the audience knew all of the words and the track wasn’t even out. I was pretty scared with there being 9,000 people in front of me, but it quickly disappeared when I saw how supportive they were. I’ll never forget that one.
Dimitri: Ferry Corsten was the driving force behind your album “All we Have is Now” which is out now on Premier. Was it hard for him to persuade you to complete a whole EDM album, and how long did it take you to complete this project?
Betsie: Ferry and I had been talking about doing an album from around the time that I came to Rotterdam to perform at Full on Ferry. The project went through different conceptual phases before we decided on the idea of getting producers to do one song each. I didn’t take a lot of convincing – It’s a rare opportunity to have someone like Ferry offer to release your album!
Dimitri: For your rock albums you worked with your band in the same place. How did you feel when you had to complete this album over the internet, sending digital files back and forth? Is it still as exciting as writing and recording songs with a band?
Betsie: To be honest, I really prefer to work in person. I was able to work with both Ferry and John O’Callaghan in person. and have been lucky to meet almost all of the guys that I work with. Both scenarios have their pros and cons, and it’s pretty amazing that working remotely has become an option.
Dimitri: Let’s go for a virtual tour of this album. Please give us a short comment about each track. This can be about the inspiration, influences that each track include, about your collaboration with the particular producer, and maybe a funny or sad story which is related to any single track: Betsie:
01. The Dream (with John O’Callaghan) – Developed from a rock song of mine called “Chasing.” John did the ambient version first and followed with this. He was one of the first people to finish his song for the album. John’s a total pro – he works fast and seems to have creativity on tap. I would work with him any day of the week.
02. Stars (with Ferry Corsten) - Also developed from a former rock tune of mine. Several big DJ’s actually wanted to produce this song, but I saved it for Ferry!
03. All We Have Is Now (with Super8 & Tab) – I wrote about three versions of this song before deciding on this melodic structure. Miika and Janne changed the music entirely, but the essence of the demo is still there.
04. Obvious (with Lange) - This was a former rock song that I wrote with my friend Nic Bacon – a great guitarist/songwriter from NYC. Stuart turned the song on its head after shaking it violently. I like Stu’s version better than the original, which I also love.
05. Made Of Love (Made With Love Rework) (with Rafael Frost) – Ferry asked Rafael to do the adaptation – I think he did a lovely job.
06. Breathe You In (with Solarstone) – Rich developed this from a piano demo I had. He’s a genius and I love his singing on this tune. Rich and I often fight about Depeche Mode facts.
07. The Flicker Inside – I wrote this over a Junkie XL tune. We kept the essence of that song and were able to get permission from JXL’s management to put it on my album.
08. Toys (with Giuseppe Ottaviani) – I met Giuseppe for the first time in Australia while I was touring with Ferry and again backstage at ASOT 450. There I asked him to work with me on the album. Giuseppe works fast and did a brilliant job with the rock demo. The original has some Cure-like lead guitars that I love, but wouldn’t have really fit in this version.
09. The Offering (with Sied van Riel) - I met Sied when I was on tour with Ferry. He’s hilarious and we’ve been trying to work together for a while. This song was the last one to be completed for the album. We did it very quickly and it seems to be a fan favourite. We’re going to perform it for the first time together this weekend in Argentina – can’t wait!
10. Let It Shine (with Bjorn Akesson) - This was an acoustic rock demo I wrote with my friend Wes Hutchinson. Bjorn did a nice job of ‘trancifying’ it.
11. Belong To Me (with Bobina) (Sunset Version) - I had my nephew’s guitar teacher, Marty Sedek, arrange this piano ballad version of the original I did with Bobina. It’s in complete contrast to the rest of the album, but I like that there’s a strong organic element here.
12. The Dream (with John O’Callaghan) (Ambient Mix) - This was John’s first demo of “The Dream.” It was too good to not include. Dimitri: The album is currently out, and I wonder if you’ve had any form of feedback from your fans, and if there some tracks that you believe already that dance music fanatics will adore more than the rest?
Betsie: “The Offering” with Sied van Riel is getting a lot of attention. We weren’t actually planning to make it a single, but are discussing changing this. You have to listen to the fan response. “Stars” with Ferry seems to be causing a stir also. Dimitri: Have you ever got a really emotional comment from any of your fans about how strong they feel about a particular track, which maybe changed their life, or helped them to pass a difficult moment?
Betsie: Yes, “Made of Love” seemed to have an effect on a lot of people. I understand – I cried after I wrote it. Some of my best moments are right after getting an idea and start to flesh it out. Dimitri: Are you going to embark on a tour to support the release of the album? Are you booked alone as a singer for a performance in a club or an event, and what will your performance include? Can you tell us the duration, and the tracks that you will be singing at the performance?
Betsie: I’ve already been touring to promote the album. I’m billed as a solo artist, but usually there is a DJ spinning my instrumentals during the performance. I perform for just under an hour, and we often spread the tracks out over a longer 2-3 hour set. This weekend, for example, I’ll perform 3 songs from the album and three of my former singles. I always perform “Made of Love.” “Save This Moment” (John O’Callaghan/Gareth Emery remix) and “You Belong To Me” with Bobina.
Dimitri: I notice that you are active in social media, Tweeting and writing on Facebook. Do you feel that is very important for an artist to embrace the new technologies and social networks, in order to progress their career?
Betsie: Definitely. It’s amazing to be able to communicate news on an immediate basis with Twitter and Facebook and get feedback from fans almost as quickly. It’s also just really nice to get to know your audience regardless of how far away they might be living. Dimitri: Of course for your EDM releases, you have some amazing music videos on YouTube. Do you consider YouTube to be a really important tool for the promotion of your music, and which of your music videos do you remember the most, and you enjoyed shooting?
Betsie: I love music videos as an art form, and was lucky to contribute in part to the treatments for three of my videos so far. I would love if I could shoot a video for every song on my album, but imagine my label would veto that suggestion! I know a lot of people go to Youtube to check out new music and definitely think it’s a good way to present what I do musically. The video we shot for my next single, “the Dream,” was pretty insane. I won’t give away too much yet, but it involved me flying upside down in an aerobatic plane. At one point my hair is hanging upside down while we did a “slow roll.” It was awesome? Dimitri: What is your opinion of talent shows like ‘X-Factor’ for instance, which aspire to discover the next big thing in singing? Do you feel that those reality shows can seriously help someone’s career? If you were starting today, would you consider taking part in them?
Betsie: They’ve certainly worked for other people, but I personally enjoy the slow road where you learn how to navigate along the way. I’m sensitive to change and can’t imagine going from a high school student to an American Idol over night. I’d probably end up on another reality show a few years later for washed up celebs... Just doesn’t seem appealing.
Dimitri: Are there any special techniques that you go through before a performance which you would like to share with us, in order for our readers to keep their voice in a good healthy state?
Betsie: I warm up before every show. A voice coach, Mark Baxter, helped me to come up with a good regime. I’m pretty careful on show days – I avoid dairy, spicy foods, and wait to have any alcohol until after I’m finished performing. Everyone’s different, but this works well for me.
Dimitri: There are many new vocalists around that aspire to follow your successful path. It is a classic question for any interview, but I would like to ask you to offer us any kind of advice for them to help achieve their goal, and manage to get the attention of the music industry, and particularly EDM labels like Black Hole.
Betsie: Well, I hate to answer in a cliché way, but I think this one is true. Put the music first. Do everything that you can to create solid music. Be honest lyrically, work on your voice with a teacher if you have weaknesses, and work with the best people that are within your reach. Take it one day at a time and enjoy the process. If you do this, you have a much better chance of attracting solid producers, labels, etc. If any of your readers are in the NY area and would like recommendations for studios, engineers, a voice coach, vocal recording equipment, etc, they are more than welcome to ask me.
Dimitri: Lastly can you choose for our readers the lyrics from a personal track that means something special to you, which you would like to dedicate to them. Something to remember, out of this long, but I hope interesting, interview.
Betsie: In lieu of the questions about my advice to other singers, I think this line is appropriate. It’s from the first verse of my single, “All we have is now,” from the album: “Nothing you could try to be will ever beat the truth… and no one now or ever again will be the same as you.” It’s pretty straightforward, but I’m basically saying relax and be who you are, because there’s importance in that. Half of this stuff I write as a reminder to myself?
Many thanks to Betsie for taking some time to reply in my questions in such a special and interesting way.
Many thanks to Jeroen, for helping so much in organising this interview, and Mark at Black Hole recordings, for supporting my radio shows
01. The Dream (with John O’Callaghan)
02. Stars (with Ferry Corsten)
03. All We Have Is Now (with Super8 & Tab)
04. Obvious (with Lange)
05. Made Of Love (Made With Love Rework) (with Rafael Frost)
06. Breathe You In (with Solarstone)
07. The Flicker Inside
08. Toys (with Giuseppe Ottaviani)
09. The Offering (with Sied van Riel)
10. Let It Shine (with Bjorn Akesson)
11. Belong To Me (with Bobina)(Sunset Version)
12. The Dream (with John O’Callaghan) (Ambient Mix)
“All We Have Is Now” is now available in all good music shops, and on all known portals.
Interview was written and conducted by Dimitri Kechagias, Music journalist/Club/Radio DJ