Bettina Discusses Who 'She Is' In This Exclusive Interview
You began your career at a very early age. How did you become involved with show business?
Yeah, you know what; I was one of those little kids who decided when I was very tiny that my whole goal was to put on a show. [laughs] I was very outgoing and my mom says I could sing before I could speak. I was just always humming a tune and always engaging people. And my sister and I when we were little started modeling, and I ended up going a step further with that and doing commercials and fell into voiceovers just by virtue of the fact that I was a good reader at a really young age.
[laughs] And my career completely snowballed from there.
And how young were you, exactly, when you began modeling?
I was, gosh, I was three when we first modeled and I was four when I first started really acting.
I can't even remember what it was like to be three.
[laughs] I barely can either! If I didn't have pictures I wouldn't, I think. It would be hard to pull up the memories. I enjoyed it so much when I was little that there was nothing that I preferred to be doing. My sister bailed out pretty early on, it wasn't for her, but it was what I loved to do. I would choose to - I remember specifically having to choose whether to go on a trip to Disneyland or to do a voice over job and I picked the voice over job. That was just the kind of kid I was; I always loved it.
But, at the age of three, it was you that made the decision to get into show business?
Yeah! Well - my mom saw that I enjoyed it, and she put me into a little local fashion show at the local Saks Fifth Avenue, and I loved it and she just continued to allow me to do it. I was constantly asking to do it. My family wasn't in the business; my mom wasn't, you know, one of those show biz moms by any stretch. It was just something that evolved on its own.
So, what sort of shows were you putting on at a young age that made you and your family think that this was the career for you?
[laughs] You know, typical precocious little kid stuff. People would come over and I would line up my dolls and pretend that they were the cast of Cinderella and I was the star of the show and I'd bust out the tunes that I had learned from watching my Disney movies. [laughs] That type of thing.
Being a very precocious little girl, did you sometimes ask adults questions that would surprised them about the things you wanted to know about?
You know, yeah. I did. I was very comfortable with adults as a kid. Probably being the youngest in the family, that might have had something to do with it, but I did have a lot of questions. I was always, [laughs] my dad used to call me chatterbox. I was just always asking questions and was always engaging people, and yeah I think I probably did shock some people sometimes with the amount of knowledge that I wanted to pull out of them
at any given time.
Being the chatterbox that you were, did you sometimes divulge secrets that you didn't need to? Like revealing that a certain uncle wore toupé.
[laughs] You know what, I wasn't that kid. I wasn't that kid - I wasn't obnoxious. [laughs] I was simply inquisitive.
So then, what sort of memories do you have of your childhood, since you were in show business at such an early age?
I have some great ones, I used to sit in sound studios and I'd see musicians going in and out, when I would be recording. I would be in the sound studio for a couple weeks doing that and I got to see Chicago go in and out, and David Foster. I got sit and talk to them. Those were some really cool experiences. I didn't understand how much I should be looking up to these people and how much that I was learning, through those experiences. And I look at it now and I realize I learned so much, but at the time you can't put it any perspective because you're just a kid.
So, other than Chicago, who were some artists that you met at a young age that you didn't realize at the time were superstars?
David Foster was probably a huge one for me, thinking now about his body of work. I met Michael Jackson when I was little; I met Quincy Jones on that same day. I'm trying to think who the bigger names would be. There were so many just working actors and working singers that I would come across that I learned so much from, like [laughs] with Don Messick, the voice of Scooby Doo. You know, to me those people are huge. Nobody's really springing to mind, it was kind of just a part of life.
Did you also at the same time go to school?
Yeah, I did. I went to school pretty much back and forth my entire life. Toward the end it was more me and set teachers. But I went to very small schools that were understanding of the fact that I wasn't in class that often, and it worked out really well. I've always been the kind of person who has one or two really close friends rather than going with a pack of friends, so it worked out well for me, it's just the way my personality is. I enjoy being really close to one or two people in my life so I never really felt like I was missing anything not being a part of a big public school with cheerleaders and the football players and all that.
Although it was a small school, did being Rainbow Brite change the dynamics between you and the other children?
[laughs] No, I think it was just a fun novelty kind of thing. I've never been the kind of person who talks a lot about myself. I always am asking things of others and trying to learn about other people. So, there were a lot of kids who didn't even know what I did. I think they must have thought that I traveled a lot or something or they just didn't know, didn't care; kids get caught up in their own little lives. But I never really talked a lot about what I was busy doing when I wasn't there, but those who did know, they got a kick out of it. They just thought it was fun. My face wasn't well known, people weren't coming up to me on the street, it wasn't one of those things where it was an alienating factor, people just got a kick out of it.
Later you started just performing pop songs?
Yeah, I went from doing the Rainbow Brite albums and Minnie and Me for Disney, and all the while I was writing. I grew up playing the piano and I had always written songs from when I was small. I just never saw it as - I just saw it as a hobby, I guess, until I was a teenager when I started to realize that some of these things that were coming out of me were pretty serious. I was actually on a set and there was a producer who was listening to me sing one of the songs that I had written and he encouraged me to make a demo of that song, and I ended up being in a pop group. This was hilarious, looking back on it. It was two girls and a guy and we danced and sang and we sang a couple of my original songs and songs from other writers as well. And we toured. It was a great experience for me. I had a really good time and I got a real good feel for live performance because up until that time, my live performances had been limited to being a part of choirs or musical theater, things like that. Being in a group where you're singing original songs and singing at clubs and county fairs and stuff like that was really cool.
What were the songs about?
[laughs] There was one song called Just Friends, and Just Friends was about when someone likes you and you just don't feel the same way about them, and that was something that had happened to me. I had a boy that I was really good friends with who wanted to be more and I just didn't feel that way about him, and I was so bummed out because he was no longer comfortable being friends with me because he had these other feelings. It was definitely a teenage dilemma, and it was great. It was a very, very sweet innocent song that resonated with a lot of people who heard it.
And what are some other sort of songs that you wrote at the time?
I wrote a song called Get It On, which I think [laughs] I think it's so funny because I had no idea that there was a Marvin Gaye song Let's Get It On. But I wrote it about the fact that when you start dating when you're a teenager, and all these boys, you start to realize what the boys really want. [laughs] And it was about that.
It was funny watching my musical expression mature in subject matters, pretty funny. Because, back then, I only had so much to draw from. Then you turn 20 or 21 and you start to really experience more things and your subject matter starts to get a little deeper and I've definitely seen that evolution in myself.
And how old were you at the time, when you were performing these particular songs, like Get It On?
15, 16, 17.
And prior to then had you been writing songs as well?
Oh sure, oh yeah. The first song I wrote was about my stuffed bear. [laughs] I had a stuffed cat named Smokey and a stuffed bear named Paddington, and it was about Smokey and Paddington.
How many songs have you written in your lifetime?
Hundreds. I'm quite sure it's countless; it's absolutely in the hundreds, for sure.
What style of music were the songs that you were performing at 15, 16 and 17?
They were pop; you know, your basic pop teen type of stuff. You know, I was part of a group and so I needed to do things that fit the image and all of that, and I was still writing my own stuff by myself and I was not really conscious of music genres or labels or anything like that, I was more just writing and whatever was coming out was coming out which is just how I function, is how I’ve always functioned.
And when you say pop, do you mean kind of like Britney Spears sort of pop?
Not quite that dance oriented. I guess the comparisons at the time would be like the boy bands like N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys, not quite so club oriented as more bubble gummy.
But since it was part of a group was there also that sort of choreographed dance as well?
Oh yeah, [laughs] we did our choreographed dance; that was great. I had my moves.
You briefly mentioned that you were on Minnie and Me. Would you also dance with the giant Minnie Mouse?
No, I didn't do that. [laughs] I did the CDs but I didn't go out and do any live performances with Minnie Mouse, although that would have been fun. [laughs]
So, after the group disbanded, I guess you were 18, 17?
And what did you do then?
I was in college and I was really focused on getting my degree, which I got in theater arts, so I was acting quite a bit, and in the meantime I was continuing to write. I think I was kind of burnt out on the whole bubblegum pop thing - I know I was, because that genre of music was never really me, although I really enjoyed the opportunity to be out in clubs and performing and all of that. So, I started focusing on acting and I was just using my songwriting as a creative outlet again and then after a little while I decided that I was just going to start to play these songs and see what happened and see how it worked out, and then I started to do that. I'll never forget it, I was playing in a coffee house, it was just me, and I think one other musician, and someone came up to me and said, "Wow, I didn't realize that you sang country." And I said, "That's interesting." because I hadn't written it specifically as a country song but I guess in my life I have definitely grown up with a ton of country influence, so that makes sense but it wasn't something that I was consciously going for. It was just something that was coming out and I found that fascinating. I ended up being approached by someone in the industry, who said,"We should take you to Nashville and go about introducing you to some people out."
I saw that you had also put out an album in 2003 called Lucky Girl?
Yeah, that was actually the spawn of that Nashville experience. In that whole experience of going to Nashville and learning the songwriting process and writing with just a ton of different people and performing at the bluebird and doing the writers in the round stuff. It was so - it was great, I ended up meeting a lot of different people and one of the people I had met with had been on Curb Records in a country band and he lived in LA and we wrote together and we wrote, we probably wrote 15 or 16 songs together but we ended up recording about ten of them and saying gosh you know what? Let’s put this out and so we did and that was 2003's Lucky Girl.
And did you finish college before heading off to Nashville?
I did, I did. Definitely. I graduated really young, so I finished up really quick [laughs] and I was out the door. I wanted to get my degree, that was very important to me, it was something that I wanted to achieve, but I didn't want it to hinder my forward progress as a musician, so I got it all done in kind of lightning speed.
How quickly did you get through college?
I got through college in three years and loved every second of it. I don't think I missed a beat while I was there, I learned so much, I really enjoyed studying and I really enjoyed my classes and I got a lot out of it.
And were you performing during college, as well?
Yeah, definitely, absolutely.
Was that more theater oriented?
Theater oriented and then, you know, some of the coffee house stuff.
And now do you find yourself in addition to the music career, are you pursuing a career in acting?
You know what, it's funny because you can't - there are only so many hours in the day and [laughs] there's only so much you can do with yourself at one time, so right now it's kind of been whatever's been pulling at me hardest and when. I've always done voice over stuff, that's what I do, that's who I am and it's a great way to keep the income going and in the meantime while I'm working on my music it's something that's easy to fit into my life. So I continue to do the voiceovers while I write and get my music career propelling forward.
With all the experiences you have had doing voiceovers and performing in the pop group, do you find that these influences creep up in your songwriting today?
I think as a songwriter, everything that makes up who you are comes out in some way or another. Some of this may come up in one song and some of that may come up in another song. I think if your songwriting is truly authentic then it's somehow reflecting who you really are.
What is next for you with the latest album having come out?
[laughs] I'm really excited about the single, Cradle to the Grave. That song means a lot to me, for a lot of very special reasons. But I am embarking on a tour it's the One Dime At A Time Tour and I’m partnering with the March of Dimes and I’m donating one dime of every sale of Cradle to the Grave to the March of Dimes. My goal is to achieve one million downloads and make Cradle to the Grave a platinum single, and with doing that, I'm taking my touring family on the road. My touring family consists of my best friend, who is my business partner and manager and her brother, who is my guitar player, and her triplets, who come along with us everywhere, so it should be a blast. I'm really looking forward to it.
What's it like to take triplets out on the road?
[laughs] Hilarious. They're three three-year-olds and they're hysterically funny and they wouldn't be here with us if it weren't for the research that the March of Dimes does, and that's why I’m doing this and donating the proceeds. But they're the biggest supporters you can possible have. They know all my songs, but at times the meltdowns are a little more than you can take. [laughs] So it's pretty funny.
Have you ever had some sort of incident where they throw up or they have to be changed immediately but you're driving?
[laughs] All of the above. You know what, it all happens and it's all so unpredictable, it's great, and we actually have cameras there following us on this tour filming a show called Play My Song, about this experience of touring with my touring family and the messes and triumphs we get into.
Has it all come full circle for you in that the triplets are watching shows for which you've provided the voiceovers?
Yeah, isn't that crazy? Oh my god, it's the greatest. Watching them sit down and watch Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer, and in the same breath that evening I go to do a show and they're sitting right there listening to Cradle to the Grave and singing along to the song. It's pretty amazing and I love it. It means a lot to me that I make music that they enjoy. At the end of the day, you look at the span of your career and you hope that things last, and I feel like I'm making music that will last.
Interview by Ben Kharakh
Starpulse.com contributing writer
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