Aperture Needle exposes what lies beneath artists’ skin. This week’s subject is musician Heather Berney, guitarist/vocalist for Lincoln country band The Betties.
EG: Sometimes, we purposely get things we eventually come to regret. In most cases, we can return them, exchange them, or give them away, but that’s not always the case. When I approached you with the intention of having you be the next artist to feature on Aperture Needle, you were a bit hesitant to do so because you felt that your one tattoo wasn’t interesting enough. Why is that?
HB: I do not regret getting a tattoo eight years ago. I kind of forget that it’s there. I was 19. I wanted a tattoo (or maybe I wanted to be the kind of person that would have a tattoo). I drew it myself. I liked the idea that no one in the world would have one like it. I’m a girl, and the tattoo is of a flower. I guess it was important that it be feminine. I’m honestly glad I didn’t get anything deeply political. Ideas change.
EG: I guess I kind of thought you didn’t like the tattoo.
HB: I can see how you got that impression — it was warranted. I just don’t really shout it from the rooftops.
EG: Ideas for your next tattoo?
HB: I think I have some ridiculous ideas, and I suppose that’s why I’ve never followed through with one of them. Any idea I’ve come up with in the last few years that I got kind of excited about was a textual tattoo. I wanted the words “Peace is the way” tattooed on my foot. The way? On my foot? Get it? I remember asking Zainab, a woman that I worked with, to write it in Arabic. I carried that around for a few months. Couldn’t commit. The other idea was to get this loooonnng Tolstoy quote on my back. Go big or go home.
EG: Do you have a certain style you’re going for and have you identified a certain tattoo artist for the job?
HB: If I ever get another tattoo, my buddy Zac Rice will do it. That kid’s a stud. Also, I trust him with my life. As far as a style is concerned, I have no idea. I play around with my look. It’s hard to imagine a tattoo that would fit with all my style dabblings throughout the years.
EG: Describe The Betties’ sound.
HB: I love this question. We play old-timey country music. I write songs that fit right in with a thousand other songs, and I’m proud of that. People try to call it alternative country or folk rock or some nonsense, but we play country music. Unabashedly.
EG: Define what influenced you and your approach to songwriting.
HB: I have been writing music for years. Probably 12 years. The 12 or so originals that I’ve written in the last few months are the first ones I have ever liked. I always knew there was a songwriter in me somewhere. I think I was always caught up with the idea of coming up with a new sound. I grew up listening to country music, and eventually decided to embrace what I know. It sounds cheesy, but I think about my grandpa. I try to write stuff that he would’ve liked. Grandma, too. The last time I talked to her, she asked if her album was ready. That makes me happy. I try not to write anything too racy or profane. It’s not about that.
I think I have somewhat of a light-hearted attitude about my songwriting. Sometimes the songs are about deep emotions, but some of them are just for fun. In a lot of cases, I don’t take death and heartache very seriously. In others, I’ve heard I bring people to tears.
I know that when I play a show and look into the crowd, I’ll see a pretty girl with her head on her boyfriend’s shoulder. She looks at peace. I guess that’s kind of what I’m going for.
EG: In an earlier conversation, you mentioned going home as being a “refreshing experience.” How often do you go back home and is this thought of you hitting a “reset button” have any influence on what you write about in your lyrics?
HB: I would absolutely in no way be able to write how I do without home. My hometown is called Wolbach, and it’s about two-and-a-half hours west. Nature has something to do with it, I suppose. I can picture the cornfields and rolling hills perfectly. Also, how dark it gets at night inspires me. It’s never dark in the city.
Another influence is my family. Sometimes I go home, and we move the coffee table out of the way, and my little sister and I country swing on the living room floor. Then Mom and Kenna (little sister) and I grab our guitars and jam for a while. It’s kind of a party. I write songs that people in Wolbach will like.
EG: Will we be able to stream The Betties anytime soon?
HB: Yes! Kind of. We finally have a group of people together that I feel great about. After a couple more rehearsals and a couple more shows, we’ll be back in the studio. I’d wager we’ll get an album out come summertime. I will keep you posted.