Buck Betty is making music for herself

Buck Betty is making music for herself

by Ollie Cox
8 min

Betty, who you might know by her Instagram handle, @BuckBetty, has been in the studio religiously in the run-up to the release of her latest single. Titled “Take Me Under,” it invites the listener on an emotive, spaced-out journey, addressing vulnerability and navigating life after broken-down relationships. In the days leading up to the interview, there was some back and forth surrounding where to meet up. We finally agreed on a location: Pellicci’s in Bethnal Green, one of those wonderful London establishments serving the finest fry-ups and perfectly executed pasta dishes under one roof. 

The East London café has been keeping locals, including Ronald and Reggie Kray, fed for over a century. For Betty, this cosy caf is more than just big plates and a full belly. Belonging to her godparents, it is a home away from home and a place she would go to before and after school to share some scran with her dad. Now living in West London, following a childhood spent in Bethnal Green, she still makes regular trips to the wholesome food spot. We meet outside, with the temperature close to freezing. Betty is geared up for the occasion, wearing a white puffer jacket with a fur-lined hood, paired with a diamante-embellished denim “London” cap, flying the flag for her hometown. On her left hand, she wears two gold rings stacked to read “Betty Belle,” which occasionally catch the winter sunshine, refracting onto the pavement in front of her. 

She holds a small Miu Miu clutch bag by her side – a gift from the brand following a DJ gig – pointing out make-up stains before half-laughing and heading inside the café, breaking any awkwardness with anecdotes of yesterday’s pilates session, recounting the pain she is in at the table. Once inside, she reflects on time spent behind the decks. “I got into DJing because my friends started throwing a club night. I just really wanted to DJ. I’d been practising loads,” she explains. “I used to jump on the decks, but they wouldn’t book me. I used to be like, “Can you book me? Can you book me?”

While this time helped her make inroads into the music industry, playing songs to fashion and music insiders, it also allowed her to reflect on herself. “I guess when you’re DJing, you’re working with everybody else. When I’m making my own thing, it’s like really for me in that moment, which is quite a selfish way to make music,” she explains. “When I’m making my own music I’m thinking, “how do I want to express myself? What do I want to hear? What do I want to make.” 

“I love to just exist, but I have to do something while I’m existing, or I’d be bat shit crazy.”

Growing up in London has informed her creative process and is something she feels makes her “a certain kind of person.” As an artist, Betty acknowledges the challenges of the “cold” and “dirty” capital. “It’s tough growing up in London, no matter what background you [come] from.”

Despite the dodgy weather, Betty is a Londoner through and through. “When the weather’s shit, and I feel like shit, and I’ve got off the tube, and it’s pissing rain, I go home and I want to write.” Betty momentarily pauses her answers when her food arrives, a generous portion of spaghetti pesto with chicken Milanese. A side of steamed vegetables follows shortly after, which she offers to the table. 

Long before she was playing packed-out clubs, Betty was listening to music with her mum. “I remember that Alicia Keys album. My mum would blast it in the car and sing at the top of her lungs. My mum, being a single woman on her own, watching her listen to music and it get her through things, was really inspiring to me. Shout out mums!”

Aura Arif for Culted ©

Betty speaks candidly and passionately about the impact of her mum on her life, as the only person whose opinion she really cares about. Earlier this year, hot-pink “Mum Says I’m God’s Gift,” fly posters popped up around London in what turned out to be part of a promo campaign for her new song, “Mum Says.” In the track, we hear a tale of broken trust and surviving the trials and tribulations of life, with the kind words of your mum providing solace. Music helps the Londoner navigate her twenties. “I think that writing music is therapy. I’m somebody who will say I’m fine. I’m always like, ‘I’m fine. I’m good.’ My friends will never know I’m not, I just brush it off.” 

For the singer-songwriter, music is a way to truly express how she feels. She explains the impact of the medium on her experience of young adulthood: “Yeah, I would say music has made a massive difference to being in my 20s and to my mental health. It’s an outlet, and I think every human needs that outlet whether that’s sport or drawing or making amazing coffee. Music, for me, is my outlet and the space [in which] I can be truly myself and be honest and express the deepest parts of what makes me. Without music, I’d be somewhere really bad,” she tells us before admitting defeat to her generous portion of pasta. 

Aura Arif for Culted ©

Despite Betty being a relatively new name, first putting her music out into the world last year with the release of “A Boy,” she carries herself with an awareness of the industry and a clear sense of self-worth. When asked the inevitable questions about who inspires her, she is quick to point out that Doja Cat’s “Agora Hills” is a guilty pleasure. She admires the work produced by Billie Eilish and The Cure, but wishes to avoid being put into any kind of box when it comes to influences or genre. 

“I find saying my biggest inspiration really hard because I can’t pinpoint three people. I also feel like when you say your influences, you get so pinpointed into what kind of music you make or what kind of artist you are. I want people to listen to my music with a clean perspective,” she responds before asking: “Do we have the six-hour conversation? It’s not music that influences me, where I am in London, what clothes I’m wearing at the time. It’s difficult since I’ve put music out recently. Everyone’s like, ‘What’s your influence?’” 

“I’m a huge believer in mistakes.”

After paying the bill, Betty slowly leads us to Weavers Fields, just off Bethnal Green Road, a park she knows well from her time living in the area. She talks us through her daily routine. “I wake up, and then I have to go somewhere, whether that is the gym or going on a run or taking my dog out to go and get a coffee. I’m really good at filling my time, I’m just pottering about doing something.” Despite her productivity in the studio, she recognises the importance of downtime. “I spend a lot of my time doing nothing, but it feels like I’m doing stuff, I guess. I’m really not in society, I’m in my own weird bubble. I love to just exist, but I have to do something while I’m existing, or I’d be bat shit crazy.” 

With the momentum of her musical output increasing, Betty reflects on the work she has produced. When asked what advice she would give to somebody trying to get into the industry, she draws on her own independence and understanding of the music game. “Learn how to produce, and do as much research as you can. If you can do every single aspect of that on your own, then you can really create your own artistry.” This attitude is not the product of luck but an acceptance of past mistakes and a self-assured approach to making music. “I wouldn’t do anything differently. I’m a huge believer in mistakes.”

As our sunny East London stroll comes to a close, Betty thanks us, signalling the end of the interview process, before heading in a different direction. She remains optimistic about the future and is looking forward to sharing her music with new people through the release of her EP and upcoming live shows. What’s next for Betty? 

“Next is everything.” 

More on Culted

See: PUMA RE:FIBRE and Vivid Visions have teamed up for some upcycled goodness 

See: A girl-coded Holiday shopping guide

in other news

Comment

JOIN THE CULTED COMMUNITY TO GET THE LATEST ON FASHION, ART AND CULTURE