Last week, Betty Who returned from a weeklong getaway to Honolulu, Hawaii, where her singular goal was to “dive off the face of the planet.” She succeeded — she has the beach, bikini, and pineapple pics to prove it — but instead of spiraling into post-vacation blues upon her return home, she’s feeling absolutely energized. The electro-pop singer’s third headlining trek, BETTY: The Tour, kicks off its 26-date run on Tuesday night (March 7) in Santa Cruz, California, and along the way, she’ll check off milestones she’s long had her eye on.
“I feel like I’ve played every club in every city,” Who told MTV News over the phone. “I’ve worked my ass off to get into these rooms that we’re playing now. I lived in New York for three years and I saw some of my favorite acts play Terminal 5, and every time I went to Terminal 5, I was like, ‘I can’t fucking wait to play here.’ And now I’m doing it.”
It’s all the more meaningful that Who’s biggest tour to date is supporting an album rooted in a newfound sense of liberation. Betty — her third album, released in February — is the Australian-born singer’s first project as an independent artist after she split with RCA Records, under which she released 2014’s Take Me When You Go and 2017’s The Valley. The eponymous album is her most fully realized work to date, and one in which she found her own voice.
“A huge part of what makes me so excited about this tour is I feel like these songs were created in such an inspired way,” she explained. “I really believed in it the whole time. I didn’t want anybody to stand in my way or tell me that I didn’t know what I wanted, because I did. … There are songs on it that I’ve been dying to write for forever, and I felt I really had the space to talk about what I wanted to talk about.”
Not only that, but she’s itching to play fresh material — “we’ve been playing the same songs for almost three years now,” she said — even if that means making tough calls when it comes to the setlist. She plans to play almost all of Betty, but also wants to revisit her first two albums and pick some throwback favorites that she’s missed performing. “There’s a lot of songs that we’re cramming into an hour-and-a-half show,” she conceded.
But as grueling as finalizing that setlist is, it’s also made Who besotted with Betty all over again.
“There are songs that you start performing and you’re like, ‘I’m obsessed with this song. Wow. Am I the best?!'” she laughed. “You fall in love with the music that you wrote six, eight, 12 months ago. So for me to be performing ‘The One,’ which I wrote in a Whataburger in the Valley just after I had gotten out of my deal… it’s so random and it comes to life in a way that I never expected it to.”
Of that particular mid-aughts-indebted pop jam, she added, “It is definitely one of the hardest songs to perform. It’s very high-energy the whole time, but I’m living my Justin Timberlake fantasy. Every night, I imagine myself being a member of NSYNC while I am performing, and that kind of gives me my second wind.” The whole tour, in fact, is “very much geared and inspired by the music that inspired me when I was a kid,” Who continued. “I’m excited to share that and live out my Britney Spears, NSYNC, TRL fantasy along the way.”
It’s a fantasy fueled by Who’s comfort and confidence onstage, which she’s honed for years on both her own headlining treks and as a killer opening act. She’s toured with Katy Perry, Kylie Minogue, and most recently, Panic! At The Disco — all experiences that made her a stronger and more thick-skinned performer. “I think it’s really important to get humbled every now and again and remember what it’s like to perform in front of a crowd of people who don’t care about you at all,” she said.
That won’t be an issue starting tonight, when BETTY: The Tour officially launches and Who’s fans revel in the energy and zeal she brings to the stage. It’s a hard-earned celebration, after all.
“You have to work your ass off and then you’re like, ‘Oh, I feel like I haven’t done anything.’ But then, all of a sudden, you wake up one day and you’re like, ‘No no, I’m playing Terminal 5. I said I always would, and it took longer than I thought it would take to get here, but I’m doing it.’ That’s really empowering for me and really satisfying,” Who said.
“I always feel like I can’t wait to show people what I can do,” she continued. “I feel like I have so much to give, especially on stage, and I’m just so excited to share that.”