Sarah Bettens already has a couple gold and platinum records under her belt. She’s already written international radio hits, including “Not an Addict,” “Believe” and “Almost Happy”. She’s already headlined concerts and festivals packed with more than 60,000 fiercely loyal fans. And she’s been featured in Rolling Stone, Billboard and Hits, which described her unforgettably haunting vocals by saying, “Sarah Bettens’ voice rings like an old silver chime. A smoky veil throws a burnish over the blinding clarity of her tone.” But the renowned singer-songwriter is feeling like a first-timer on her latest project.
That’s because the former lead singer for international rockers K's Choice has gone solo with a new album called Scream that sways from hard-charging rock numbers to tunes that smack of pure pop bliss. “I had been wanting to do this for a long time,” says Bettens. “It’s a whole new challenge, and it kind of makes me feel like it’s my first record. Everything has a new level of excitement to it, especially touring.”
This summer, Bettens took some of the new material from her mini-album Go for a test-drive at several of the summer’s biggest European festivals, playing in front of crowds of more than 20,000 people. She also debuted two of the songs from Scream — the in-your-face rocker “Not Insane” and the bass-driven groove “Come Over Here” — on the recently completed K's Choice month-long Yellow Umbrella Tour all across America in the fall. Gigging with new musicians, Bettens was thrilled with the reaction from fans. “The shows were amazing,” says the artist who’s known for her high-energy stage presence. “The K's Choice fans were really excited that I’m doing something different, and people who didn’t know me from K's Choice really responded to the new songs. It was way beyond my expectations.”
The new songs she’s written as a solo artist have also surpassed her expectations. As part of K's Choice, Bettens wrote songs with a certain sound in mind. Now, on her own, she’s able to explore herself as an artist, taking risks and blending pop, rock and folk to create a new radio-ready sound that goes beyond anything she’s ever done before. With less than a month in the studio to lay down most of the tracks, her overworked voice took on a roughness that gives the songs more of an edge. “It makes the whole record sound more raw,” says the artist.
Bettens is taking a chance with her lyrics as well — taking a political stance and tackling issues that are important to young people everywhere. Bettens calls the album’s first single ”Not Insane” a “mini-protest” song. Awash in a symphony of swirling guitars, “Not Insane” is an impassioned rocker that attacks small-minded people who can’t accept others who are different or who live alternative lifestyles. “I feel like this society is so fear-driven and people are so afraid of change that they can’t accept anyone or anything that’s different. Basically, this song is saying, ‘Hey, you think I’m crazy, but you’re the one who’s messed up.’”
On the other side of the album’s musical spectrum is the pop-driven “Stay,” a lilting love song that’s guaranteed to put listeners in a sentimental mood. Amid a unique combination of acoustic and electric arrangements, the singer’s throaty vocals take center stage on the catchy chorus: “Things can’t get much better / You might have to stay.”
The spirited songwriter’s desire to take risks on Scream is also evident in the album’s title song, which she refers to as “The Frankenstein Song.” “I’d been working on these two songs, and I was really happy with the verses on one but the chorus wasn’t happening. And it was just the opposite with the other — the chorus rocked, but I didn’t like the verses.” Like a mad scientist working in a laboratory, Bettens took the verses from the first song and combined them with the chorus from the second to create a quirky song that boasts a sense of urgency. The experiment worked — just like her solo career.