It’s the voice that gets you first.
“BettySoo may well have the most gorgeous voice in Texas …if not in all contemporary folk – its purity and strength can be downright devastating.” – ACOUSTIC GUITAR
BettySoo’s vocal prowess is a thing of wonder. A world-class instrument of deft phrasing and purity, a voice that knows when to hold back and when to dive in. At her own live shows, taking a verse onstage with friends or singing harmonies in sessions with Austin’s finest, BettySoo sings with consummate loveliness and self-assurance. A voice that knows the roots of American music inside and out; coming from a most unexpected place – a diminutive Korean-American with a deceptively girl-next-door demeanor.
Then the performance reels you in.
“Truly remarkable. BettySoo’s sharp, often self-deprecating humor skillfully wove the songs together. Her clear, evocative voice and poignant lyrics recall Patty Griffin and Joni Mitchell, and did I mention she’s a hell of a guitar player?”
– NO DEPRESSION, live concert review
Touring the unforgiving circuit of listening rooms, clubs and festivals, BettySoo has mastered the art of performance. A funny anecdote sets up a song of heartbreak and need; a witty rejoinder belies the dark truths that underpin much of her work.
And that's when you notice the songs.
“Beautiful, heart-wrenching songwriting that is also edgy and unwavering.”
– KUT, Austin
“Exceptionally well written and arranged songs with a confidence that speaks volumes.”
– AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN
They call it the live music capital of the world. Austin, Texas, is a city where the musical bar is set high. Since exploding on the Austin scene a decade ago, BettySoo has carved out an enviable niche among the very best the city has to offer.
Here’s what BettySoo has been up to:
- Debuted two full-band, full-throated songs from her hotly-anticipated China Girl: The Songs of David Bowie and David Byrne at a packed-to-the-rafters benefit for beloved Austin bassist George Reiff with artists like Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes and Patty Griffin.
- Wrote, recorded, and toured in Europe and the U.S. with Rebecca Loebe and Grace Pettis for the new buzz-heavy trio Nobody’s Girl, celebrating the release of their debut EP Waterline with Lucky Hound Records in Fall 2018 and anticipating the release of their self-titled album in 2021.
- Laid down vocals for the second Charlie Faye & The Fayettes record, a side project harkening back to the days of Motown.
- Sang vocal harmonies for the last two Eliza Gilkyson records and the upcoming James McMurtry release.
- Appeared at a star-studded tribute for mentor Jimmy LaFave, bringing tears to every eye with a devastating, stripped-down version of LaFave’s “Worn Out American Dream.”
- Approved mixes for a sparkling country-rock collaboration with song-writer and filmmaker Gandulf Hennig (documentaries on Gram Parsons, Merle Haggard) produced by Grammy-winner Sheldon Gomberg (Ben Harper, Rickie Lee Jones), with guest appearances by Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), David Steele (Dwight Yoakam, John Prine), Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello), Taras Prodaniuk (Merle Haggard, Richard Thompson), and others.
- …and she still managed to find the time to sit in at gigs with friends such as Butch Hancock (the Flatlanders), Michael Fracasso, Jaimee Harris, and Jon Dee Graham.
BettySoo is as Texan as they come.
Raised outside Houston by first-generation Korean immigrant parents, educated at UT, she grew up listening to the Great American songbook and country radio. Older sisters led her to the world of singer/songwriters, and nights spent at The Cactus Café and Hole In The Wall turned her on to the legacy of Texas song.
Her 2007 solo disc, Little Tiny Secrets, garnered heavy regional airplay; 2009’s Heat Sin Water Sin produced by Gurf Morlix (Lucinda Williams, Ray Wylie Hubbard), provided building blocks to a national (and international) audience. In 2014, When We’re Gone, co-produced with cellist Brian Standefer (Alejandro Escovedo, Terry Allen) placed her firmly in the first rank of songwriters working today.
She’s won the requisite awards: New Folk at Kerrville, Songwriter of the Year at Big Top Chautauqua, The Dave Carter Songwriting Award at Sisters Folk Festival, Mountain Stage's New Song.
She’s played the festivals – multiple South by Southwests, Kerrville, Calgary and more. And the radio shows – E-Town, Mountain Stage, WoodSongs, BBC 2 with Bob Harris.
Her singing has been heard on Riverdale and Girl Boss, and her songs formed the musical backbone to Christine Hoang’s 2017 play A Girl Named Sue, singled out by Austin360.com in their review as “gorgeous, moving ballads comment(ing) on the themes of the scenes they punctuate.”
The future looks auspicious for BettySoo.
Until the novel corona-virus shutdown, the Nobody’s Girl project was touring nonstop, and their intelligent lyrics and tightly-woven harmonies keep their audiences entranced. The trio has recorded a full-length album featuring players such as Charlie Sexton (Bob Dylan), J.J. Johnson (Tedeschi Trucks), Glenn Fukunaga (Dixie Chicks), David Grissom (Buddy Guy, Allman Brothers, Ringo Starr), and Michael Ramos (John Mellencamp, BoDeans), who reprised his role as producer. She joined Bonnie Whitmore (“F@#k With Sad Girls”) in support of James McMurtry’s national tours. You’d likely see her onstage singing harmonies at CD release shows for artists such as Eliza Gilkyson, James Hyland, and Kim Richey. Music programmers have an embarrassment of riches to choose from, and listeners still have the opportunity to re-familiarize – or hear for the first time – the extraordinary talent that is BettySoo.
In the Time of COVID-19, BettySoo can be found cutting a unique path through the broad streaming landscape -- and as with everything she does, she has approached it in a way that invites authentic connection, encourages compassion, and merits listening.
“In her own words, ‘I guess Asian-American songwriters aren’t that common. At least, not in Texas.’ Well, songwriting and singing of this caliber aren’t that common anywhere.”
– NO DEPRESSION