Image by David Martin
A new release for any artist is a chance for them to show a little bit of what they’re all about, but sometimes, it’s wonderful to see a lot of the influences that got them there. Quirky songstress Savannah Betts was kind enough to talk us through a handful of her favourites and just what they mean to her ahead of the release of her new EP Warning on Saturday 1st October. Over to you Savannah…
The question of influences has always been a really difficult one for me. My parents exposed to me a vast variety of different styles of music ever since I was young, which went hand in hand with all our travels. I grew up listening to anything from everyone’s favourite Michael Jackson or The Bee Gee’s pop tracks to Soweto Gospel Choir and Buena Vista Social Club. My different experiences of music around the world has somehow lent itself to how I write my music now, and things I am working on trying to include in my new tracks and work to come. Each artist or bit of music I find influence in seems to always have certain things to them that I seem to crave from not only music in general but my own songwriting; fragility, connection, storytelling, and honesty.
Each of the following artists is only a select few that have influenced both my former work, as well as my upcoming EP, Warning.
Someone who was a very prominent musical figure for me growing up. Even his work with Garfunkel dominated my house for years, but it was his album Graceland that was always highly praised by my parents. As my father was born and raised in South Africa I think I always felt a desperate need to connect to that part of my heritage. Living in Hong Kong and Germany growing up, I think I never really felt like I had the chance, as we wouldn’t visit often. Paul Simon felt like the right bridge between my desire to connect to my heritage but also full awareness of how disconnected I was. His use of traditional African instruments, chanting, and even modern style South African music was really welcoming to me. That mixed with his incredibly simple yet powerful storytelling always had me hooked. Personal favourites are Diamonds on the Soles Of Her Shoes, Homeless, and I Know What I Know. While there are plenty of other artists, such as Juluka, who also helped me bridge that link, Paul Simon was by far the most prominent one I can recall, and still to this day mesmerizes me. I find something new in his songs every time I listen to them, and I think that’s what makes his songwriting so influential and aspirational to me.
Another one of my personal favourites and major influences. Introduced to me by my best friend when she returned to Hong Kong for a visit after having moved back to England, I was immediately hooked. My Manic And I was the first track I ever heard. I loved the way in which she told a story that was both beautifully descriptive and yet almost nonsensical. Her whole darker atmosphere to the song was also something that really attracted me, as I find moodier, slower music appeals to my own darker nature. Every further discovery of any of Laura’s music from then on just won me over. She help guide and mould my own songwriting without ever knowing it. It was from her that I learned the darker pleasures of folk, and the passionate metaphoric storytelling.
There is something intrinsically sad about Bear’s Den’s music that has called to me from the very first time I heard them. Their songs scream pure honesty and fragility with the use of their beautiful guitar patterns and spellbinding harmonies. Their very straightforward yet tender purity in songwriting is really captivating to me, and something I tried to recreate on my own EP. Their songs have such a wonderful way of growing that every one of them feels like a journey, which to me is what music and songwriting is all about. The way their music makes me feel all giddy and emotional inside is something very rare and powerful. They are definitely a major influence to my views of music and songwriting.
Kate McGill/ Meadowlark
Growing up in Hong Kong, when the sensation of YouTube artists unfolded, Kate McGill was one person I followed very closely. Watching her initially record videos of herself singing covers in a bathroom and putting them online was inspiring to me, and in turn lead me to upload my own YouTube covers. While I never reached a following anywhere near what Kate had, it was watching her development that kept my motivation as a singer-songwriter strong. Her music was very true to herself and simplistically accompanied by a guitar. I felt this mirrored my own attempts at being a singer-songwriter on a totally different continent. It was her harmonies and melodies that really captivated me, and her song Replaced was on a whole other playing field to me when I first discovered it. Her singer-songwriter style is what spoke to me and influenced me most. Yet even when she moved on to become Meadowlark, I still found myself captivated by her familiar melodies and purity. Kate’s song You and Meadowlark’s track Fly were definitely influences in pushing me to finally create a more fragile and moodier sounding EP.
Most people moan when I tell them I like Kate Nash, which I think is a shame. While Kate Nash’s sound may not be prevalent at all in any of the work I do now, when I first started recording YouTube covers and writing music she was a very strong influence both musically and personally. Her super quirky and I-don’t-care-what-you-think attitude very quickly lent me the confidence to simply go out into the world, play music and be myself. She taught me to embrace my weirder side and enjoy experimenting with songwriting. My first song, way before I ever released anything, were full of hints of cheek and silliness. Although those songs would make me bury my head in the sand out of shame, they were still a really important part of my development and songwriting. She showed me how to be unapologetic, and if it hadn’t been for my comfort in the weirder things. She also inspired me to make my first home recordings. Her whole solo, singer-songwriter approach to recording her own songs in her bedroom really spoke to me, and is a major reason I recorded my first ever EP Lost At Sea by myself in my bedroom.
I am a total sucker for exceptionally moody, atmospheric and dark music, and Daughter is exactly that. Their music always overwhelms with a great sense of sadness, loneliness and heartbreak that I just can’t get enough of. The themes, as well as the melodies, storytelling and brooding drum beats mirror something darker within me that always seems to want out. Daughter has been a major love of mine musically for years now, and has most definitely played a massive influence in the new release for me. The more sinister nature to their music is something I found to always have incorporated in my work, if only lyrically, until now. I think I’ve wanted to write more brooding music for a while now, but have always been a bit held back by fear a bit. Everyone can definitely expect more moody and atmospheric tunes from me in the future.