While “Between You & Me” sonically takes Who in a new direction, it is also one of her first releases as a newly independent artist. The 27-year-old parted ways with RCA last year after the release of her 2017 sophomore album The Valley. Who’s upcoming album Betty, set for release in February, will be her first full-length release as an independent artist. “Between You & Me” will be on the new album, as well three already released tracks from her EP Betty, Pt.1.
Billboard caught up with Who just after the release of “Between You & Me” to discuss the inspiration behind the song and putting out her new music independently for the first time. Listen to “Between You & Me” below, and check out our Q&A after the jump.
What was the inspiration behind "Between You & Me"?
I think the general inspiration is something that I have had such extensive experience with. It's about having feelings for somebody, but also not really knowing if they're actually feelings. Especially now with the way we talk to each other online, I think human interaction and confrontation has gotten a lot harder. It's like an inner monologue of if I could say everything that I wanted to say, this is would be it.
How does the more stripped-back, acoustic sound of "Between You & Me" indicate where you're heading as an artist?
On my new album that we're finishing up right now, there aren't really two songs that sound the same. I think emotionally it fits really well on the record. It's also kind of an ode to me and how I got into songwriting. I was 14 with a guitar or a piano writing songs about my feelings. We had a whole electronically produced version of it before the version came to be in the way that it is now. I prefer this version so much more.
What can fans expect from your new album?
The number one rule that I made myself abide by was: all that I want to do is make stuff that I think is really great. If I think it's a story that I want to tell, and I think it's really fun to listen to, I want to put it out. Before, I spent a lot of time asking, "But how does this fit on the record? I love this song, but can I pull it off?" I kind of don't think about that stuff anymore. I think that because each song on the record is quite different from the last, that in itself is what ties the record together.
Has releasing this album in singles, rather than the completed project all at once, had any influence on the shaping of the album?
It feels like a body of work to me, even though there are songs that came out before the album. I love turning on an album and listening to it start to finish, and knowing that somebody made a conscious decision to put the songs in there in that way. I feel like we live in a singles world now, so the art of the album feels a little bit like it's dying and it fills me with so much joy to keep doing it.
What has the experience been like releasing your new music independently, compared to when you were on a label?
Honestly, it is literally night and day. When you're signed to a label, there's all of these expectations. Most of the time, I wasn't the one necessarily putting that expectation on the music. That constant pressure and stress of knowing that no matter how successful I became, I was never going to be good enough...it clouded everything I did and made me feel like I wasn't worth anything. I'm in a position now where I'm lucky enough to have a very small team of people who are here because they want to be. Wins and those victories feel so much more validating even if they're 15 times smaller than they were when I was on a label.
Did you ever have any second thoughts about making the decision to go independent?
I feel like the universe is pretty much showing me over and over again that I'm making the right decision. Some of the coolest stuff that I've been able to do in my career has happened, like the Queer Eye thing, that came a month after I became independent. To me, this feels like the universe going, "Hey, you did the right thing. Here is your reward."
Do you look at those other albums you made while you were on a label any differently now?
When I listen to The Valley, I have a lot of respect for myself for being able to come out and still make this record that I'm really proud of to this day. I still love the album, but I can't not listen to it and hear the sadness and the fear, and the tragedy of it all. But the songs on The Valley are some of my favorite to perform live. Especially in my shows, I'm never ever thinking about that.
After your career really took off in the past six years, what are some things you learned that you think impact the music you're creating now?
For The Valley, I wrote with what feels like every single writer and producer in L.A. I spent almost two years just writing. If there were 100 songs and they put 12 out, that's a lot of songs that never did anything. That was one of the things that made me crazy. I learned that I just wanted to work with a small group and make the album, and make it really personal. That changed all of the music that I was writing.
What made you decide to simply call your new album Betty?
For the first time in a really long time, I'm really starting to feel like I'm myself again. I was overly confident as a really young person. I think the music industry took a lot of that away from me for a couple of years. I've gained all of that back and ten times more, because I know who I am now in such a profound way. That was the inspiration for the album title. This is just me. That's the way it's going to be now from now on.
Your music remains unapologetically happy, despite a trend of pop music that's more introverted. Why is it important for you to keep that optimistic tone?
I love being positive. My fiancé makes fun of me for it just as much as people online do. I love everything. Especially in recent years, I just feel like there's so much pain in the world. As an artist, what am I going to bring into the world? More than anything I want to bring joy. I want to make people laugh, and smile and dance. You know when somebody gets turned into a superhero in a movie? Their biggest strength is put on hyper-drive and that's what gets amplified. That's how I feel about my ability to make people laugh and smile. Take that and multiply it by 10 million, and that's my superpower.