Our Spotlight Series focuses on the best and brightest local performers who are defining the Long Island music scene at the front line. With uncompromising integrity and a passion for originality, Pamela Betti is perhaps one of the most recognizable artists gigging on the Long Island scene. With an impressive appearance schedule and song credits, Pamela was also recently induction into the NY Blues Hall Of Fame. Pamela shared with us an honest and unflinching glimpse into her life as an artist. We found her energy refreshing and inspiring and are proud to showcase her profile and interview here.
May you be inspired!
LBFH: At what age were you attracted to music?
PB: I was always attracted to music since I can remember. I used to LOVE to watch musicals on TV like “Singing in the Rain”, “The Music Man”, “Hello Dolly”..I wanted to be those singers and dancers.
LBFH: Were you encouraged, if so by whom?
PB: My brother in law George Chapman. I sang a song at my sisters wedding, that was probably my first “gig”. My brother in law looked and me and was like “okay, you need to do this”. So he had me sing in his band, first as a backup singer then I started to sing out front. He is an incredible guitarist and songwriter. His band was called the Reputations, they were a NYC staple in the 90s.
LBFH: Were you an artistic child?
PB: I was a goofy child..I was real chubby so instead of people laughing at me I figured I have them laugh with me!
LBFH: Did you study music?
PB: Nope,but I got everything I needed from watching musicals and comedies.
LBFH: What bands/artists were among your earliest influences?
PB: Etta James, Nina Simone, Janis Joplin and of course Barbara. I also LOVED the Rolling Stones and Van Halen…My tastes are all over the place!
LBFH: What was your first instrument?
PB: Tried the flute and guitar. I fell asleep at guitar lessons! Funny because I LOVE listening and watching a guitar player but it’s freaks me out to even hold one!
LBFH: What did you have to do to get it?
PB: I took a few voice lessons and one teacher told me, “You can sing, I don’t have to teach you anything anymore so we’re done”. I think she was jealous. LOL
LBFH: Can you remember your first experience on stage?
PB: Yes, It was at some cheesy Mexican restaurant in Staten Island and I was so nervous that I threw up right before and forgot all the words to the song. Thank god it was a Blues song because I made the words up! ya know, “Oh yeah my man left me and my dog died” Funny shit. No one had a clue I was nervous at all.
LBFH: What was the first band setting you ever played in?
PB: My first band was called “The Full Spectrum Band” and we played Country and Blues. I lived in NYC at the time (1992) and we played at virtually every live music venue there. Arthur’s Tavern, Kenny’s Castaways, Mondo Cane, The Lonestar Roadhouse, The Garbage Bar, The Left Bank…OMG the list goes on and on…
LBFH: At what point did you know that you wanted to be a working musician?
PB: From the very first gig I knew this was what I was supposed to do. I was meant to be an entertainer. It’s the only thing I do that I am 100% sure I’m good at.
LBFH: Was it hard to find other serious like minded musicians?
PB: Finding musicians wasn’t hard..it was finding REALLY TALENTED musicians without egos that was hard. I finally figured that one out. The guys in my band now are AMAZING with no ego’s! Thank god..I have really been through hell and back.
LBFH: What sacrifices did you make along the way?
PB: I lost a lot of weekends to gigs and I couldn’t spend quality time with family and I never had kids because I was so busy gigging.
LBFH: How much time daily/weekly do you spend writing new music?
PB: It’s more like every few months..I’ve been distracted by my “day job” these days..it’s tough when you’re trying to make a living to pay your mortgage and then trying to push for your music too.
LBFH: Can you describe your studio/creative space? Pink chandelier and orange walls..I’m kindy whacky like that!
LBFH: What equipment do you use?
PB: Pen, paper to write songs..I wrote “Booty Call” on the back of a Jack Keuroic paperback! Ha.
LBFH: How much time do you spend developing your own unique sound?
PB: I don’t…the band and I just have a sound, it just comes naturally.
LBFH: What do you enjoy the most about performing?
PB: Making people happy. I am a comedian, so I use that in my show. People are laughing hysterically at my banter, but then I open my mouth to sing and they’re like “whoa”. So its great to get the audience at both levels.
LBFH: What do you enjoy the least about performing?
PB: I hate asshole bar owners that only care about how many people we get in their venues, or owners that don’t treat us with respect. We are just as hardworking as anyone else, if not more so. It’s takes a lot to perform for hours on end.
LBFH: Can you describe your creative process & how your songs were written & produced?
PB: John, my guitarist and I sit and write. I usually have the lyrics and he comes up with the music. I have to collaborate with someone else to write. I need a sounding board.
LBFH: How do you feel the industry has changed over the past 2 decades?
PB:People want to hear cover bands, especially out here on Long Island. And for some reason they LOVE mediocrity…there are GREAT bands out there but people would rather go see a Bon Jovi cover band, I don’t get it!
LBFH: What are the most significant changes?
PB: One word…AUTOTUNE.
LBFH: What are your views on social media and how it impacts you as an artist?
PB: It helps get your music heard for sure, but it’s more work now to keep up with it. You have to Tweet constantly, update your website and gig schedule, send emails…It’s exhausting. In the old days you played a live gig and word got around. I miss the days of posting flyers on utility poles! LOL
LBFH: Do you feel that your work promotes the arts and music in the community?
PB: Yes, I am known as “Long’s Island’s Blues Diva” and I’m proud to be from Long Island!
LBFH: How would you like to see music and arts evolve locally?
PB: More Blues, less cover bands.
LBFH: How do you maintain relationships with other artists in the community?
PB: Facebook is magical. Without it I wouldn’t talk to anybody! LOL I also try to get out to see my music friends when I have a night off. I like to see what everyone else is doing out there.
LBFH: What do you hope to leave behind you?
PB: I want people to say “She was a very funny and talented lady”! I hope to inspire young women to pursue their dreams of performing too.
LBFH: How do you think people view you as an artist?
PB: I have been called “the hardest working woman musician on LI” and it’s true…I love what I do and I work a lot..I think people gotta respect that.
LBFH: What advice would you give to someone who was looking to get into the music business?
PB: RUN…LOL, go to school for it, I wish I did. Learn how to read music! Be realistic and listen to yourself sing or play. If you suck, PRACTICE! Be professional, surround yourself with musicians better than you and pay attention!
LBFH: What’s next for you?
PB: I’m not sure, but maybe acting..I’m very outgoing and have no stage fright so acting should be pretty easy. (I guess we will find out!) Ha
LBFH: What projects/events would you like to tell our readers about?
PB: I have been working with Richie Cannata and we have quite a few big shows coming up. He used to play sax for Billy Joel and is an incredible musician. Our website has all the info and our gig schedule: www.pamelabettiband.com