Betty & The Boy is a five-piece folk band whose sound is tragically beautiful.
Currently based in Eugene, Oregon, they use music to paint a picture of life, death, desperation, and passion. Their lyrics and melodies are oozing with imagery of nature, humanity, and chaos.
Betty & The Boy originated as a duo from Montana, with Bettreena Jaeger (aka Betty) playing guitar and singing and Josh Harvey deciding to opt for a whole array of instruments like mandolin, banjo, and harmonica, while also providing vocals. They eventually wanted a fuller sound, so once they moved to Eugene they went on the search for some band mates.
The two have always been wild about string instruments—so eventually, they recruited Jon Conlon on upright bass, Michelle Whitlock on violin, and Nanci McDonald on cello. These string musicians add a gentle and classic sound to the group, which gives them an air of elegance.
Combine that with everyone’s unique and broad taste in music, backing Jaeger’s voice of an angel, and you get Betty & The Boy.
Folk music can tend to be overly saturated within the U.S., but Betty & The Boy bring a fresh take to the genre with musical influence from everything like blues, electronica, and even punk rock. Their last album “The Wreckage” is their shining star in showing off just how well rounded they are.
The album has comforting tracks that surround the listener in woods and ease like, “Hare in a Hollow Hole,” and “Poppies.” Then there are tracks like “To Sleep Alone” and “The Waltz” that strike a familiar pain in your heart, that of love and loss. The tracks “Silos & Smokestacks,” “In The Devil’s Hands,” and “September Eighth” take you on a journey through life and death—and then there is, of course, the title track, “The Wreckage,” that provides a tragedy for you to feel and relate to, but also gives you forgiveness and empowerment.
Harvey tells BTRtoday that “The Wreckage” was recorded completely live and has a lot of emotionally charged songs for him. He explains that there are common themes of love, loss, and the death of people close to you.
“When you listen to music you can either connect with it or you can’t,” Harvey states about their music. “The goal would be if I’m putting out music, I hope people enjoy listening to it and if it helps them connect and get something positive out of it, is all I think we ask for.”
Harvey and Jaeger are currently full-time students at Oregon University. Harvey is studying fish and wildlife conservation and has taken some time to live in the forest and surround himself with nature, which explains the organic element to the music in Betty & The Boy.
“When I spend time in nature that’s my Zen area,” Harvey says. “I think it [the music] does have a lot to do with that.” The writing process usually starts with Harvey and Jaeger writing a song with the two of them, and then bringing it to the rest of the band to add whatever they think goes well with it.
Though the band is somewhere between folk, bluegrass, Americana, and dark ballads, you’d never guess that Harvey’s initial interest in music was punk rock—and it still has a great influence on him.
Harvey confesses that the lead singers from two of his favorite punk bands, Lagwaggon and No Use For A Name, released a split EP folk album and when he heard those something just clicked. “It was all acoustic and, I don’t know, it kind of rung out to me,” he admits. “That’s how I started playing acoustic music.”
Jaeger gravitates more towards those dark/haunting female musicians like Cat Powers and Portishead. While the rest of the band, though they all dip their toes into all types of music genres, tend to lean towards electronic and EDM (Electric Dance Music)—in fact, Jaeger has joined with them to participate in a side project that produces and performs EDM music.
Eugene is a college town and tends to appreciate the dance music vibes more, according to Harvey. However, they still get to play around and Portland isn’t too far so they’re able to venture their every now and then to hit the music scene.
Harvey describes their live shows as intimate and emotional. “They’re [the songs] something to sit and listen to and try to enjoy,” he explains. “We try to connect with the crowd as best as we can with jokes and political satire and all that kind of stuff.”
However, they haven’t played a show since they returned from their U.K. tour that ended in September of 2015. Harvey explains that is because him and Jaeger are concentrating on being full-time students. He makes sure to add though that they do intend to work together again. “As long as climate changed doesn’t ruin everything in the next 40 years…” Harvey chuckles.
Currently, him and Jaeger have a duo side project going on again and plan to tour for that fairly soon.
Make sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Bandcamp and check out their website to listen to their work and see what they may in-store for the future! Listen to their album “The Wreckage” and hear the full chat we had with Harvey on The Music Meetup!