Meet a musician channeling a love of sanskrit, blues and skewed country into her own unique aesthetic
Bethia Beadman has been slowly but surely garnering attention for her self-released debut Made Of Love, an album that tempers the grunge-soaked ferocity of PJ Harvey with a spiritual undertow that recalls the likes of Bonnie Prince Billie and Kate Bush, subtly revealing her academic background in the study of sanskrit and hindu mythologies. Although she hails from these shores, her debut has the feel of a long windswept drive down the west coast, and it's little surprise that she cut her rock'n'roll teeth playing piano for Courtney Love on the Nobody's Daughter tour.
Lyrically, her songs are not unlike leafing through a diverse novella that takes myriad moods, characters and situations in its surreal, and at times sublime sway. Here, we talk to the the burgeoning talent about inspiration, strands of matter and strumming on Kurt Cobain's guitars.
Dazed Digital: What are your biggest inspirations? How do your investigations into sanskrit feed into what you do lyrically?
Bethia Beadman: I guess my biggest inspiration is the human condition. I have never stopped being way too intense, idealistic and passionate. I don’t suppose sanskrit feeds into my songs lyrically too often. It’s more the base tool deep in my belly that helps the sounds and melodies to form. ‘Tambourine’ has my only direct Vedic reference – to the three Gunas, these strands of matter and energy from whence the universe springs.
DD: What was it like to play with Courtney Love on tour?
Bethia Beadman: The gigs were wonderful. The record Nobody’s Daughter is pretty west coast sounding and playing the song 'Sunset Marquis' felt like, ‘Hey, cool, I’m in California!’ That was a good thing.
DD: Was that quite an initiation into the rock'n'roll lifestyle?
Bethia Beadman: Nah, living in Camden with Ben and dancing to his band White Russians was more like that, or knowing your old band The Lancaster Bombers, John-Paul – working extreme hours in a grimy studio, going out all night, band practice in between, broke... The house where we lived with Courtney in LA was on the Phil Spector Estate, steeped in fantasy with a garden of paradise around a kind of secret pool. There was a grand piano and old cracked marble bathrooms with drawers for jewellery and well, you know, Kurt’s guitars knocking around… When I was a kid I didn’t really understand musical contexts, I just thought grunge was beautiful deep down in my body. I could feel that when Courtney let us play the guitars. Courtney could be a lawyer or run some kind of empire she is so sharp, and when she’s sweet it’s like nothing else – she can be so sweet.
DD: Why did you choose to record the album in LA?
Bethia Beadman: I’m in love with LA. It doesn’t stop. I drove up and down Mulholland Drive looking for the wind in the road where they filmed the crash scene in the film of the same name. I’m currently trying to find David Lynch’s contact details to see if he fancies making an album long music video for my record. I think my record is just a road trip of sorts. I’m pretty old-fashioned. It’s probably to do with liking things slow, too. I find the process of using tape to record much easier. It’s instant and that’s it. I prefer to prep well and keep it efficient, simple and focused.
DD: Talk to us about some of the songs on the album and what they are about…
Bethia Beadman: They all just come from the same direct river line through me, just drop off at different points… In a way, there is no greater value when it nearly kills me to write a tune to writing one that's more kind of spontaneous or throwaway. 'Deaf & Dumb', 'Glow Baby Glow' and 'Woman of Day' are my three favourite songs off the record, especially 'Glow Baby Glow'. I could listen to that forever, so maybe there is something about the depths that they come from. Songs that are more like singles are 'Homerton Station' and 'Made of Love'. 'Made of Love' was a dream. I woke up at 9am and wrote it down in about 20 minutes.
DD: What would you say drives you as an artist, what do you seek to communicate in your music?
Bethia Beadman: Compassion. That’s all really. Writing the songs is usually like a lightning bolt, and that’s it. There’s a bit of a construction process but the songs are just as they are, always were and always will be. It’s not really a case of ‘Let’s try this in a different way.' It either is or it isn’t. There is only one song that I’ve been writing since 2003 that isn’t clear to me. And I think this has to do with just waiting and learning about the great river… I found the poem about Farmagusta and the Hidden Sun by Fleckr and I wanted those words. I think that was a small journey to show me how it’s okay that Johnny Cash covered ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails, which used to stand at odds with me in my ignorance!
DD: What was the first song you ever played?
Bethia Beadman: My first memories are Pavarotti’s Greatest Hits and Shine On You Crazy Diamond. The first song I played was the first song I wrote about the ocean, of course.