Betty Who is ready to be America's next huge pop star, and she's striking out on her own

Betty Who, known for dance-pop hits "Somebody Loves You" and "I Love You Always Forever," will perform at Lincoln Theatre March 27.
Betty Who, known for dance-pop hits "Somebody Loves You" and "I Love You Always Forever," will perform at Lincoln Theatre March 27.

There’s good reason why Betty Who’s mother has dubbed the singer-songwriter “Aus-merican.”

Who, 26, who was born in Sydney and spent half of her life in Australia, possesses an unusual hybrid of an accent.

“You can hear the Aussie and the American with me when I speak,” Who says while calling from New York. “I can’t do much about that.”

But Who’s rousing, celebratory pop is distinctly American. Katy Perry, Whitney Houston and Britney Spears are some of the recording artists who come to mind who have had an impact on Who.

“Yes, a number of American musicians have had an effect on me,” says Who, whose real name is Jessica Newham. “There is no recording artist more than Britney Spears who had such an effect on me. When I was a kid, I was all about Britney and her performance.”

When the engaging entertainer takes the stage, it’s all about the show. She will appear March 27 at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh.

“That again goes back to my love of Britney and what she did live,” Who says “I remember watching her choreographed shows, and it stayed with me. I remember thinking that if I ever become a singer, I’m not just going to stand there. I’m going to move around and express myself.

"We need rock stars. We don’t need someone performing that is boring. When I look at who is moving the needle, there’s Miley Cyrus, who is making generational pop and is obviously having a good time doing it. When I got out of school I wanted to do the same thing.”

Who, 26, is a classically trained cellist and relocated to the United States in 1997 to study music at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. She learned piano and guitar and started writing songs when she arrived in U.S. She attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston and met producer Peter Thomas, who helped shape her sound.

Anthemic, stylish dance pop became her calling card. The 2014 album “Take Me When You Go” and 2017’s “The Valley” put her on the map. So did "Somebody Loves You," which was used in a proposal at a Utah Home Depot; the video of the proposal went viral.

“I made strides with each of those albums,” Who says. “But neither of those albums completely represents who I am.”

Each of those projects were released by RCA, whom she parted ways with in 2017. Who, now an independent recording artist, said she feels liberated.

“I’m someone that needs that free reign,” Who says. “I don’t want to be bound by what is conventional. I need that space to become who I need to be as a recording artist.”

The infectious single “Ignore Me” is the initial single Who has released as an indie artist. The tune, which dropped in January, has scored some satellite radio play. Who has followed with a cover of Kylie Minogue’s “Come Into My World," and "Look Back," which was released earlier this month.

“That’s just the start of things for me,” Who says. “Just wait until I release a full album. I’ve changed in so many ways.”

Who’s personal life is evolving, too. She and photographer Zak Cassar recently announced they are engaged.

“I can’t express how excited I am about that,” Who says. “I feel like I’m finally growing up. Getting married is a big deal. I’m maturing as a person and as a recording artist. It’s all happening at the same time. Just get ready for my next move.”

Will it be selecting a Spears cut for her wedding song? “That would be really cool,” Who says. “Maybe I’ll do that. We can make my wedding a really big production. I really do admire Britney. In some ways, she’s our last really true pop star. She laid it all out there. Somebody else has to do the same thing.”

Who wouldn’t mind taking a shot as an envelope-pushing pop performer. “It would be great to watch someone up there onstage who obviously isn’t part of the audience,” Who says. “How cool would it be to see someone, who goes for it up there? I would love to have that opportunity.”


Who: Betty Who. Pretty Sister and Amy Guess will open

When: 9 p.m. March 27

Where: Lincoln Theatre, 126 E. Cabarrus St., Raleigh

Cost: $18, $60 and $99

Info: 919-821-4111 or lincolntheater.com