Bethany Weimers on how motherhood inspired her newest track 'Circles'
Bethany Weimers is not only iconic, but so unbelievably eloquent. Her newest track Circles was inspired by the birth of her daughter, and how through the dark moments she reminded herself that other people have been through it too.
How did you get into the music industry?
Good question. Music has always been a huge part of my life and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t surrounded by it. My love of listening to music went hand in hand with a desire to make music and I was lucky enough to start piano lessons when I was 7 or 8. I remembered recently that around that age I’d always answer the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ with ‘an inventor’. I have no idea what specifically I wanted to invent, but I recognise now that there was a powerful desire, in fact a need to create; and that need has been a constant thread running through my life.
In terms of getting into the music industry itself - well for a start I feel like I’m constantly still trying to ‘get in’ to the music industry! Circles is my first release for a number of years and quite honestly, part of the reason I had a break was disillusionment with the challenges of being an independent DIY artist. I’d been performing for years and after releasing my debut album Harpsichord Row, had a wonderful response. I then got bogged down with trying to make new material, self-doubt crept in and life got in the way!
On top of that, I was brought up in a household that had always worked in the music industry in some way or another. This was fantastic in terms of hearing new music, getting to hang out in studios as a child etc, but the downside (or maybe another upside) was that even as a child I was all too aware of the pitfalls of the music industry, particularly the pop industry; the battle between being true to your creative vision and the crux of it - making money.
How has being a mother influenced your music?
From a practical perspective I’ve had to be quiet in the evenings whilst my daughter is asleep. Evenings and late night seem to be my most creative time so this has been a challenge! Things are changing now, but for a couple of years I more or less put away my acoustic guitar and only made music that could be heard entirely with headphones. So my upcoming EP has ended up being a lot more synth focussed, there isn’t an acoustic guitar in sight. I’ve recently fallen back in love with my guitar though so I’m sure it will be back on record soon. Becoming a mother has also meant much slower progress that I’d like, with time and energy levels to contend with.
What does Circles mean to you?
Speaking of how being a mother has influenced my music, I think it’s safe to say that Circles is a direct result of becoming a parent. After my daughter was born one of the things that kept me going through those difficult first few months was telling myself that at some point in time, somewhere in the world, someone else will have felt the exact same feeling that I felt at any particular moment. As a new parent I felt so isolated, despite lots of support, and reminding myself of these almost intangible connections made me feel in a way, less alone. I also kept thinking about the line of mothers that I’ve come from, and the potential line of mothers in the future; and how in each of these lives there are commonalities and repetitions. Circles was born out of these thoughts.
Has becoming a mother affected the way you are treated within the music industry?
In short, I don’t know. Becoming a mother was sandwiched in between an inadvertent hiatus from releasing music and the pandemic. Whether I had the challenge of juggling parenthood and a music career or not, I suspect I would still be facing the seemingly mountainous task of remaking a name for myself after such a long break. Maybe ask me that question again in a year's time when I’ve hopefully progressed further along that path!
Talk us through the recording process of Circles
Well it was quick! To put in perspective I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time (years) working on 4 tracks for an EP and then one afternoon whilst recording those I got distracted and wrote Circles. I recorded the piano straight away and then forgot about it. Jump forward a month or two and we desperately needed to change our spare room from being my studio space to being our daughter’s bedroom as we still all shared one room and were slowly going crazy. I had just finished recording the vocals to the last track of my EP in my haphazard but efficient homemade vocal booth and was about to dismantle it. At the last minute I remembered Circles and thought if I don’t record the vocals now, it could be months before I get the vocal booth set up again. There were a couple of hours before my daughter was home from nursery so I ran through the vocals a few times and that was it. I recorded a couple of backing vocals but later, after taking my studio apart, I realised I wanted more. Just before Covid I’d taken part in a fantastic composer/choreographer residency and composed a piece using only sounds manipulated from a small amount of voice and piano recording. I’ve composed music that way before but kept it quite separate from my singer-songwriter music - but suddenly there was the perfect opportunity to use those techniques in a more traditional setting. Essentially the backing vocals are just pitch-shifted versions of the main vocal line and I love them.
You produced the record to yourself, what have you learnt along the way or producing your own records?
I’ll keep this answer short as otherwise I could talk for hours. Firstly I’m still and will always be learning the art of producing music. That’s half the point as far as I’m concerned. Secondly, and again something I’m still learning, knowing when to keep trying and when to stop or change tack. Recently I’ve worked with remote session musicians on the drums and strings for new tracks and it’s been a revelation. Having gone through the process of trying to do everything myself and it not always working, I now feel much better equipped to articulate to others what it is I want in my music. A few years ago I wouldn’t have felt confident enough to do that.
You’ve toured all across the UK and Europe, what is your favourite city to play in?
You make me sound far more prolific than I probably am! One simple answer to this. I don't have a favourite city but I do have a favourite type of setting - house concerts. You basically get to meet a whole load of new people and actually chat to them, not something you always get to do at gigs in traditional settings.
What advice would you give to someone who is a gender minority entering the industry?
I’d say one of the most helpful things for me is connecting with other artists experiencing similar challenges and also seeking out people/businesses who specifically help women and gender minorities. Focussing on a positive community can be really helpful. Last year I signed up to Isobel Anderson’s Home Recording Academy which she runs under the moniker Female DIY Musician. Even though I already had a lot of recording experience, what I didn’t have was a community of supportive people and the course gave me that.
How would you like to see the music industry change for gender minorities?
Oh gosh I don’t know - I suppose ultimately I would like the balance of artists being heard and getting success to be truly representative of society. The same applies to race especially in relation to diversity across different genres. What was that recent statistic about the Billboard end-of-year top 100? Something like 77/23 split of male/female artists which is bad enough as it is, but add to that there apparently wasn’t a single artist who identified as gender non-conforming or non-binary on the list. The songwriting statistic is even worse - only 14.4% of the songwriters were women. Ugh, I can feel myself getting angry just thinking about it!
What qualities are you most proud of in yourself?
What keeps you in the music industry?
Some innate need to create, share and connect.
What is next?
Actually sharing the EP I’ve been creating for the past few years!