It was a cold, rain-filled Saturday morning when I drove up to the stately Victorian era home, now converted into several apartments, to meet with Betsy King. The soft, grey diffused morning gloom would serve as the perfect light source to create a few photographs while we chatted. I had been introduced to Betsy, a Michigan native, on several previous occasions and found her talent and unique style interesting. So while I thought she’d be a perfect subject to photograph and write about, I secretly wanted to get to know her a bit better for myself. Her apartment is warm, cozy and inviting, filled with interesting objects, music, books and one of the cuddliest cats I have ever met. As she finishes the last few bites of her toast and sips of coffee, I roam around the living room familiarizing myself with the space she shares with her husband Chris.
Betsy, a local musician and budding graphic designer, reminds me a lot of myself. She’s a renaissance woman. She dabbles, but she does it with heart and passion. She says that in order to be successful you have to be diverse. I recently heard Betsy perform at The Ark, a popular music venue in Ann Arbor, MI and I was blown away by the combination of her dark, moody piano and clear, unwavering vocals. Some of her songs are sad, haunting even, stirring up melancholy emotions and memories. But she’s not a sad person, far from it, in fact.
With a past steeped in music, beginning in childhood, Betsy received a degree in performing arts technology, including courses of study in music theory. She currently works as a music director/stage manager for a local church, coordinating Sunday services complete with a range of performing musicians. In addition to writing her own music, she performs with her husband, singer/songwriter Chris DuPont. Surprisingly, she’s not always excited about performing in public, preferring to be out of the spotlight. I asked her if she’ll ever make a record. She says she’s nervous about putting an album together. Oh, perfectionism, the never-ending plight of the artist.
When I asked her about her musical influences, she quickly threw on an album by My Brightest Diamond, a band I happen to absolutely adore. We listened for a bit, admiring front woman Shara Worden’s haunting, melodic voice and minimalist accompaniment. Incidentally, Shara is an Ypsilanti, MI native who graduated from high school here.
Betsy said, “I grew up listening to a lot of metal.” I chuckled a bit, instantly reminded of my adolescence and the music that served as its angsty soundtrack.
But back to that renaissance woman thing. Betsy is also a talented, self-taught graphic designer. As her husband’s musical career grew, she wanted to help with his design needs. For his latest album reprint, Betsy did a redesign of the album cover. Somewhere in all of this, a passion was ignited and now she’s currently developing an active freelance design business. While the two have an amazing partnership, both on and off stage, I was curious about the dynamic between them and their musical ambitions. Betsy says she strives to maintain her own identity, she’s even kept her maiden name, while finding a balance somewhere within those shared interests. They are incredibly loving and supportive of each other, at one point Chris calls to check in asking “You ok?” as Betsy responds with, “Yeah. Are you ok?”.
As the morning progressed toward early afternoon, in between belly rubs with Tycho the cat and the comings and goings of Chris and friends, I snapped a few photographs of Betsy. Some, a few simple candids and others more deliberately arranged. I wasn’t sure anymore of the goal or what I would even write about. At this point I was simply making a new friend and spending my Saturday with her. My initial thoughts were centered around her style, her funky hair and clothing, which conveyed a certain level of coolness that I wasn’t sure how to approach. But within the first half hour, that idea completely dissolved. Sure, she has fun experimenting with dramatic clothing and her hair is pretty rad, but it’s not what defines her as a person. She’s a bit of a goof, makes a mean pour over, loves music, her family and life in general. Just don’t make her go outside for too long on a cold, wet winter morning.
Thanks to Betsy King, for sharing a bit of her time with me and allowing us a glimpse into her world.