Self-Love is the Best Revenge in New Betty Reed Single “Karma”

Photo Credit: Taylor Napier

Betty Reed views karma through two lenses: the age old adage of “what goes around comes around,” and the tangible results of taking one’s happiness into their own hands and moving forward in life. It’s the latter definition that Reed embodies in her latest single “Karma” – premiering today exclusively with Audiofemme – from her upcoming EP, Mistakes Made, Lessons Learned, out September 3, 2021.

“The song is about the moment you break free from an abusive relationship and are living your best, and that’s their karma,” Reed describes. “It’s not something bad happens to them, it’s really you being able to love yourself and be happy without them.” Reed’s liberating version of payback is transformed into a modest pop number where instead of wishing ill upon her former partner, she finds freedom in personal happiness and self-love. The song opens with an introduction to the toxic relationship wherein Reed’s dignity is torn apart and her words are used as a weapon against her by a partner who gaslights her into thinking she’s constantly at fault. Throughout the song, Reed sheds the trauma of the past, turning the negative situation into a positive outcome for herself as she lets the relationship go once and for all.

“Getting the life you deserve, the happiness you deserve from someone that loves you or from loving yourself, it’s this whole turnaround of confidence. I feel like that’s some good karma right there – getting confidence and getting some love in yourself that you thought was taken from you,” she expresses. “I think that’s the thing about karma. I don’t have to listen to those words. I can create my own happiness as opposed to relying on a loved one or someone that you think you trust to make this happiness for you. It’s really overcoming this emotional abuse, understanding your self-worth, realizing your self-worth is the negative person’s karma.”   

“I learned that I’m strong/And my world keeps moving on/Got all this noise outta my head/Pushed the devil out of my bed,” she proclaims in the song’s triumphant line, reclaiming her own agency. The latter lines were the first that came to Reed’s mind as she was crafting the lyrics, setting the tone for the song and overall EP. “It became that theme of overcoming, and that’s what this whole EP is about,” the Berklee College of Music grad reflects. Reed notes that the half dozen songs all tie into female empowerment, facing challenges, and becoming stronger in the process. “Everyone makes mistakes, and mistakes are one of the most important things to do in our lives, and I am full of mistakes. I love making them because it’s really the best way I learn,” she observes. “There’s no such thing as not having redemption for it and becoming enlightened from whatever has been done.” 

As someone who was encouraged to make mistakes as a learning tool growing up in theatre, Reed has channeled that skill into living with depression and anxiety, using music to process her emotions in a healing way. “I’d rather write about trying to overcome it and my coping skills to make it better, because not only does that help me, but I feel like that would help a lot of people who go through the same things that I do,” Reed shares of her writing process, elevated by her mission of building bridges though her music. “I love connecting with people through lyrics and melody. It’s so diverse. That’s the thing I love about music the most,” she continues. “You can connect through music, you can understand someone through music, and I think that’s one of the most beautiful things and what I want to do with this EP and with what I write.”

Follow Betty Reed on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook for ongoing updates.

cehryl Builds Worlds Out of Distant Memories on Her New EP, time machine

Photo Credit: Jonny Ho

Nestled in a bed of mourning, in homesickness for that space between the first youthful lick of freedom and the whiplash that comes when you’re left completely on your own, comes time machine, the latest EP from Hong Kong-based musician cehryl. Breathy vocals glide over subtle, dreamlike instrumentals, seamlessly immersing you into a past to which you’re more tethered than you thought. Her enchanting EP translates to a moving photo album of her early college years, each track a high-saturation vignette blurred at the edges with the melancholy of loss. 

Clocking in at just 21 minutes, the concise EP covers much of its ground through cehryl’s ability to build worlds out of small, intimate experiences. Her lyricism goes hand in hand with the integrity behind production, intention permeating each second of time machine. From the somber opening track “philadelphia,” which recalls lost friendship, to “callus,” where energetic, bouncy plucks parallel the visceral bite of “thorns and scissors and clippers,” each sonic element carries as much weight as her words. By the time you reach the EP’s closer “outside the party, inside the dream” where cehryl wishes for “sugar and honey and trust,” a waltz-like structure lulls you into a wistful rest.

Cehryl is no stranger to transience, having spent time in the UK, Los Angeles, and Boston, where she attended Berklee College of Music. After COVID-19 put tours with Jeremy Zucker and Cavetown on indefinite hold (“I do have goals to play shows again,” she discloses when asked, “still in the middle of planning and gauging the situation!”) returning to her native Hong Kong took some adjustment. She recalls being “very pessimistic and bummed about it” in the beginning. With gratitude for those who surround her, from friends and fans to her management team and label, she’s “adapted to a very different lifestyle,” which includes juggling a day job and creative pursuits while “getting my feet in the tight-knit music community.”

Though her life is markedly different now, accessing seemingly ephemeral memories of her long-ago Berklee days comes second nature to cehryl, who calls herself “sentimental and nostalgic to a fault.”

“I have no problem recentering myself to channel older feelings,” she continues. “If anything, I have a lot of problems staying present and not reminiscing.”

These emotions drive her art in all its forms. She dabbles in drawing, describing herself as “not very good” (though her Instagram highlights will tell you otherwise), edits videos on occasion, and practices photography. “I think all of these outputs come from the same place even though my drawings can feel very different to my photography, which can feel different to my music,” she says. “Through them, I’m able to explore things I am technically incapable of saying in the other mediums.”

Aptly citing Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai as an influence on her videos, she puts songs together like patchwork. It’s her innate creative eye, an intrinsic precision that allows cehryl to immortalize moments in song through the eyes of a visual artist and director: expressive and earnest; reflective, yet raw enough to remain in the moment as though no time has passed at all.

“I find that routines can deaden the magic of making anything from scratch,” she says of her songwriting process. “Sometimes it starts with a phrase of words, sometimes it starts with a melody, sometimes it’s less ‘inspired’ and it just starts with experimenting with a chord sequence. I honestly don’t really evaluate or analyze my own lyrics after I write them. My editing process is just singing through the song and changing words to make the emotion or imagery stronger, but it all feels very ‘zoomed in’ like a small-scale, nit-picky kind of editing and not a pre-planned, big picture, conceptual rubric. More economically put, my process feels very subconscious.”

It’s a stream of consciousness style kept fresh by her commitment to concrete details that keep these songs so present in their stories. “laundry” is a standout for its effortless and poignant poeticism. She invites you to find childlike wonder in yearning for the mundane, singing of a moment “three piles down in our laundry.” cehryl notes that detail is not only “writing 101,” but “memory 101.”

“Without detail, we would not have our own stories,” she explains. “A lot of my writing comes from an autobiographical intent, so each song is like a memoir.”

And that’s the beauty of cehryl’s simplicity. time machine is a collection of songs so honest, they radiate warmth and adoration in spite of sadness, or even within it. When cehryl conjures vivid stories of people who’ve come and gone, though laced with longing, they offer hope, comfort in the belief that maybe you’ve made a mark on someone else’s life as profound as the ones made on yours.

Follow cehryl on Instagram and Twitter for ongoing updates.

INTERVIEW: Jackie Venson Stands Her Ground With “Never Say Die”

Jackie Venson AudioFemme

Jackie Venson AudioFemme

Jackie Venson’s music feels good. Its laid back vibe mirrors Austin, Texas, the city she calls home. In recent years however, Venson’s music, like many artists living in the era of Trump, has taken on a bit more of an edge, her lyrics tackling the shift in American culture.

“‘Never Say Die’ is a song about sticking to my guns no matter the resistance I receive, and finding power in standing my ground where others might have found isolation and bitterness. This project is me stepping out of my comfort zone, using dancers and electronic instruments as opposed to my usual rock band instrumentation,” Venson says of her latest track. The single is straightforward; it doesn’t feature Venson’s signature sweeping guitar solos (something she now keeps for live performance). Instead it gives the listener just enough Jackie to leave you wanting more, an important shift for today’s artists who rely more on tours than Spotify listens.

We spoke with Jackie about her recent collaboration with Austin producer Michael Ramos and how she picked up the guitar in the first place. Read our interview and watch the video for “Never Say Die” below.

AF: Your father was a professional musician and you were taught piano as a child. What kind of music did you gravitate to early on?

Jackie Venson: I played classical music on the piano and I love Broadway and Disney. I think that’s what inspired my current day genre hopping, the drastic differences in what I listened to as a child.

AF: What’s your favorite Disney score to play?

JV: I never really play Disney songs these days but if I had to choose it’s a close call between “Circle of Life” and “Colors of the Wind.”

AF: You were born and raised in Austin, Texas. What was the music scene like there when you were a girl? I know it’s grown a lot recently.

JV: The music scene has pretty much always been consistently bumpin’. Some will claim it used to be more but [to me] it’s alive now as much as it has always been. There are artists moving here all the time, making it work and keeping the jams going. We do have affordability issues with the cost of living going up but there are a lot of great organizations in town fighting for artists.

AF: Do you think the changes are for the better? Or is that yet to be seen?

JV: I suppose it’s yet to be seen. The music is still thriving in Austin so I feel that is an indicator that things are well. Sure, the town used to be a little more laid back and affordable, however with time comes growth which is somewhat unavoidable. I also believe the wonderful organizations that spawned from this growth and support for the arts is simply amazing.

AF: I read that you picked up guitar after graduating from Berklee College of Music. Were you studying classical piano in school?

JV: Not exactly. I studied classical piano while growing up, but when I got to Berklee I dove into the production, songwriting, and arranging side of things. I got to study the nuts and bolts of what makes music and recordings what they are to us humans as a collective and ever changing culture. It was fascinating and really deepened my overall understanding.

AF: What made you jump ship?

JV: I wanted to perform and write but I was tired of the piano and the types of songs I wrote with it. I wanted to expand my sound pallet.

AF: In an interview this year with Shutter16, you discussed working with Austin producer Michael Ramos and how he opened your eyes to the differences between live performance and recording. I can definitely hear that influence on the Transcends EP and on your new single “Never Gonna Say Die.” Can you tell us a bit about the writing and recording process for this new song?

JV: I knew I wanted a minimalistic song, something that was just a beat and a melody, and I knew I wanted it to be dynamic as well. I think silence and space in music is incredibly powerful so “Never Say Die” was my anthem to that. I also wanted a strong song that carried a stark message about my journey.

AF: Transcends has so many beautiful messages in it, but I particularly love the vibe on “Fight,” where you sing “All of us are one, my fight is your fight.” There is so much turmoil around us, but you approach changing the world by changing yourself. How do you keep the positivity in your music, even when you’re tackling tough subjects?

JV: I can always see the silver lining and even when I can’t, the wonderful people that support me in my life help me to see it. There’s always positivity to be found and even when I’m feeling down I know that folks like me have to continue to fight and uphold positivity. No matter what is happening or how much control I have over the situation, I know I can always do my part.

AF: You’ve performed in many places (Germany, Poland, Czech Republic and Finland), and you recently toured with Gary Clark Jr. Have you noticed different responses from crowds? I want to assume the crowds are more rowdy and boisterous in Texas.

JV: Oh no, the crowds are never predictable by location. I’ve had apathetic chatty crowds or super pumped crowds in all different places. It’s literally impossible to know what a crowd is going to be like until I’m at the gig, plugged in, and strike the first chord.

AF: Your Spotify page says that you have 12 planned singles for 2018! What can we expect in the other half of this year?

JV: 6 more singles! Haha. For August, the single will be a private release for the JV Squad Facebook group and newsletter only, so be sure to subscribe to catch that one. Otherwise, I have some new music coming up and I can’t wait for y’all to hear it.

AF: What musicians inspire you nowadays?

JV: SZA, Kendrick Lamar, Hozier for sure. I really like the individuality they all bring to the table and I love that they are finding success being themselves in today’s crazy, information overload world.

AF: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given as an artist?

JV: My father told me “if the opportunity came around once it’ll come around again.” He also told me to “stick to my guns.” Both of these I use in my daily life.

Be sure to sign up for Jackie’s newsletter to receive a free digital download of B-Sides, exclusive tracks downloads, and updates on her touring schedule!

EP REVIEW: Qualia “Triptych”


It’s the dream of every artist to have their art become their means of survival. Seattle-based Qualia was formed in 2014 by Michael Hazani (vocals, keys, programming) as his passion project when he had downtime from his daytime gig as a freelance songwriter/producer for hire, which we have to say, from an artist’s standpoint, sure beats working at Subway. Accompanied by Shawn Crowder (drums), Pier Luigi Salami (keys), and Michael Hazani (everything else) in the studio, their upcoming sophomore EP “Triptych” is an ethereal and imaginative take on electro rock. Hazani’s accolades include coming in as a semifinalist in the International Songwriting Competition two years running. With his currently project Qualia, he’s also proving that there’s lots to look forward from the Seattle rock scene. All of the band members are alumni of the Berklee College of Music, at which they have had the pleasure of performing at the A3E expo. On “Triptychm” electro beats remain the center of attention, yet soaring choruses and a pinch of classic rock sensibilities demand to be heard as well. For the full listening experience, we recommend playing the EP on loop.

The EP opens with an exciting and playful intro on “Presque Vu” that sounds like it could be the intro music to a Sega video game, before making a smooth transition to an uplifting alt-rock song that sounds like running out of the doors on the last day of school. “It was good to be alive back then,” reminisces Hazani. The EP slows down and transitions to visuals of a cityscape on “Guillotine” as Hazani muses “If it’s killing you, as it’s killing me, why don’t we stop this guillotine?” The song sings of the bitter sweetness of unavoidable change. Fans of Arcade Fire will immidetiely jump onto “Guillotine.” Things get swanky and sexy on the third and final track “Tell Me A Story,” a slightly psychedelic and inviting number to close out the listening experience. “Tell me, tell me a story…” It’s fitting that the last track on their EP would sound like an invitation to the next chapter, because after reveling in the delight of “Triptych” we can’t wait to see what’s next for Qualia. With a cohesive musical arc and diversity of moods,  yet never straying off-brand, (fans of CHVRCHES, Imagine Dragons, and Muse will enjoy) Qualia went ahead and created the ultimate EP.

“Triptych” was released on September 15th, 2015 and produced by Michael Hazani and Jay Marcovitz, mixed by Jay Marcovitz, and mastered by Fred Sladkey. Live, Qualia is all Hazani, playing a solo electronic setup. He’s planning on touring the West Coast   throughout the year. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and his trippy website. Stream the EP in its entirely here below.

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When was the last time you heard the sounds of East and West combined in an emotional and uplifting musical context? Let’s make it today after listening to SA’s single release of “Pogathe.”  What is SA?  Well, it’s a “who” and more, it’s a “she.” Shilpa Ananth, bandleader of the group named SA, known on SoundCloud as SoundsofSA, is paving a way in the Brooklyn indie music scene.  Ananth has a background in Indian classical music and an education from Berklee College of Music.  She’s been performing as SA for the past year doing gigs all over the east coast.

The music of SA is nothing less than what I’d call “experienced.”  “Pogathe” is filled with tasteful vocal melisma and saucy guitar tone. The chorus has an emphatic quality as Ananth stretches the word “Pogathe” (or in English, “Don’t leave”) with a rise and quick fall. The sophisticated rhythms and jazzy piano are a delicious bed as Ananth dances over with the lyrics that make you question what she might really be singing about – a lover, a friend, a memory, maybe something entirely internal?  What I do know is that this song is pretty damn sexy, and I am confident that SA has a sound you’d be wise to keep on your radar.

SA’s debut EP, Indian Soul, is coming out Friday, February 13 and will be celebrated with a live performance from the group at the infamous Blue Note Jazz Club in Manhattan on the same evening.

Be ready for the sounds of SA and listen below.

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