Betsy Lay
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Betsy Lay

Denver, Colorado, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2005 | SELF

Denver, Colorado, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2005
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Get to Know a Denver Musician"

One of Westword’s nominees in the singer-songwriter category of its annual music awards, Betsy Lay has plans to change up her creative process with her next recording. “My goal has always been for the sound to be authentic to the songwriting,” Lay shared with AXS recently. “For my next album, I would like to try flipping that: have the songwriting be authentic to the sound.” This Denver-based folk musician, as well as one of the co-founders of Lady Justice Brewing Company, released her plucky, upbeat six-song EP, Lion’s Den, last October and has plans to complete a full-length album by 2016. Learn more about Lay, her music, and her career in this exclusive interview.

AXS: Are you a Denver native? If not, where are you from originally?
Betsy Lay: I'm originally from St. Louis. I first moved to Denver in 2000 for school. I left for a bit in 2004 and came back in 2009.

AXS: What inspired you to start playing music?
Betsy: I grew in a music-loving household. My parents made sure my brothers and I were enrolled in music lessons from a young age.

AXS: How long have you been performing?
Betsy: About 10 years. I first started performing when I was living in St. Louis in 2005. I had an ongoing gig at a super seedy venue in the Loop.

AXS: Where was your first show in Denver, and what was the experience like? Who else did you play with at the show?
Betsy: My first show in Denver was at the Walnut Room. I played with Anthony Ruptak and Beth Bombara. Beth is from St. Louis and was on tour at the time. She called me to help set up a show in Denver. If I recall correctly, this show was one of the first shows Anthony played with a band. I'm not even sure they were The Midnight Friends yet.

AXS: Have any Denver musicians inspired you?
Betsy: There is a lot of great music in Denver. The talent here is endless. I remember seeing the Dovekins play at Mercury Cafe when I first moved back to Denver and being in awe of how much fun they were having on stage. At the time, I had taken a break from playing live shows and seeing them brought back my itch to get on stage again. Today, I'm inspired by the super talent of Poet's Row, Jacob Russo, Anthony Ruptak, Jane Thatcher, Megan Burtt, Tomahawk Fox, and Montropo.

AXS: What inspired your 2014 EP, Lion’s Den?
Betsy: Lion's Den is definitely the result of being grounded after a few years of craziness in my life. The songs are reflections of putting down roots, sticking around the same place for a while, and discovering healthy relationships.

AXS: What was the writing and record processes like for Lion’s Den?
Betsy: Most of the songs on the album were written in my living room over the course of a year or so. I had been writing a lot after stepping away from it for a bit. I went into the studio originally to record three songs as an acoustic EP. I recorded at Confluence Studios in Wheat Ridge, under the production of Paul Ewald. As I was finishing up the original three songs, Paul and I both felt that this EP needed more. Three songs turned into seven. As we were listening to the finished product, Paul said, "You need a band." He was right. The songs were good on their own, but there was still something missing. I recruited some friends to come in and record over what we already had. We ended up changing “First Lady" entirely and cut another song from the album altogether. The final product is a six-song EP, my first with a full band. The entire process took 2 years, recording two or three songs every few months and then bringing in the band. It certainly felt like we were working backwards and doing the things in an entirely opposite order than what I would have done if the band had been there all along, but I love that it happened this way. There's an evolution to the songs and the EP as a whole.

AXS: What projects are you currently working on?
Betsy: I'm in the beginning stages of working on songs for what I hope will be a full album in 2016. I want to approach this album in an entirely different way than Lion's Den. I want my band to be there from the beginning. I want them to shape the songs. I want to step outside of my comfort zone in how I write and structure songs. I really want to be surprised by what comes out of the process.

AXS: What else are you involved in locally?
Betsy: I'm a co-founder and brewer of Lady Justice Brewing Company. We are brand new and currently raising money to officially launch our beer and community-based programs. Our mission is to take the money we make from our beer sales after cost and donate it back into the community to fund projects that empower women and children to be leaders in their communities.

AXS: Do you have a goal in mind for the sound the you produce? Are there certain influences or themes the you try to inject into its own music?
Betsy: My goal has always been for the sound to be authentic to the songwriting. For my next album, I would like to try flipping that: have the songwriting be authentic to the sound.

AXS: For someone who has never seen or heard you, what would you tell them to entice them to watch your set?
Betsy: I was once told by a fan that if Kimya Dawson and Ani DiFranco had a love child, it would be me. I have no idea what that would actually look like, but I'd be curious as hell to see it. Mostly, I just want to have fun with my music. I want the people who see me play to have fun with it, too. There's a whimsical nature to our lives shows that my band brings. People really seem to have a good time watching us.

AXS: What would your ideal live show look like? Where would it take place? Any particular time of year? Would a specific band/musician share the bill with or open for you?
Betsy: I'm crossing over the "ideal" line here and going straight towards dream world: Red Rocks on a summer night with Brandi Carlile opening for me. And then throughout my set, guest musicians would sing with me: Iron and Wine, Josh Ritter, Willie Nelson. Kimya and Ani could show off their love child. Afterwards, Loretta Lynn would hand me a beer and a shot of Kentucky whiskey and tell me how much she loved the show.

AXS: What shows are you looking forward to over the next few months?
Betsy: I have a handful of shows this spring that will be a lot fun to play and see - a house show with Jane Thatcher on Saturday, April 4. It's going to be an afternoon BBQ and BYOB show. On Tuesday, April 7, I'll be opening for Luke Redfield at the Walnut Room. My amazing drummer, Katelin Champion, is releasing her own acoustic album and I'll be open for her at a house show on Friday, April 10. Then, on May 16, I'm sharing the stage at Deer Pile with some of my closest friends, The Tasty Licks. I've known Wil Shanklen (the lead singer) for years. They are a new comedy band and their live shows are so fun.

AXS: What do you enjoy most about Denver’s music scene, and why?
Betsy: For me, it's the community of musicians that has grown around singer-songwriting/folk scene here. There is a lot of really good music being made by really good people. -


Lion's Den

Released December, 2014

Ship to Shore

Release April, 2014



Betsy Lay's indie folk songwriting is rooted in a whimsical exploration of life, death, and relationships. 

Growing up in St. Louis, MO, Betsy was influenced by the history that helped shaped her hometown. Drawing inspiration from boxcar jumpers and riverboat sailors, Betsy began to write songs that focused on making adventures out of the mundane.

Today, Betsy can be found playing shows in Denver, CO, both solo and with her band. She is promoting her latest release, a 6-song EP called Lion's Den. Betsy was recently nominated for "Best Singer-Songwriter" for Denver's Westword Music Awards.

Betsy has her sights set next on a 2016 full album release with a supporting tour. 

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