Betty B talks candidly after being behind bars
Singer Betty Griffith-Payne is in a great place right now. Having gone through a rebranding with a new name – Betty B, she is finally ready to let people see who she really is.
After the launch of her new EP Behind Bars at Limegrove Lifestyle Centre last Saturday night, she sat down with EASY magazine for what was supposed to be a ten-minute chat about her music, her new name and her new direction.
That chat turned into a 45-minute honest conversation during which she laughed a lot, shared her thoughts on working with investor, manager and friend Ralph Weekes and producers Gary McAuley, of the popular Canadian pop group, the McAuley Boys, and Printz Board, a Grammy-Award winning musician, artiste, producer, and songwriter.
Betty B also addressed “the elephant in the room” sharing her belief that her “five weeks behind bars” were ordained, what it was like, how she is overcoming that ordeal and stepping purposefully into her future.
The EP has four tracks and the idea behind it was “to do something that makes people want more”.
“At the time, there were time constraints, money constraints and me being arrested. We were trying to get music out, so, we wrote four songs and said, you know what, let’s just concentrate on these four and see if we can get a hit out of one of them. It only takes one song.
“Light My Fire is my favourite song where I get to just be Betty. For so long I’ve been labelled as a jazz artiste . . . so people never get to really hear or see me and what I like to do. This is what I like to do. Everything you heard tonight is kind of close in the genres of music that I normally listen to, like rock alternative. I love reggae music. I love me a good ballad that I can play on a rainy day and stay in bed.
“That’s how Practice came about, That’s my number two. I helped write all four songs. In Toronto, at Orange Studio, we actually spent a lot of time making sure the lyrics were correct, getting the melodies right, playing around on the piano. I spent hours at the Orange Studio just getting things the way Printz wanted them and the way I wanted them as well. He’s a perfectionist and so am I. Funnily enough, we tend to think along the same lines . . . . We really gel.”
Why the new name?
“For years, I have run from my name because my whole life, I hated it. I hated the name, Betty. I always thought it was an old-time name. How many women do you know in today’s world that are named Betty that are younger than 50 years old?”
“My dad insisted on naming me Betty because I’m the first born. When I found out, I asked why he gave me that name . . . . ” she said, laughing.
“So, the B after Betty stands for Barbados. It stands for beautiful. It stands for bodacious, bohemian. It is basically whatever I want it to be because I decided to own my name. After 39 years, I’ve decided to own my name. I can’t get away from it. It’s me,” she declared.
That’s not the only thing she owned.
“I owned my situation because there are some people who still cringe when I say that I spent five weeks in prison. They look like ‘don’t say that, just say you were on remand’. I was on remand, yes. I spent five weeks in the slammer.
“You see this little back? It’s so, so broad and I’m actually starting to write my story because so much happened to me in those five weeks . . . . I know without a shadow of a doubt that it was ordained. It was supposed to happen. It sounds really strange but from the first day, the first hour getting on the prison bus, I felt calm.”
In 2016, Betty served as a juror in the Supreme Court. Last year, she was remanded to HMP Dodds on drug charges.
“I had had a discussion with the judge after my jury duty where I was telling her, you know that at the end of the day, it’s people’s choices. It’s what they choose that they end up in the situation that they are in and she was telling me no, that sometimes it’s people’s circumstances that lead them to make the decisions and choices that they make.
“ . . . . I was arguing with this judge and then a year later, I’m standing in front of her pleading with her to give me bail. That’s why I’m telling you that everything is ordained. I believe there are paths that are chosen for us. We’re . . . not in control of anything and more than anything else, that was a lesson that I was meant to learn in those five weeks.
“The only way I can explain it is that from the time I got on the bus and it was leaving, I was ‘okay Betty, this is it, though’. All the while, I was saying to myself ‘Okay, this is a dream, a nightmare. I’m going to pinch myself and wake up and everything is going to be okay and this will all go away’. This is what I was telling myself.
“When I sat on the bus, it hit me. It’s not going away. This is happening, I’m like ‘how did I get here?’ All I know is I was getting ready to go out and the next night, I was in a prison cell.
Betty shared that on remand, she counselled the women as she’s not one who easily judges and is “a good listener”.
“It was heartbreaking. I wondered if I was going to be one these women who was going to spend Christmas in here away from my family. Emotions were running high. I was able to sit down and talk to them,” she said, noting that they often sang before falling asleep.
Betty said that, unfortunately, she is still dealing with Barbadians who “are very judgmental and believe you are guilty until proven innocent”.
“It was hard at first to be out in society, trying to fall back into my usual routine and go to work and do other stuff. I found out who my friends were. People who would have usually come and give me a shout out, a hug, laugh and make small talk, I was waving and saying hi and they were turning their backs. I experienced that more than once.”
She is about positivity and being “grateful” for people like Ralph Weekes who despite everything stayed with her and continued working towards the EP launch.
“This EP is the beginning of great things. I’m in a great place right now. I am grateful. Humble and just so blessed. For this past year, I actually stepped out in faith because I didn’t know how I was going to pay my bills. I didn’t know how I was going to take care of my daughter . . . The Father brought me to this. He brought me through it and I will just trust. There were some months I didn’t know how I was going to eat, how I was going to pay my rent and somehow when I needed it, a friend would call and say ‘Hey, Betty, you good? You need anything? and I would say I need groceries.”
Any pride she had before prison, “the Creator took away all”. She said there was no room for it “in a place where you were told when to eat, when to sleep, where you have no privacy. There is no room for pride. There is no room for anything.
“It was my time to listen to Him. It’s like I wasn’t listening to what He was trying to tell me, where He wanted to me to go and what He wanted me to do. So, he took away everything and it was very humbling. My one question was why. Why would you put me in this situation when I have so much happening, so much going?
“There were so many whys and the one thing I heard was ‘so that you can hear me now’. There was no cell phone, there was a TV maybe twice a week. There was no boyfriend. There were no other distractions but to hear the voice. It was comforting. It was like coming home because I was calm and after that came peace.” (GBM)