Bring­ing West Coast sounds to East Coast au­di­ences

The Norwalk Hour - - NEWS -

One of the ben­e­fits of hav­ing a ro­bust live mu­sic scene in the area is be­ing able to ex­pe­ri­ence na­tion­ally rec­og­nized tal­ent right in our own back­yard. Take Bettman & Halpin, for in­stance.

The Colorado-based award-win­ning cou­ple per­forms reg­u­larly in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia and New Mex­ico and are now branch­ing out into the East Coast. They were emerg­ing artists at the 2016 Fal­con Ridge Folk Fes­ti­val in Hills­dale, N.Y, and were picked to re­turn the fol­low­ing year — based on au­di­ence votes — as a most wanted artist.

This week­end, Stephanie Bettman and Luke Halpin will be fol­low­ing a ca­reer path they’ve been trav­el­ing on to­gether for over a decade when they head­line as Bettman & Halpin at Voices Cafe, kick­ing off the cafe’s eighth sea­son at 8 p.m. on Satur­day, Oct. 13.

“We’re con­stantly push­ing our­selves to be bet­ter — bet­ter than the last CD, bet­ter than the last per­for­mance,” Bettman said. “And we want to try to ex­pand our fol­low­ing, too. As far as mu­sic goes, we are con­stantly cu­ri­ous about new record­ing tech­niques, new grooves, writ­ing an­other song or in­stru­men­tal that’s dif­fer­ent from any­thing we’ve done be­fore. I think one of the goals we have is to keep ex­plor­ing — fol­low the fun.”

Bettman is an ac­com­plished vo­cal­ist, fid­dler and song­writer. She’s also a for­mer ac­tress, although mu­sic is her call­ing now. In 2007, she and her band at the time, the Los An­ge­les-based Stephanie Bettman & The Boys, were first-place win­ners in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s Topanga Banjo and Fid­dle Con­test.

Bettman’s part­ner in mu­sic and in life is Halpin, a renowned multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist who plays gui­tar, mandolin, fid­dle and banjo. The pair has al­ways had mu­si­cal roots to­gether.

“I hired Luke to be my mandolin player when I had a four-piece blue­grass band in L.A. 11 years ago,” Bettman said. “Not long af­ter that, he pro­posed that we should prac­tice ev­ery day for three hours for one month, to see how good we could get. One month turned into three months, and the duo was born.”

The pair’s five CDs have re­ceived na­tional and in­ter­na­tional ra­dio play and reached the Top 10 and Top 5 on the Na­tional Folk DJ charts, and more record­ings are on the way.

“Our most re­cently fin­ished CD, ‘1000 Miles,’ will be re­leased in Fe­bru­ary 2019,” she said. “Af­ter that, we will re­turn to work­ing on our ‘Amer­i­can Song­book’ project as well as a dance CD project that ex­plores the more pop in­flu­ences we’ve been feel­ing lately, and the main goal with that CD is to get peo­ple to want to dance.”

Those projects con­tinue the duo’s mu­si­cal de­vel­op­ment.

“Our mu­sic has def­i­nitely evolved,” said Bettman. “I get bored eas­ily, and I get in­flu­enced by new dis­cov­er­ies. I would say we started out more blue­grass in­flu­enced, and now we are more pop in­flu­enced. But each song be­comes what it wants to be. We have a lot of sto­ries and story songs. We have some jazz­ier songs, too.”

Both artists write, but rarely to­gether.

“Luke likes to write by play­ing his gui­tar. I write by lis­ten­ing to the ideas in my mind, and the two are not com­pat­i­ble. But ev­ery now and then we do man­age to write a song to­gether,” Bettman said. “Cur­rently, Luke is the writer of the in­stru­men­tals. I write most of the songs, though not all. In any given show, Luke will do four or five of his own songs.”

Bettman noted that her ca­reer as an ac­tress helps her on-stage mu­si­cal per­sona.

“I was quite de­ter­mined to be an ac­tress,” she re­called. “I pur­sued it all the way to grad­u­ate school, where I stud­ied the plays of Shake­speare and other clas­sics. I worked a lot, ac­tu­ally, just not in any­thing lots of peo­ple would have seen. I loved it. Though in many ways it’s a harder path than even mu­sic. And I think it’s ac­tu­ally been a great foun­da­tion for the work I do now, the sto­ries I tell, my com­fort on­stage.”

As to the Voices Cafe con­cert: “We’ve heard such great things about the se­ries and the au­di­ences,” she said, “and we are look­ing for­ward to shar­ing our songs and sto­ries with West­port. We are new to Con­necti­cut au­di­ences, so I hope folks will come out and give us a try. I know they’ll like it.” Voices Cafe is lo­cated at The Uni­tar­ian Church in West­port, 10 Lyons Plains Road. Tick­ets are $25. Visit voic­escafe.org.

Mike Horyczun’s Sound Surf­ing col­umn ap­pears ev­ery Satur­day in The Hour. Mike can be reached at: news2mh@gmail.com.

Con­trib­uted photo

The folk-pop duo Bettman & Halpin, con­sist­ing of Stephanie Bettman and Luke Halpin, kick off Voices Cafe’s eighth sea­son of acous­tic con­certs on Satur­day at 8 p.m.

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