Kim Betts – Livin’ the Legacy
When I saw Kim Betts and The Gamble Creek Band perform at Aces for the first time, I got chills at one point. Dickey Betts’ apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Kim definitely has all the qualities of a great female country music star. The looks. Personality. The voice. The stage presence. It was when they played one of Dickey’s songs that she showed a vulnerable side. While she is a highly trained professional performer – I don’t think it was ‘an act.’ Her eyes looked pretty full of tears at the end of singing this ballad.
Kim and I talked recently about her dad (Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers and Great Southern), her life as a performer, a mother, wife and a glimpse at her future dreams.
When did you know you wanted to be an actress or singer?
I’ve sang and danced and acted for as long as I can remember. When someone would say ‘sing a song,’ I’d be the first to jump up on a chair and sing. When I was a little older my friends and I would put on plays in the living room, then later we opened up the garage for the neighbors to witness our productions. We’d hand out flyers we made with crayons; Mom would hang a sheet from my jump rope…and people actually showed up!
Mom always sang around the house and encouraged me to sing.
What can you tell me about your dad? What’s he doing these days?
Dad and I reconnected when I was 22 and it was an instant friendship. I remember he and his wife coming to my performance of Singing in the Rain at the Manatee Players. He said, ‘Jeeze, Kimberly, you must be getting paid really well for all that work…’ His jaw dropped when I told him I did it for free.
He helped me put The Gamble Creek Band together; finding the right talent, teaching me what to do and look for in a group. I also went on the road with him when he was touring in the 90’s. It was fascinating to learn the music industry – before that I’d just been involved mostly in acting and singing. Dad got me up singing with Great Southern. Mom discouraged me from pursuing the music industry…guess you could say she had a bad taste in her mouth from it all.
Dad is retired today. And from a daughter’s perspective, that’s a great thing. Spending more time with family. And he’s golfing a lot. I can say that he is an amazing golfer and he’s pretty amazing at whatever he attempts. I’ve seen it with golf. Bow hunting. His music, of course. He’s very focused and driven. I get that from him.
What did you do before you started The Gamble Creek Band?
I worked in San Francisco as a commercial model and did some voice overs… I did a lot of stage acting and loved it. I was an actor first, then a vocalist and a dancer. I worked 10 years in California and enjoyed myself a lot. I always had a job. But I think in the arts you don’t do it for anything but the art. Everyone knows most of us don’t get rich doing it. But we can’t not do it. It’s part of your soul.
I took a lot of classes. Got a degree in musical theatre. Then I got married and had kids and followed my husband around in his job. I got a day job as a sales manager for the Hilton and did theatre at night.
How are you juggling motherhood and the bands?
It’s not easy, but just like any other working mom, you somehow make it work. I have an amazing husband. So very supportive. He does sound for us. And I’m lucky that when I have to leave at night, I at least am leaving for a job I love to do. But I do miss making dinner, helping with homework…
My son (Grant Tyler) is 16 and plays in my band. He can play anything with strings – from guitar to piano. Nicole is 11 and she dances. I can see her love for being in front of an audience. I think she’ll be an actor or singer. I’m teaching her harmony and breath stuff. When she gets old enough we’ll have her rockin’ and rollin.’
Aside from your parents, who were your influences as a singer?
I listened to the country singers my mom did. Dolly Parton. Patsy Cline. Lorretta Lynn. Tammy Wynette. It was so cool to see these women so successful in a man’s world. I really dug that. They were beautiful women and had voices of angels. I’ve tried to copy them…if I had to narrow it down to one, it’d be Patsy Cline.
My mom had a beautiful voice. She taught me harmony and even pitch recognition. We’d all sit around the Christmas tree or whatever and sing.
Then I had an instructor who was a very accomplished Broadway voice teacher and my professor at San Jose where I got my degree. She was my first professional influence. She took my voice and shaped it and taught me about technology, stage presence…she was amazing.
I also studied with a jazz singer instructor who had a whole different vibe and new approach. I love the purity of jazz, the smooth way they sauntered on stage…there’s an elegance to jazz.
I tell my students how important it is to study with two or three different types of vocal instructors – it’s good to learn multiple styles.
What else do you tell your students or anyone thinking about becoming a performer?
They must practice vocal exercises every day. You have to work those muscles. You have to work hard at your craft. And learn from others.
I think they need to start young. If a child is born with a musical gift don’t wait too long. Get them performing at every opportunity. Put them in the choir at church. Sing around the house. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but I can’t tell you how much I learned by singing in the Baptist Church choir.
What do you like most about your life as a singer?
I love the audience interaction. Live performance. That’s the thing that feeds my soul – seeing the people react… Sure, we’ve all had dull crowds. But I am a performer and an entertainer first. I pull together all my talents to win the crowd over. You read people. Read the audience. They might not want to dance, or they might want to sit and have dinner, so you switch things up. Or slow it down. You watch and read the room.
What are your future plans for The Gamble Creek Band and Sugarland Tribute?
I want to take Sugarland Tribute on the road nationally. This project involves a lot more than a cover band. We’re still in the studio recording tracks, shooting promo videos, putting together slide shows and commercials. I’d like to have this rolling by 2017. I have five agents interested.
It takes a lot of work keeping a working band together (Gamble Creek performs regularly) – I used to do all the marketing and booking. As far as working Gamble Creek and Sugarland, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Gamble Creek may play out without me if I’m traveling with Sugarland; then when I’m home I’ll pop in and join them.
Gample Creek has three lead singers. I’ve given some of my songs over to the other female vocalist. She has a very different sound than mine. It’s the ebb and flow of the whole band. If there’s one thing I learned from my dad – it’s how to produce a good show by pulling the talent all together.
Do you write?
There’s not a lot of time left over for that. Most musicians find they have to stop performing and go off somewhere to really focus on writing and producing. It’s a whole other thing. It’s introspective, creative…being a work horse like I am and so driven with the band, writing would detract.
But I did recently write and produce “Smile.” I was really inspired after doing a benefit for Shriner’s Children’s Hospital and that’s when I wrote and recorded my latest single. I do have a lot of songs…I just haven’t had the time to record them.
What do you do when your not entertaining?
Is there really a world other than entertaining out there? (she laughs) I don’t really like to go away for vacation. I’m a driver, full-speed-ahead kind of person. It’s hard to stop to take time off. But we did take a month to go to Blairsville, Ga. and it was invigorating – the beauty of those mountains. It is important to recharge your batteries. We actually bought some property up there recently and plan to build a home. It’s so important, too, to reconnect with family and friends.
I have so many things in my head I’d like to do. Write children’s stories. Take my stuff I’ve written and record an album. But…it’s one thing at a time.
Visit www.kimbetts.com for The Gamble Creek Band’s scheduled performances and more about Sugarland Tribute Band and Kim. Catch her while you can!
Kim will be performing at the “Giving Back” Charity Event on September 13 at the Swordfish Grill and Tiki, Cortez, FL.
Top photo by David Taylor, Headshot with guitar taken by Michelle-Bonds Slaughter, Shella Bella Photography, other photos supplied by Kim Betts