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Bette Smith On World Cafe

Bette Smith grew up in a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn: Bedford–Stuyvesant, pre-Mayor Giuliani. Her father was a church choir director who once had to protect his kids by running out of the house waving a two-by-four. He taught Bette to sing. He also taught her that a career in music outside the church was wrong, and it wasn't until after he died that Bette really pursued music. She'll tell the story of coming to that decision, and what she imagines her late parents might think of what's she's doing now.

Once Bette decided to go for it, she really went for it, taking every opportunity she could to sing. Bette eventually got hooked up with Jimbo Mathus from the wacky big band Squirrel Nut Zippers. Jimbo was interested in producing Bette's music, but wanted to shake her out of her element in New York City. So Jimbo invited Bette down to Mississippi and together, they recorded Bette's debut album, Jetlagger.

Bette waited a long time to really pursue music, and she's doing it big. Her dreams are big. Her personality is big. And her band is big. Bette rolled into out studio with a seven-piece group, including a full horn section. Hear them wail on this live performance of songs from Jetlagger. Listen in the player above.

Copyright 2021 XPN. To see more, visit XPN.

Talia Schlanger hosts World Cafe, which is distributed by NPR and produced by WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania. She got her start in broadcasting at the CBC, Canada's national public broadcaster. She hosted CBC Radio 2 Weekend Mornings on radio and was the on-camera host for two seasons of the television series CBC Music: Backstage, as well as several prime-time music TV specials for CBC, including the Quietest Concert Ever: On Fundy's Ocean Floor. Schlanger also guest hosted various flagship shows on CBC Radio One, including As It Happens, Day 6 and Because News. Schlanger also won a Canadian Screen Award as a producer for CBC Music Presents: The Beetle Roadtrip Sessions, a cross-country rock 'n' roll road trip.