Marisa Bettina and What Turns Her On
By Nancy Colasurdo

There is no affect with Marisa Bettina. No separation between the human being and the entertainer. The person and the music meld into one smoky, sultry, vulnerable, woke, feeling artist who is most at ease in the world when she’s singing.

Her voice is at once plaintive and expressive. To hear her is to be lulled. Close your eyes and be transported to an intimate music club asking yourself how you got so lucky. Get swept up. Escape. Feel your pain. Revel in knowing someone else gets it.

Everything this 24-year-old stands for comes through the music, emanating from smooth-to-raspy vocal chords and fingertips nimbly strumming guitar strings.

“One of my desires is to celebrate and enjoy the manifestations of my art,” Bettina says. “It comes from a divine source through me. I want to enjoy every note, strum. I want to enjoy how this beautiful music is coming through me. I want to root myself in the closest, most divine part of myself. I enjoy watching
that happen. It turns me on so much.”

This outpouring of joy is born in embracing who she is, achieved in part by shedding people around her who were important teachers but whose voices were starting to drown out her own.

“They tried to make me a pop star,” she says. “It’s not what I want to be. There’s nothing wrong with being a pop star, but I wouldn’t call myself one. I dropped everyone who tried to put me in their box and had their own agendas.”

After that confusing, turbulent time – one that included letting go of her mother as her manager — she emerged knowing she wanted to differentiate herself. She felt within her a movement, that there was something she stood for.

“I exploded into myself,” she says. “It was such a fabulous rupture. Rebelling and breaking out of the box people want to put you in. It’s such a turn-on. I live in my truth. That’s where your power comes from.”

There it is again. The reference to being turned on. That is Bettina’s flow, her force. She feels it. She’s smart enough to go with it. If it turns you on, you’re moving in the right direction.

“If the feeling is there, then that’s what you need,” Bettina says. “Then you’re singing from a place that’s real.”

This philosophy – or way of being? — has been nicely shepherded along by a new voice teacher. Staying true to her instincts has helped Bettina find herself again, an invaluable moment for anyone, but especially significant for an artist. And perhaps, particularly challenging for a female one who grew up in a traditional Italian-American household.

“For my First Communion I wanted to wear a powder blue tuxedo,” Bettina says. “The men in my family told jokes and had fun; the women cleaned and cooked. I don’t want to just be there for someone else’s enjoyment. Luckily the music was always the voice of reason. When I was hiding in my room, in my guitar, I was pouring out frustrations, pain, and anger, relatable to women of all ages.”

That translates now into what she calls a total embrace of all of her emotions. Growing up she felt like she had a front seat view to women who were not encouraged to be anything and everything they desire.

“If I want to be sensual or angry, the world needs to see that,” Bettina says. “There’s so much watered down, masked emotion, people covering who they are. Not just women, but men boxed in and stereotyped as well. They’re not showing their real faces.”

So when she asks herself questions — Like, what is it that you have to say? Or, what does my music mean for me? – it always comes back to that thirst for authenticity. Not a sanitized version, though. Never a sanitized version.

“I like meditating,” she says. “But I like taking tequila shots, too.”

Imagine this awakened bad-ass woman listening to Ed Sheeran sing Dive one day. “Don’t call me baby, unless you mean it,” he implores. It hit her hard. She could hear her boyfriend’s voice in that song, the man’s voice.

“I honor it,” she says.

She did so not just by listening, but by crafting a response from the woman’s point of view. It is Marisa Bettina’s version of Dive, haunting in its answer to Sheeran’s vulnerability — “I won’t call you baaabyyy … unless I mean it.” It engulfs the listener, embodying all that is Bettina.

“I took it so personally,” she says. “I wanted it to be, ‘This is where I’m at, mother fucker.’ I think it was brave of Ed Sheeran to write that.”

Another tune she wrote and one she performed as part of her set at The Bitter End in New York’s West Village is Queen of Swords. The song shows her sense of humor after hardship in the form of her deep betrayal by two family members. Its title is taken from the tarot card of that name.

“I’m a queen, I don’t need to be messing with the jester or the jack,” she says with the hint of a smile.

The queen, as it were, unabashedly sees herself in another powerful feminine form.

“I love men,” she says. “I want men to be part of the feminist movement. I want to be inclusive. Now is the time to include men in the conversation. When a woman hears my music, I want her to feel good about herself. And I want men to revere me as a goddess. I want them to have room to be men.”

That is part of her desire for the world. Her swelling humanitarian heart also holds space for wanting to help those who struggle or who are in pain to find light in their lives. For Marisa Bettina the activist and vegetarian, there is a keen desire for an abundance of wealth to help the planet – people, animals, the
environment.

“I really respect celebrities who do this,” she says.

Years ago while browsing in a jewelry store a woman asked her why she likes to hide. What was hard to hear in the moment makes her feel grateful now. It encouraged her to shine.

“Music is the life force that connects all beings,” she says. “My super power happens to be music, but it’s not limited to that. It’s my outlet … forever more.”