Beth Ditto On Acting In ‘Monarch,’ Going Solo & Reuniting With Gossip


During lockdown, Beth Ditto this is About to make a full 180 degree axis. She has devoted her entire life to music, dropping out of college to hit the sidewalk as the first lady of the indie rock band Gossip. She had never held another job, outside of her tenure in a fast food service – it was hardly one of the most prominent. So when live shows stopped indefinitely, I was left scrambling. “I was really, really about to [starting] Nursery,” says Bustle. “I was like, OK, I can do child development, and I can take those lessons online. I really enjoy children. I feel at my best with the kids. This is something I can do.”

Fortunately for Ditto fans – and perhaps unlucky for some local toddlers – she was chosen monarch, a Fox drama led by Susan Sarandon about a country music dynasty, before it admits defeat. But it’s hard to overstate how desperate I felt when considering any other career path: In many ways, music is all you know. Her parents were music lovers (my mom’s taste skewed towards Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, while my dad preferred Patsy Cline and Bee Gees), and Ditto and her siblings followed suit. Even though she lives in a small town in Arkansas where MTV was eventually banned because she wasn’t “divine enough”—albeit not before Ditto could make her mark on Madonna and Cyndi Lauper—her family was bohemian. When her father ran The Voice at shows, she would accompany her; Her older brother dropped out of school to play drums in a band when he was a teenager, and she would go with him to parties. “My brother, when he was 15, 16, used to play with people like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, doing the casino circuit,” she recalls. “Isn’t that crazy?”

Years later, Ditto has brought the same rebellious spirit to her voice. Gossip formed the band with her childhood friend Nathan “Brace Paine” Howdeshell, and released their first few albums to critical acclaim. “We grew up together,” she says. “We have our own musical language that comes so easily to us together, you know, whether it’s good or bad — that’s another thing entirely.” Recently, Ditto has been making his way as a solo artist. She’s released a few albums, worked her modeling career (she was a staple of the Marc Jacobs fashion show), and dipped her toe into television (before monarchShe had a recurring role in the popular Kirsten Dunst series, On becoming a god in Central Florida). “I’ve always compared gossip to being in a relationship with someone for too long…and then one day you’re 38 and you’re like, ‘I need to know if I can do this.'” I need to know if I can do this on my own. I want to know that I can be independent.”

Turns out she was more than able to carve out her own path — though in 2021, Ditto found herself writing songs with Howdeshell again. She asked him to come help her record another single, and soon the arrangement became something more. “I was like, ‘Does this have to be a gossip record? And he was like, ‘If you want to.’ She did. And she wanted to go on stage again. Daycare be damned.

Below, Ditto talks about her upcoming gossip record, what she learned from going it alone, and the benefits of Reba McEntire.

On going solo and learning the ins and outs of the movie:

How did your creative process develop when you moved on your own in 2017?

The craziest part about doing something on your own – if you’re just a singer like me and the only thing you can do is write tunes and sing – is that you’re at the mercy of everything else. You have to be open and you have to be a good listener or you can’t [do it] …so the cool thing about it is to prove to myself that I can do it.

How did it feel when you teamed up again with Nathan, returning to such a familiar place at an unfamiliar time?

It felt simple, like, “Oh, yeah, that’s so easy.” So it was really refreshing in a way. It was nice to remind myself that these connections are really important and don’t come all the time.

What was going on in your life when you started making this new album?

We wrote the log before Roe flipped, which is really interesting. A lot of the history was written before all of this really horrific and important stuff happened…Mostly it was the COVID record. We were [staying] In Hawaii, happily for us, and then in the meantime in Portland where I live – the reputation that Portland had, the way Donald Trump was talking about Portland was driving me crazy. I’d tell people, “Oh, I live in Portland, Oregon,” and they’d be like, “Oh my God.” And you’ll say, “Yeah, the city isn’t on fire. What are you talking about?” I was really proud that this city was on the streets and didn’t give up, you know, especially during the pandemic. A lot of things were at stake and Portland doesn’t take this lying around. And I was very proud of that. So there is some of that on the record.

You did a great job acting. How was this experience for you? Have you learned to flex new creative muscles?

First of all, I don’t feel like an actor. I think that keeps it real. Let’s make it real, guys. Let’s not get too excited. Creatively speaking, it was really interesting because most of the characters I played were Southern women with a bit of an awkwardness or something. And that’s something I can definitely be, like, “Well, I know this woman. I grew up with this woman.” But as if I feel like more than anything else, they were really technical things that I had to learn.

Like, I remember Anna Friel, who shares monarchShe was like, ‘Well, they said something about Mr. [shot]“…I was like, ‘I swear to God, in my mother’s life, I have no idea what [you’re] Talking about…we were supposed to match the first shot the whole time?! “

At Loving Crafting & Reba McEntire:

What is the go-to karaoke song?

The song “The X Factor” by Lorne Hill is one I’d love to sing. But “Fancy” is number one – “Fancy” by Reba McEntire.

Who is your current music idol?

I was trying to listen to a lot of punk just to get my head out of a public space… so I’m going to say The Splits.

Was there ever a moment when you felt like you made it a musician?

Oh yes. The ability to quit my job and pay the rent. Kill Rock Stars is the name we were then, [they] He gave us all $300 a month and then that could compliment whatever we were making on the road. So I was able to quit my job and actually pay my rent. This was like, “I did it.”

Was there ever a moment when you thought about giving up music? If so, what made you go through it?

Yes, of course. I feel like there was a time when I was under a lot of pressure to go on tour a lot. And basically, it made me feel like I couldn’t be on Earth. I can’t be in touch with the things I love. I’m a real homebody and I love being in my own home. I want to be in my house like, to me, I never thought I’d have a home, so when I was home and in my element, I was like, “Oh my God, my home.” Like, “I can’t believe it.” It’s funny because the music is what made me feel at home, but I was definitely like, “I can’t keep living out of the bag.”

I have seen your character account, Tweet embed. What did drafting teach you?

I loved those things as a little girl. I loved it – embroidery, crochet, just learning to knit, needle punch, anything. I love sewing for my nieces.

Some of my favorite moments with my mom – I was really obsessed with the ’60s. And when you were a kid, you couldn’t buy push pedals. Like, I wanted to wear a puffy and an oversized T-shirt and capri pants. So my mom and I made a pattern and made my own pants. I like to be resourceful and be like, “Okay, I can’t find her. Well, I’ll do that.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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