When Nelson singer Sofiella Watt first moved to Canada from Australia, she spent some time housekeeping at the New Grand Hotel. As winter set in she found herself feeling lethargic and depressed, struggling to adapt to the cold weather. One day while she was stripping beds, her co-worker shared a story of her worst Canadian winter to put things in perspective.
“This is a true Kootenay story, set just outside Nelson,” Watt told the Star, in sharing the inspiration behind her recently released song Junkyard Bettie.
“She was living on the edge of a junkyard. Her boyfriend had left her and gone to Ontario, and then her cat went missing. She put up posters but it rained and tore all the posters down. She got bitten by the junkyard dog. It was one of those quintessential blues song scenarios where everything goes wrong.”
Watt was floored by the story.
“I said ‘that’s terrible, but such an amazing story’. I asked her if I could write a song about that, because I could never make up something that good,” she said.
Pretty soon she was scribbling down lyrics on scrap paper while she worked.
“Most of this song was written while I was changing beds and washing toilets,” she said.
Watt eventually teamed up with Jonathan “DJ Who” Robinson to film a music video for the tune. Along with her partner Jim “Huckleberry” Maher and the rest of the band, they set out to find local locations that would fit their aesthetic. They eventually found both a barn and a junkyard that were willing to host them.
“The junkyard we ended up shooting in was owned by this amazing man, he was so sweet to us and happy to have us film. He was appreciative of the fact someone came in and looked at all his stuff, this amazing eclectic collection of things,” she said.
“We loved the quirky beauty of the place.”
The video stars local actress Lauren Harraman in the role of Junkyard Bettie. And though she spends much of the video looking despondent and hopeless, by the end of the song she’s partying with her friends.
“When we were filming the barn scene at the end of October we realized it’s easier to make your friends actually have a whole lot of fun than ask them to pretend to have fun. So we put on a party, and it was one of the best shows. People are still talking about it,” said Watt.
Watt said the video wouldn’t have been possible without a significant amount of support from the community, including the bus driver who transported their friends to location. They hired him after serendipitously seeing him drive by during their location scouting.
“We went to get groceries and it was parked in the parking lot. I said ‘I’ll park next to it’ and the driver just happened to be inside. We said ‘what would you think about driving some people to a barn in Blewett for a music video?’ And he was like `sure!’” she said.
Watt compared their sound to that of the Be Good Tanyas, and said they’re preparing to play some festivals next year.
“I come from more a jazz and blues background, so I bring that side. Then Jimmy’s a gypsy-lover. He brings that gypsy swagger,” she said, noting their music combines gypsy and hillbilly aesthetics.
A lot of that comes from the prominence of her banjo.
“Everyone’s getting excited about the banjo now,” she said. “As soon as you pick up a banjo and start playing it, your whole vibe changes it. It’s such a unique sound. It just sounds hillbilly and you roll with that.”
For more information, visit Sofiella Watt on Facebook.