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Saturday, October 20 Entertainment

Sound Surfing / Bringing West Coast sounds to East Coast audiences

One of the benefits of having a robust live music scene in the area is being able to experience nationally recognized talent right in our own backyard. Take Bettman & Halpin, for instance.

The Colorado-based award-winning couple performs regularly in southern California and New Mexico and are now branching out into the East Coast. They were emerging artists at the 2016 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Hillsdale, N.Y, and were picked to return the following year — based on audience votes — as a most wanted artist.

This weekend, Stephanie Bettman and Luke Halpin will be following a career path they’ve been traveling on together for over a decade when they headline as Bettman & Halpin at Voices Cafe, kicking off the cafe’s eighth season at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13.

“We’re constantly pushing ourselves to be better — better than the last CD, better than the last performance,” Bettman said. “And we want to try to expand our following, too. As far as music goes, we are constantly curious about new recording techniques, new grooves, writing another song or instrumental that’s different from anything we’ve done before. I think one of the goals we have is to keep exploring — follow the fun.”

Bettman is an accomplished vocalist, fiddler and songwriter. She’s also a former actress, although music is her calling now. In 2007, she and her band at the time, the Los Angeles-based Stephanie Bettman & The Boys, were first-place winners in southern California’s Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest.

Bettman’s partner in music and in life is Halpin, a renowned multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, mandolin, fiddle and banjo. The pair has always had musical roots together.

“I hired Luke to be my mandolin player when I had a four-piece bluegrass band in L.A. 11 years ago,” Bettman said. “Not long after that, he proposed that we should practice every day for three hours for one month, to see how good we could get. One month turned into three months, and the duo was born.”

The pair’s five CDs have received national and international radio play and reached the Top 10 and Top 5 on the National Folk DJ charts, and more recordings are on the way.

“Our most recently finished CD, ‘1000 Miles,’ will be released in February 2019,” she said. “After that, we will return to working on our ‘American Songbook’ project as well as a dance CD project that explores the more pop influences we’ve been feeling lately, and the main goal with that CD is to get people to want to dance.”

Those projects continue the duo’s musical development.

“Our music has definitely evolved,” said Bettman. “I get bored easily, and I get influenced by new discoveries. I would say we started out more bluegrass influenced, and now we are more pop influenced. But each song becomes what it wants to be. We have a lot of stories and story songs. We have some jazzier songs, too.”

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Both artists write, but rarely together.

“Luke likes to write by playing his guitar. I write by listening to the ideas in my mind, and the two are not compatible. But every now and then we do manage to write a song together,” Bettman said. “Currently, Luke is the writer of the instrumentals. I write most of the songs, though not all. In any given show, Luke will do four or five of his own songs.”

Bettman noted that her career as an actress helps her on-stage musical persona.

“I was quite determined to be an actress,” she recalled. “I pursued it all the way to graduate school, where I studied the plays of Shakespeare and other classics. I worked a lot, actually, just not in anything lots of people would have seen. I loved it. Though in many ways it’s a harder path than even music. And I think it’s actually been a great foundation for the work I do now, the stories I tell, my comfort onstage.”

As to the Voices Cafe concert: “We’ve heard such great things about the series and the audiences,” she said, “and we are looking forward to sharing our songs and stories with Westport. We are new to Connecticut audiences, so I hope folks will come out and give us a try. I know they’ll like it.”

Voices Cafe is located at The Unitarian Church in Westport, 10 Lyons Plains Road. Tickets are $25. Visit voicescafe.org.

Mike Horyczun’s Sound Surfing column appears every Saturday in The Hour. Mike can be reached at: news2mh@gmail.com.

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