Eugene has long been a beacon for remarkably eccentric artists. Beetreena (Betty) Jaeger is one such artist and performer. Jaeger’s songs and shows have graced the stages of our town for more than a decade. And her two forthcoming albums, by way of two homegrown Eugene bands, are as eclectic and exceptional as the scene that nourishes her.
“Within the art community of Eugene, I’ve come into myself,” Jaeger says. “I view what I have been doing here as evolutionary growth. I’m meshing parts of myself as a performer with the parts of myself as a female vocalist.”
Jaeger is no stranger to the microphone and stage. Years ago, she was best known for coming onto the scene as lead singer for Betty and the Boy, which won the Eugene Weekly’s Next Big Thing Contest in 2011 on the strength of a song entitled “Moth to a Light.” The tune came from the band’s album Good Luck, a collection of songs nothing short of ghost music, as entrancing as it was melodic. From there, Betty and the Boy dropped two albums, then Jaeger went on to create the group Baroque Betty alongside upright bass player Jon Conlon, violinist Michelle Whitlock, and cellist Nancine McDonald.
“Baroque Betty is the evolved version of Betty and the Boy,” Jaeger says. “We play locally, very regularly, and we’re about to release our first album under the new band name.”
This new album, Sobering Up, promises to be as hauntingly present as most of Jaeger’s work, containing songs she wrote in secret and never anticipated showing anyone. “This is the heavy stuff,” she says. “A lot of it is based off of literature I was reading at a tumultuous time in my life.”
Jaeger humbly attributes a great majority of her artistic development to our arts- and outdoors-focused city, explaining that she continues to be pushed by the cross-pollination between artists and mediums.
It is perhaps no surprise, then, that it was her performance with burlesque troupes like Eugene’s Broadway Revue Burlesque and The Wax Poetry Revue that led her to another burgeoning, popular band known as High Step Society. With an EP set to drop the same month as the Baroque Betty debut album, High Step Society is an eccentric fusion of jazz and electro swing, with hints of dub step. Jaeger is the lead vocalist for this up-tempo group of musicians, which also includes Parkpoom Aempoo on trumpet; Ethan Rainwater on bass, synth, and keys; Anthony Meade on trombone; Alex Misar on sax; Phil Allen on drums; and Nara Reicher on DJ production.
“High Step is the funnest project I’ve ever been a part of,” Jaeger says. “It’s a big mishmash of musicians, most of them classically trained in jazz. It’s flashy and performative in a way that lets me experiment with collaboration, and I love that.”
Since Jaeger joined the group, High Step Society has won the Eugene Weekly 2019 Best of Eugene “Best Band” category, released a self-titled album, signed with Madison House, and released the visually opulent music video “Perception.” “Perception” is a kaleidoscopic, fantasy-oriented trip through the looking glass of Jaeger’s take on reality and discernment. The video was shot by Eugene-based production company Delene & Co. and designed by Heather Sparks of the Lookout Arts Quarry.
Though both Jaeger’s projects, Baroque Betty and High Step Society, are moving full-steam ahead, she remains excited about what the future may hold in various other platforms as well. “Eventually, I really want to get weird with performance art, using fabric and mirrors—things like that,” she says. “I have a love of the circus, multidimensional performance art, and weirdos. I love the weirdos. Sometimes when I’m performing, it feels like I’m living a thousand lifetimes in a single moment. If that’s not the closest thing to real magic, I’m not sure what is.”
Visit the High Step Society on their website.