Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino will deliver a keynote at BIGSOUND this year. Here Lauren Baxter discovers how the singer-songwriter realised she "can still be creative and not be fucked up all the time".
“I am a creative, strong, outspoken woman, and my voice will not be silenced.” So wrote Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino in an essay penned for Lenny Letter back in 2016.
It was a moment she discovered her voice had power. “I mean, I've always been very straightforward and direct and I feel like from a very young age, I was always just making my opinions very known to anybody around me,” she laughs when The Music get her on the phone one sunny Californian afternoon.
But it was that essay about her experience of sexism in the music industry, and seeing the response it garnered – at a time before the #MeToo movement – that made the singer-songwriter realise, "Oh, I think people actually potentially care about what I have to say on these issues."
“You know, I think one of the things about myself that I really love, and that I'm really proud of, is the fact that I'm not afraid to speak my mind and never have been,” Cosentino says.
“Using my platform for good and to speak up for issues, I can, in the end, inspire people to do the same thing. So I'm very grateful that I have a platform which I can use, you know, to do good.”
Fast forward three years and Cosentino received an email from her team to say BIGSOUND was interested in sending her to the conference as a keynote speaker. She was quick to say yes: “I love Australia so much so I feel like anytime I have an opportunity to go, I'm always down.
“It's always cool to go do things that pertain to music and pertain to what I do, but also stuff that kind of takes me a little bit out of my comfort zone, just in terms of like, you know, I'm not coming to play music. I'm just coming to speak as an artist and as a woman, and I think that's really exciting."
As for what the talk might entail, Cosentino jokes she has no idea, although she has called herself on Instagram “a walking self-help book”. “I'm really excited to just come and talk. I've never done anything like this before and I'm really honoured that anybody like, appreciates, and values what I have to say enough to send me to another continent to talk.
“I've gone through a lot of changes recently. Since the last time I put out a record, I've grown and changed a lot as a person. I'm sure a lot of that will be reflected in what I have to say.”
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Potentially the most transformative of these changes was Cosentino’s journey to sobriety, November marking two years since she stopped drinking alcohol. She can't point to a specific moment when she knew something had to change, instead saying the entirety of her 20s was “very dark”.
“I didn't really ever have any real coping skills and I was a very anxious kid and my teen years were very, like, I was dealing with a lot of mental health stuff and just changes in life and I didn't know how to deal with it,” she begins. “So I think when the success of Best Coast happened, it just, it happened so fast. Before I knew it, it was like, people knew my name and knew my life and knew everything about me. And it was just so crazy that I just was like, ‘Oh, ok.’ Like, ‘I don't know how to deal with this.’
“When you're touring, the majority of the time you play in bars, and there's alcohol at your disposal constantly. It's not like anybody says, like, ‘Oh, sorry, we don't give you your rider until right before you go on stage.’ It's like, you show up to a venue at 10am, there's alcohol already backstage, and if it's not already there, they can make you a drink at the bar. ‘Pick whatever,’ you know. And so I think it was just like, it just became habit. And it just became a part of my daily routine.”
“The life of a touring musician is not normal and sometimes it's easier to just try to numb it and get rid of it than it is to face it head on,” she says. The thing about her sobriety that has been so “crazy” is facing demons she didn’t even know existed.
“You know, something would happen, where I'd be like, ‘Oh, I really should stop doing this.’ And then I wouldn't, and I just kind of hit a point where I was like, ‘I don't want to do this anymore. I don't want to wake up hungover anymore. I don't want to cry because I'm too drunk, and I don't want to yell at my friends.’ And I was just doing, like, dumb shit. And I think that sobriety has opened this door for me, in which I have just become so comfortable in my own skin.”
Not that she is preaching. Cosentino stresses that “everybody has to experience life the way in which was meant for them”, but she does profess she has never been happier.
“It's just something that I really, really, really want to hold on to, because I look at my life today and I look at my life a couple of years ago, and I'm just like, ‘Wow.’ If you had told me that I'd be feeling the way I feel now, I would have been like, ‘You're fucking crazy. That's not possible.’ I'm just so grateful that I figured it out for myself.”
Being sober has also affected Best Coast’s songwriting process, a clear head making her realise she “can still be creative and not be fucked up all the time”.
Currently in the mixing process, she says there's a sense of hope to Best Coast’s forthcoming LP, their first for adults since 2015’s California Nights (in 2018, they released an album for kids, Best Kids): “Without giving too much away so early on, it is just about the journey of a person out of a dark place and into a brighter place. I'm excited for people to hear that things can get better, because I sure as hell didn't really think that they could, but I'm living proof that they can.”
A fierce rescue animal advocate, we can’t help but take the opportunity to gush about Snacks and Josie, Cosentino’s adorable furry pals, and introduce her to our own rescue pup, Winston. “It's such a beautiful thing to be able to go and rescue this pet that's like scared in a cage,” she enthuses. “It's like, ‘I don't know what's happening. Who's my mum? Who’s my dad?’ and then you're like, ‘I am! Let's go and buy you a toy from the pet store.’”