Mary Beth Patterson, more famously known as Beth Ditto, recently headed to Chicago as an opener for a massive Sam Smith show.
The out and proud singer came from the indie rock band Gossip, but currently performs as a solo act. Ditto's record, Fake Sugar, is a cross between country rock and pop, and reflects her Arkansas roots.
Projects have included creating a MAC Cosmetics collection, modeling for a Jean Paul Gaultier fashion show and co-writing her memoir Coal to Diamonds.
Critics are taking notice of her performance in the new Amazon Studios film Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot. It's the biographical story of cartoonist John Callahan who is paralyzed in a drunk driving accident. One of the members of Callahan's support group is Reba played by Ditto.
Windy City Times: I just have to tell you that I'm from Tennessee, gay and Southern Baptist.
Beth Ditto: My best friend is from Arkansas, gay and Southern Baptist. So am I! His name is Jerry Lynn. What's your middle name?
WCT: Don. How did you get your stage name?
BD: Well, Jerry Don, the thing is it's not a stage name. People have thought that it was since I started the band.
My mom married a man named Homer Ditto in the '70s. She had my two brothers and my sister, but eventually divorced him and found my biological dad. I was raised as a Ditto my whole life even though my name wasn't Ditto. I didn't know it was Patterson until I had to get a job. We were poor people and my parents wanted to get me legally adopted, but could never afford it. They changed my name on all my records so I enrolled in school as Ditto. That's how I became a Ditto.
WCT: How did you join Sam Smith for The Thrill of It All Tour?
BD: He reached out to me on Instagram and we exchanged numbers so we would talk about things. I switched booking agencies and he was with the same one so that is how it happened. I am failing up!
WCT: I saw you perform at Lincoln Hall recently. How do you switch gears to play at such a big venue like the United Center?
BD: When Gossip's Music for Men came out we were playing in stadiums in Europe. We opened for the Scissor Sisters and they were playing arenas in the UK, so I'm ready for it.
We did it all. Gossip was really cool in the way that we got to do everything from playing punk squats to Lincoln Hall. We played festivals like Glastonbury and we would see a sea of people.
That was the great thing that we would come back to America and do these small tours. That's why we didn't tour in America for so long because we got great work in Europe. We got to live both lives. We came home and were nobodies then went to Paris and were glamorous.
WCT: You are touring with Florence and the Machine after Sam. Are you excited?
BD: I am very excited. We met a long time ago at a festival and she was younger than me.
She is one of the best. There are so many pop stars out right now. That is what I like about Britain over America because it is actual singers. I am talking about rock and roll.
Florence is one of the last Stevie Nicks of our generation. I feel like we haven't had that in so long.
I want to see what everybody's fans are like. It has been really cool to watch ours get older. When we started in our twenties everyone was around that age, now we see fans in their forties.
WCT: What was it like making a song with Blondie?
BD: I love Chris Steins and Debbie Harry so much. Chris takes really good pictures on Instagram. I have known them for awhile but we hadn't done anything together.
I was never in New York and they were never on the West Coast so we had to do it remotely. We didn't get to be in the studio together. To be honest I am glad about that because I would have been too shy.
WCT: Is it hard being married when you are on the road?
BD: Well, Jerry Don, I am getting a divorce. I am dating a new person and it is fantastic. He is in the band and the nicest trans boy. I have never been happier in my life. It has been a whirlwind year.
WCT: Do you like to be referred to as a lesbian or queer?
BD: I don't care. Either one is fine with me!
WCT: What did you think of Jonah Hill playing gay in your movie Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot?
BD: I thought he did a really good job. There were times I would watch him and forget it was someone acting. I think it was helpful that we he was directed by Gus Van Sant. What did you think?
WCT: You were my favorite.
BD: That's sweet, but I think that's because you are from the South. It was funny when they asked me if I could play that part and I said, "With my eyes closed! I know this lady. She is my Aunt Linda Gayle."
I told them exactly what she would do in a situation, because I knew her. My favorite part of the whole experience was being in hair and makeup.
WCT: Are you doing anymore fashion coming up?
BD: Not if I can help it, just music. I am going to write another record in the fall. All these tours keep happening like Sam Smith and Florence. Looks like I will keep working. We were supposed to go to Hawaii in August but that is not going to happen. Work is better!
Visit www.bethditto.com/ .