Premiere: Stillness & Surrender in Steven van Betten’s “Flame In Your Eye” ft. Johanna Samuels & Ted Taforo

Steven van Betten
A stunningly serene, intimate overhaul, Steven van Betten’s “Flame In Your Eye” ft. Johanna Samuels & Ted Taforo manifests surrender and acceptance with grace and spirited fortitude.
“Flame In Your Eye” – Steven van Betten ft. Johanna Samuels & Ted Taforo




Steven van Betten’s solo debut is something of a mirror – the apotheosis of a now-familiar frustration and anxiety brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a song of learned helplessness; of humility and self-awareness laced with an unceasing perseverance. A stunningly serene, intimate overhaul, “Flame In Your Eye” ft. Johanna Samuels & Ted Taforo manifests surrender and acceptance with grace and spirited fortitude. We so often think we are in control of our lives, but when we are confronted with irrefutable evidence that disputes this, we do what our species has always done best: We adapt to survive.

Flame In Your Eye - Steven van Betten ft. Johanna Samuels & Ted Taforo

Flame In Your Eye – Steven van Betten ft. Johanna Samuels & Ted Taforo

say your all in
I want heaven now
I know the why
All I need is your how
I searched my mind
and heart. I found no doubt
so say your all in
I want heaven now
sit across from the table
opposing forks and knives
catch a glimpse when I’m able
there’s a flame in your eye

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Flame In Your Eye,” the latest single from Los Angeles artist Steven van Betten (a member of groups including Fell Runner and Kidi Band). Teaming up with Johanna Samuels and saxophonist Ted Taforo, “Flame In Your Eye” proves a subtle and striking introduction to van Betten as an individual creative. The song arrives as the third installment of LA independent label Future Gods’ Future Unknown series, which was “started in the wake of the pandemic as an outlet for communal expression during worldwide shutdowns.” All proceeds from this series are going to Black Lives Matter LA.

Intimate, nuanced, and overwhelmingly delicate, “Flame In Your Eye” is a tender and poignant caress full of feeling and intent.

With its unassuming acoustic guitar patterns, soft vocals, and heartwarming saxophone work, the song embodies the long road we’ve all taken to accepting our inability to control our own narratives during this time. “‘Flame in Your Eye’ embodies the tension of wanting what is unavailable and the battle of resisting the inevitable surrender to the fact that reality doesn’t bend to your will,” van Betten tells Atwood Magazine. “A familiar fight, but one that I was having to face in full force with the onset of the quarantine as all plans, shows, and goals for the year suddenly started to evaporate over the course of a couple days.”

patience eats at
it’s victims from the inside out
like a virus
that’s spreading from mouth to mouth
I know the why
All I need is your how
say your all in
I want heaven now
sit across from the table
opposing forks and knives
catch a glimpse when I’m able
there’s a flame in your eye

“The core of this song (the vocal and guitar take) were recorded as a voice memo, written and recorded in a day during the first month of quarantine,” the artist explains. “Johanna, Ted, and I were linked up by Joshua Fisher at Future Gods to collaborate on a song. We chatted on the phone and decided that we’d start by sending each other chords to work with. Johanna sent me these chords “Part 1: Am Em C G F C — Part 2: D A G C”. I wrote and recorded the song later that day and then sent it back to Johanna for vocal harmonies and to Ted for the saxophone and woodwinds arrangement. It happened really quick. At first, I was feeling insecure and tentative about the take and prefaced sharing it by saying “It’s a rough voice memo, we will rerecord it once we get all the parts down.” But the more we listened, the more the ambient sounds in the background of this take — kitchen rattling, sneezing, cat meowing, and talking — ultimately became an inseparable part of the song’s vibe and story.”

He continues: “Songwriting is a very intimate process for me, an internal exploration usually done in solitude. An activity I would usually reserve for the early mornings or when I knew I had the house to myself, windows closed with no one listening. But quarantine put that process to the test. My fiancée, Ariana, and I were now both in the house and together pretty much all day and the moments of alone time I used to count on were no longer available. So I slowly started write songs very openly with her in the room, it was challenging and uncomfortable at first but ultimately very liberating in a lot of ways.”

“Flame in Your Eye” is nothing, if not the stirring result of a challenge successfully overcome – or at least, an obstacle for which one has found a working solution. van Betten’s introduction is heartfelt and vulnerable – he immerses listeners with a rush of gorgeous indie folk that envelops the senses, demanding our attention not through high-flying theatrics, but through a raw, unabating, and simple human touch. We can even hear some background audio of life in the process if we listen to the song close enough – a characteristic that speaks volumes of this unique moment in our collective history, reminding us that the artist, just like us, is at home waiting for the storm to clear and life as we once knew it to resume once again.

This song is special and immediate; it’s familiar, yet distant. It’s a song we wish we didn’t have to have in our lives, yet it all-too perfectly speaks to our days as we know them. Stream “Flame In Your Eye” exclusively on Atwood Magazine!

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:: stream/purchase “Flame In Your Eye” here ::
“Flame In Your Eye” – Steven van Betten ft. Johanna Samuels & Ted Taforo





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Flame In Your Eye - Steven van Betten ft. Johanna Samuels & Ted Taforo

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Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com