Thursday, July 29, 2010

NPR's Frannie Kelley Gives GLG Insight to Women in Music, Including Gwyneth Moreland and Sara Radle

In March, NPR Music started a "project" called Hey Ladies Being a Woman Musician Today, that began from a conversation surrounding booking a showcase at SXSW. This idea blossomed into a beautifully massive and uplifting online database of female musicians. NPR Music now has this incredible collection of information for journalists, and fans of all types of music, that we can all benefit from.

GLG's Gwyneth Moreland of Gwyneth & Monko and Sara Radle were just two one of about 700 women, including Grace Potter, Exene Cervenka (of X) and Patty Larkin who responded positively and honestly to Hey Ladies.

NPR's Frannie Kelley talked to GLG about how the idea for this substantial adventure came to their attention. "As we were booking for the events NPR Music produced at SX this past year, which we do as a group," said Kelley, "all of us kept questioning the diversity of our lineups and looking to book more bands that employ women."

Kelley initially sent out seven questions to hundreds of female musicians. "We honestly had no idea what we would get when we started," said Kelley. "We tried to write the questions to be as open as possible, to leave room for the musicians to tell stories about whatever their most pressing concerns and biggest triumphs were." NPR asked ladies (such as Gwyneth & Monko's Gwyneth Moreland) a variety of queries ranging from "Describe your gear," "What type of music do you play?" and the hefty, "Do you think being a woman and a musician is different from being a man and a musician? If so, how? Was there a moment that made a difference clear to you?" That was the question that really got to how these women felt, and even though they all play different kinds of music, many had the same difficult feelings to admit.

Moreland responded proudly to the questionnaire: "It is a tricky subject, because I am cautious not to sound as though I am complaining....Even though there are so many professional female musicians, it is still such a male dominated industry. I feel as though sometimes it is more of a challenge for me to gain respect for my craft, than some other male musicians I know. It also seems like some folks find it easier to approach me after a show, as opposed to male band mates, to give me 'advice' or 'constructive criticism.' I have even been told by a fan that he would have really enjoyed the show better if I had danced a little. I told him 'I am a musician, not a dancer.' My male band mates got a real kick out of this! I also feel that I get a lot of positive attention because I am a woman...some of which I enjoy, and some of which is a little overwhelming."

From one genre to another, from different cities, instruments and backgrounds, NPR found a few overall conclusions that a great deal of the participating women voiced, very similar to how Moreland feels, "...The musicians say they feel pressure to outperform men just to be accepted as equals...," said Kelley. "But one of the most interesting was the power that seeing a woman perform on stage for the first time has on influencing musicians to start playing... Again and again, women said they didn't think they couldn't be a musician before they saw a woman play – they just didn't consider the possibility until then. I think that moment is so simple but transformative."

Hey Ladies also asked the women "Do you see differences between generations of women musicians?" Radle, had an inspiring answer to the changing eras of music. "The main thing I think about is the fact that women starting out today won't have to deal with as many struggles to be taken as seriously as their male counterparts," she said. "That's an awesome thing to realize."

NPR Music now has an amazing catalog of information on female musicians that can work as a database or encyclopedia for any fan or journalist to find out more about a specific singer or drummer, and how it can be discouraging, yet more so, how empowering it can be as a woman in music. "I was most surprised," offers Kelley, "and touched by how much thought and time the musicians gave to the form." And we are all thankful for that.


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