How Are These Newcomers Navigating A Post-Time’s Up Music Industry?

How Are These Newcomers Navigating

A Post-Time’s Up Music Industry?

Whatever the industry, women face specific challenges when it comes to rising up in the ranks. That is certainly true in the music industry where women face much greater criticism than their male counterparts in terms of both their music and – ridiculously – their appearance as well. Every musician’s path is different, of course, and yet there are striking similarities as well. It’s fascinating to see just where those differences and similarities lie and how they have impacted the musical careers of women from solo artists to front people to duos. Here are six women on how they came to music and what other women can learn from their pursuits.

Ty Greenstein and Ingrid Elizabeth of Mouths of Babes

Mouths of Babes is comprised of Ty Greenstein and Ingrid Elizabeth. Greenstein was born in Philadelphia and grew up in West Windsor, NJ. Ingrid grew up in a small town in rural southeastern Ohio called Cambridge. Now, the married couple both reside in the Bay Area of California. Ty attended Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, NY to study fiction writing and music, while Ingrid did a couple years at Ohio State University before being seduced by the West Coast lifestyle. Here are both women on their musical journey.

Mouths of Babes. Photo Courtesy of Out Magazine
1. From where did your interest in music arise?

Ty: My dad is an upright bass player and played in various bluegrass bands when I was growing up. He introduced me to 60’s folk harmony groups like The Everly Brothers and Simon & Garfunkel, and I became fascinated with songwriting, especially poetic lyrics, and intricate harmony singing.

Ingrid:  Two major events happened the year I was born that forever shaped who I am today: 1) MTV was launched, and 2) the Broadway musical play Dreamgirls, which was written by my great-uncle Tom Eyen, debuted on Broadway. My entire family knows every word to every song in that play, and I was raised on the original cast soundtrack. I looked up to larger-than-life vocal divas like Jennifer Holliday (Effie), Aretha Franklin, and the soul-infused grooves of Motown music with the added flair and bravado of Broadway show tunes.  The rest of my young life was spent worshipping MTV, the way it married visual artistry and the popular songs of that era.

2. Where did you get your musical start?

Ty: I was a founding member of a folk-harmony trio called Girlyman, which I formed in my twenties with a couple of my friends from school. We had a really successful twelve-year career, releasing six albums, touring extensively nationally and internationally, and opening for acts like the Indigo Girls and Dar Williams. We had a blast. When that group disbanded (of natural causes) in 2012, I released a solo album, and then the next year Ingrid and I formed Mouths of Babes.

Ingrid: I grew up singing in choirs and performing in musical theater. But I kept hanging around and falling in love with musicians, which led me to being interested in jamming with them beyond just singing. I am a completely self-taught instrumentalist (upright bass, ukulele, percussion, harmonica). In fact, I didn’t play any musical instruments until I was an adult (aside from a short stint in the middle-school band’s trombone section). I started with bluegrass and worked my way into the folk singer-songwriter scene when I formed the acoustic roots duo Coyote Grace with Joe Stevens. Coyote Grace went on tour with Ty’s previous band, Girlyman, and well…the rest is history.

3. Do you believe music is vital to people’s lives?

Ty: My band Girlyman’s first album was called “Remember Who I Am,” and I think that’s really what music, at its best, does – it helps us remember who we are and what matters to us. There’s something about the combination of a beautiful melody with visual or metaphorical language that can improve and even transform people’s lives.

Ingrid: Absolutely. It is complete mental (and spiritual) health preservation for me personally. Being exposed to a certain song or album at a specific moment in time has saved my life, many times over. I can’t live without listening to music. And to hear from fans that our music has helped them through challenging times or brought them immense joy or was the soundtrack to falling in love…nothing could be a greater honor. It truly keeps us doing what we do, even when it isn’t glamorous or easy.

4. What are your hopes for your career in music moving forward?

Ty: I always hope to move as many people as possible. Just hearing the right song at the right moment can change a life, make a person reevaluate a choice or wake up to the beauty or possibility that’s right in front of them. I’ve seen it happen thousands of times and it’s the best thing I could hope to do in service to other human beings. However that lands in terms of “career growth” is kind of secondary.

5. What message would you want to share with those looking to understand what it is to be a woman in the music industry?

Ty: Just know it is harder for women, and it’s exponentially harder if you’re not white, straight, cisgender, or if you have a disability. But also, women are incredibly powerful and efficient, and we can make anything happen, especially when we work together and refuse to exclude or marginalize anyone else in order to get ahead. Even after 15 years as a professional musician, I still have to defend my knowledge and my authority at every turn. But you just do it. And when women are committed to helping other women – watch out.

There’s no right or wrong way to be a woman or a female musician, and there’s no limit to what you can do. Yes, you can play that guitar solo yourself. Yes, you can produce your album yourself. If someone had told me that at a young age, it would probably have changed my life. But I’m learning it now, so it’s OK!

6. Have you had the opportunity to use your music or your musical career in an effort help others?

Ty: We’ve had some amazing opportunities to serve people in gratifying and often spontaneous ways. For example, a couple years ago a friend was caretaking for a loved one who was going through the end stages of terminal cancer. She asked if there was any way we could come play a house concert, but I think what she really wanted was for us to just play some songs for her grieving community and help them forget their pain for a night. We were able to make the drive and show up and play songs for this tight community, and it turned into a group singalong. It was amazing to watch their faces relax and to see people laugh and just let go into the music. Even years later my friend says her whole community still talks about that night. We try to always watch for opportunities like these, when just showing up and doing what we do naturally can make such a difference in people’s lives.

7. What is the one piece of advice you would give to women in terms of making their dreams a reality?

Ingrid: My advice to women and girls in the music industry would be: Be loud. Make noise. Bang on drums, wail on electric guitars, shake tambourines, and sing loudly in the shower, in the car, as often as you can. Don’t be afraid to take up space with your sound. And write down all your thoughts and ideas, no matter how silly or small they may feel. It’s the best way to tell YOUR story someday. And all of our stories are so, so important.

Be stubborn. Take risks. Dream big and constantly. Talk to friends about those dreams and network. And try to unlearn 95 percent of what society has told you about what it means to “be a woman” or what is a “woman’s place” in this world. There are so many amazing role models really stepping into the light right now. It’s a very exciting time in our country right now to really reclaim the voice and the power that has been denied to women for so long. anything is possible.

Haley & Michaels. Photo Courtesy of Rolling Stone/Jon-Paul Bruno

Shannon Haley of Haley & Michaels

Shannon Haley and Ryan Michaels are both from Northern California. They met in Nashville and then found out they grew up just three miles apart from one another. Shannon is from Los Altos, CA  and went to UCLA, while Ryan is from Palo Alto, CA and attended Belmont University in Nashville. Here is Shannon on the musical life.

1. From where did your interest in music arise?

Haley: Music has always been my biggest passion for as long as I can remember. I started performing in kindergarten at my school plays and have never stopped! My passion for songwriting started when I was in third grade and I always had the dream of moving to Nashville to pursue songwriting.

2. Where did you get your musical start?

Haley: I just dove into it and did whatever I could to get started. I began by finding a band on craigslist and performing at clubs in Los Angeles when I was at UCLA, then released some of my own songs on MySpace (if you can remember what that is haha), and I got connected with some awesome people in Nashville through that, and eventually moved.

3. Can you please describe your path from your start to where you are now with your music?

Haley: I started performing and writing songs in elementary school, and in high school, I was in a choir that had about 100 performances a year and traveled around the world (yes, choir girl here). I ended up attending UCLA as a vocal performance major. While I loved that major, I knew my true passion was songwriting and country/pop music. While I was in college I sang wherever I could in Los Angeles, met with whoever would teach me about the business, and collaborated with all kinds of people and eventually moved to Nashville right out of college.

4. Do you believe music is vital to people’s lives?

Absolutely. For us, it certainly has been. We believe music is a universal language that unites all people and that is the most powerful healer there is.

5. What are your hopes for your career in music moving forward?

We feel so fortunate to get to do what we love most for a living, and we are always pushing ourselves and giving everything we have to it. We are really looking forward to releasing our new album. Our biggest goal has always been to be able to uplift through our music. The goal is always to play stadiums one day. But also we love to enjoy anywhere we get to play even if it’s just for our cats…and love any time we get to meet and connect with people.

6. Have you had the opportunity to use your music or your musical career in an effort help others?

We have had that opportunity and it has been the most rewarding part of our journey so far. We wrote a song called “Me Too” in response to the #MeToo Movement and we had the honor of collaborating with the incredible Me Too Movement founder, Tarana Burke. It has been so powerful to hear from so many people who were affected by this song, and to receive messages from people who have said that the song has made them feel like they were not alone, or that it has given them a sense of healing. We are giving 100% of our proceeds to the Me Too Movement, and we hope that in doing so we are able to play a small role in helping to spread this message so that survivors around the world can have help moving forward in their healing journey.

7. What is the one piece of advice you would give to women in terms of making their dreams a reality?

Respect yourself most always. More than you respect anyone else in this business. You deserve to be taken seriously, so take yourself seriously. Nothing replaces hard work and it is the best defense/response to any challenge that comes your way. And always…be persistent.

Claire Gohst of Paper Citizen. Photo Courtesy of Bandcamp

Claire Gohst of Paper Citizen

Claire Gohst, the front person for the band Paper Citizen hails from Singapore and attended an all-girls Christian school for ten years. After secondary school, she attended a local polytechnic for a couple of years before dropping out to pursue music full-time. In 2012, she auditioned for Berklee College of Music in Boston and made a move to the United States in 2013. Here’s Gohst on her musical journey.

1. From where did your interest in music arise?

From a young age, I always enjoyed music at church, singing and playing instruments. Music is an integral part of the Christian faith, so my family had a lot of appreciation for it. My parents sent me for classical piano lessons at a Methodist-run music school and particularly enjoyed the classical pieces with the pretty melodies. For the longest time, the only music I knew was church music and classical music. As a teenager, I listened to music in the middle of the night, with a little battery-operated radio that my father gave to me. It was the first time I listened to secular music. From then on I was addicted, I knew all the popular songs by heart.

2. Where did you get your musical start?

I got my musical start from piano lessons as a child. It was only when my brother started playing the violin that I begged my parents to let me learn the instrument too – he made it look so cool. They said no at first, but eventually gave in. I sang alto in the primary school choir and also joined a small string ensemble. Those were the early beginnings of me playing music.

3. Can you please describe for your path from your start to where you are now with your music?

I started out learning classical piano and violin in Singapore. Up until I left home, I had only played in orchestras, small ensembles, and quartets. When I began pursuing music as a career, I played violin in an acoustic duo, singing folk covers of popular songs. I played in bars and clubs all around the island. As time went by I started playing electric violin too, joining a couple of rock bands locally, playing different repertoire from blues rock to mando-rock (mandarin rock!).

I soon came to the realization that live music was all I knew, and I began to pursue and interest in music production. This was when I decided I wanted to audition and apply to Berklee College of Music. Since then, I have been writing more songs, recording music, performing around Massachusetts and teaching others how to play music. I’ve been re-discovering what made me fall in love with music in the first place, and listening to old music with new ears. I’ve spent most of my time putting together a new album for this summer and trying to connect the dots on how I can use music to help others.

4. Do you believe music is vital to people’s lives?

Yes, I absolutely do. It’s definitely changed mine. It’s no coincidence that every society has developed music; it’s a fundamental part of who we are as humans. We make profound memories with music and can express our emotion in a way where words alone cannot. People can find solace in listening to music and enrich their lives learning about it. It is a very communal thing, it’s hard to make good music alone, and even listening to music is completely different alone and when you are enjoying it with other people, it brings us together.

5. What are your hopes for your career in music moving forward?

I want to make music all day, every day! To collaborate with others and to stand for something bigger than myself. To be heard and make others feel heard.

6. Have you had the opportunity to use your music or your musical career in an effort help others?

This July I am traveling back to Singapore to perform at Pink Dot, which is an LGBTQ advocacy event. It’s the closest thing we have that is remotely similar to Pride in the USA. Unfortunately, there are no gay rights in Singapore, we have no anti-discrimination laws protecting the LGBTQ community. As modern as our city looks, we are still part of a very conservative region of Asia. In many ways, it is similar to the more conservative parts of the US. I hope to give back to this community, my community. This is one way I can express my stand and support for this issue through my music, and I’d like to be able to continue down this path.

8. What is the one piece of advice you would give to women in terms of making their dreams a reality?

Half of the work of making your dreams a reality is knowing what they are. I feel like throughout history, society has contained women’s imagination about what they can be and confined the limits of their ambition. Discovering what you desire is part luck, part work, part necessity.  In my case, the one good thing that came out of getting kicked out of home was that it opened doors to a new world for me, and showed me new possibilities of what I can be.  This is why representation in all fields is so important – it sparks women’s and girls’ imagination of what they can be. I hope I can be that for someone with the music I create.

Once you’ve found what you are passionate about, you are halfway there. The rest of the way is the unglamorous work to reach your goals.  When you’re passionate about what you do, this work won’t (most of the time) feel like a grind. Show up. Work hard. Always speak up. Lift up the women around you, especially the ones who might seem a little shy. I really think a woman on a mission is unstoppable.

Lena Stone. Photo Courtesy of nashvillemusicmedia.com

Lena Stone

Lena Stone is from Carlisle, MA, a town of 5,000 outside of Boston. She received a degree in Economics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and is releasing her first EP later this spring. Here’s Lena on what a life in music means to her.

1. From where did your interest in music arise?

My whole family loves music; my parents were always listening to music around the house and singing to my sisters and me, and my grandma has spent her life writing songs as a music therapist. I guess you could say it’s in the blood!

2. Where did you get your musical start?

I wrote my first song when I was in elementary school, and got more serious about writing in high school when I picked up a guitar. In 2010 I went to Grammy Camp, a music camp for high school students run by the Grammy Foundation in LA. While there I met songwriter Darrell Brown (“You’ll Think Of Me” by Keith Urban, “Why Don’t We Just Dance” by Josh Turner) who heard that my songs were clearly country and suggested I move to Nashville after I graduated.  And the rest is history!

3. Can you please describe your path from your start to where you are now with your music?

When I first moved to Nashville, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music but wasn’t quite sure where to start.  Eventually, I met other up-and-coming singers and songwriters and started co-writing and performing at writer’s rounds.  In 2014, myself and a small group of other young female artists started a songwriter round every Monday night called “Song Suffragettes,” and we really just wanted to shine a light on all the female talent in Nashville that was (and is) so underrepresented on country radio.

Since then the group has become a household name around Nashville, which I’m so incredibly proud of, and a community to make friends, co-writers, and music! Along the way, I signed a publishing deal, saw success on independent radio with my best friend Kalie Shorr and her debut single “Fight Like A Girl,” and started releasing music of my own.

4. Do you believe music is vital to people’s lives?

I absolutely believe that music is vital to people’s lives.  Music is a way to express yourself, to understand your own emotions and to have an awesome soundtrack to whatever you’re doing!  The most beautiful thing about music to me is that it celebrates similarities—like when you find someone who loves a song/artist/album that you do—and that it also celebrates differences, because no two people in the world feel exactly the same way about every type of music out there.

5. What are your hopes for your career in music moving forward?

There are so many things I would love to accomplish over the course of my career, like releasing more music and connecting with more fans!  If I had to pick one specific goal, I would absolutely love to win a Grammy because I think they are the epitome of great music in all genres and styles.

6. Have you had the opportunity to use your music or your musical career in an effort help others?

Every time that I hear from someone at a show or online that one of my songs has connected with them or made them feel better, I am so proud.  One of the things I want to do with my music is inspiring confidence in young women, because we live in a world that puts so much pressure on girls as they are growing up (and even once they’re grown up!).  Whether it’s a heartbreak song or a road trip song, I want everyone listening to my music to feel empowered and good about themselves.

7. What is the one piece of advice you would give to women in terms of making their dreams a reality?

I am such a believer that you can be anything in the world you want to be, but you don’t have to be everything.  I spent a lot of my teenage years believing I had to be good at everything and spread myself super thin, and once I set myself free from that expectation I got to focus on the things that really matter to me, like my music and my family and friends.

Jenn Bostic. Photo Courtesy of Westminster Music Centre

Jenn Bostic

Jenn Bostic was born in Pennsylvania, raised in Minnesota, educated in Massachusetts, and currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She studied Music Education at Berklee College of Music. She’s releasing her new album, “Revival,” a fusion of pop, blues, soul, gospel, and country.  Here’s Bostic of what it means to her to be in music.

1. From where did your interest in music arise?

I have been singing for as long as I can remember. My dad loved music and was always putting an instrument in my hands. Unfortunately, he passed away when I was ten years old, and songwriting became the therapy that got me through that traumatic experience. Music still feels like the only link I have left to him.

2. Where did you get your musical start?

I threw myself into music as a kid. I was involved in everything from show choir, to marching band, to high school musicals. It has always been a part of me.

3. Can you please describe your path from your start to where you are now with your music?

After studying at Berklee, I relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. I recorded my first album, Keep Lookin for Love, at Starstruck Studios, which was produced by my good friend Charlie Hutto. He taught me so much about songwriting and the recording process. When the album was finished, I wanted to go on tour. I didn’t have a booking agent so I started contacting venues personally. Pretty soon I had a tour put together.

On my second album, I recorded a song called “Jealous of the Angels” that through YouTube and fan support found its way to UK radio, eventually reaching #1 on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart. I’ve had a chance to open for some incredible artists and perform in beautiful venues around the world.

4. Do you believe music is vital to people’s lives?

Yes. There have been so many studies on the positive effects music has on the body and the brain. It has so many therapeutic qualities and I’ve seen that personally as I used it to grieve the loss of my father. I try to incorporate positivity and hope in the music I create, and it has been amazing to hear stories of how it has encouraged people around the world.

5. What are your hopes for your career in music moving forward?

I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to wake up and play music every day. I’ve seen the way music can heal, comfort and empower people, and I desire to continue spreading love through the music I create. I have dreams of specific venues and accolades, but if my music is helping people, I view it as a success.

6. Have you had the opportunity to use your music or your musical career in an effort help others?

Yes, my song “Jealous of the Angels,” written with my friends Jimmy Fortune and Zach Runquist, is a song for my late father. I had the opportunity to share my testimony through this song, and so much healing took place in my own heart. It is an overwhelming honor to know that this song has helped millions of people around the world during their own time of mourning.

My most recent single, “Faint of Heart,” is the honest, vulnerable journey of dream chasing, and I had the chance to partner with Whole Planet Foundation for their Power Her Potential campaign by donating 50 percent of the profits for the song to the foundation during the month of March. They are constantly investing in a future free from poverty by supporting women entrepreneurs around the world. So many people have shared stories with me about how my albums have brought them encouragement or inspiration. It means so much more than I could ever express.

7. What is the one piece of advice you would give to women in terms of making their dreams a reality?

There can be so much pressure on women to hurry up and get married, have children before a certain age, dress a certain way, fit a certain mold, etc. At the end of the day, you have to be true to who you are and trust the timing and values that are in your heart. As women we should also be encouraging one another daily. Chasing dreams is definitely not for the faint of heart. One great way to fulfill your dreams is to help someone else make theirs come true.

Jenny Block

JENNY BLOCK is a frequent contributor to a number of publications from Huffington Post to Playboy, and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex, and O Wow: Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm.

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