So, the third leg of the #BeReckless tour is going splendiforously. I’m sorry that I haven’t updated this for months… honestly, I’ve been so busy; it’s a gong show! But in a good way. I’m working on a few of my own personal matters, like organizational skills, not procrastinating… yadda yadda. I digress.
I mostly wanted to make an update because of something that a lot of people have been saying to me recently. Excuse me while this gets TL;DR.
The last two months, I toured with a band. Within Rust, lovely guys; they play progressive indie rock, and would giv’er for their own set, then white-shirt for me so that I could perform with a live band. I’m a HUGE fan of playing with a live band; having the musicians there, having physical bodies to interact with and the grit and chaos of actual live instruments… you can’t beat it.
But sadly, my Rust bros had to stay home for this thirty-seven day leg, meaning that it was just me and my laptop, my “band in a box” as I like to call it. It’s never late to practice, we don’t have to pay it or feed it, it doesn’t give me any lip… it’s actually pretty awesome as far as bands go. But despite the fact that there’s never really any concern that a cabinet will cut out or a drumstick will go flying (the worst sound issues you could really have is if the tracks themselves or the laptop start mucking about), touring to tracks makes me more nervous than touring with a live backing band, and it’s for one simple reason: judgement.
I’m terrified of being judged by others. I always have been, I likely always will be, though I AM taking steps to liberate my mind from this constant paranoia and I’m starting to focus less and less on what other people are thinking of me. But when you walk into a venue, introduce yourself to the sound guy, explain that all you need is one vox, loud stage monitors, and a jack for your MacBook, and he gets that look on his face… it’s kinda hard not to care.
What it all really boils down to is that, as a female artist, I have to prove myself from the instant I step into the venue. I have to prove myself worthy of the venue, of the sound guy, and of the audience. If I have a full band behind me, it looks a little better; when I get up onstage with nothing but a microphone and stand, as a girl, I look like a “wannabe”. Karaoke with a twist, isn’t she cute, pretending she’s in a band. And whatever, that’s not a majorly big deal, except for how exhausting and depressing it can be to have people treat you worse than the other bands on the bill because you’re “that chick with tracks”.
I think the clencher for me was a show I performed at recently, on this leg of the tour. I always like to introduce myself to the sound guy; he’s the one who’s going to be working his butt off so that I can sound half decent, so I want to say hi and express my appreciation for his hard work. This guy (we’ll call him Stan, that’ll be his name) was kinda standoffish with everyone, but he was just a downright wanker to me. He snarked at my manager and I as we were trying to work out the logistics for the show and how the tracks were going to work (how we would run it through the board, where it would be set up so that my manager Kit could play the tracks for me, etc). He bitched us out as we tried to set up, and asked us, “Have you guys ever even done this before?”, something that amused me greatly considering yes, we HAVE, in multiple continents, and we’d never had any of the issues we were experiencing there.
After a while, he grumbled off and left us to our own devices, and I got up onto the stage to situate myself with the playing space (kind of a ritual I like to do before I play, so I can familiarize myself with it). Stan’s assistant was clearing off the drum mics from the opening band, which were sort of stacked/piled in the middle of the stage (which was quite large). Stan yelled at me to test my microphone and allowed me to say maybe three words before he was done, tested my tracks for a few seconds, and then asked if we were ready to go. I wasn’t really… sure how I could politely tell him that no, I wasn’t ready to go, because his assistant was still wrapping cables behind me in the middle of the stage. Thankfully, his assistant piped up – at least for a moment. He started to say that he was still busy working, but then gave the mics a once-over and said, “Actually, that’s good enough,” and climbed off the stage, leaving me with a big pile of cabinet and drum mics still in the middle of the stage, and the two backup vox mics in their boom stands at either end of the stage.
I took a few seconds to remove the extra microphones (‘cuz I like to use the entire front length of the stage), and tried to re-calculate in my brain my parameters with the huge obstruction taking up the middle section of the stage. It was pretty obvious that the sound team expected me to just stand behind the microphone stand and sing on the spot. I’m hoping that I shocked them both when I started rocking out in as much of the gorram stage as I could.
I guess the main point behind this, and I’m sure I’ll receive as much flaming as I do support, is that just how little respect a woman in the music industry is “entitled to” really, really shows when you don’t enter the venue with a bunch of boys. I’ve had venues insist that I “sit back and let the men do the load out” or just assume I’m one of the band members’ girlfriends there to take photos and sell merch. I’ve had dickbags in guitar stores ask me if I “know what I’m looking for” or “know about the brands”, and if I’m “buying a present for my boyfriend”. But I’ve never experienced sexism on the road like I have done as a pair of women with a MacBook instead of a band. And not just on this tour, on many other tours where I’ve rolled up to the venue with my laptop tucked under my arm. Don’t get me wrong – some venues are AMAZING, and some sound techs on this tour have broken their backs to make sure I had great vocal sound, even used the free time they had while they weren’t mixing a bunch of live instruments to give me a wicked light show. But sadly, there’s always gonna be the jerks, and they stick in our minds just as much as the good apples.
Anyway, I performed. We had a wicked fucking show. All three acts on the bill absolutely killed it, and I was honoured to have performed alongside two such incredible bands. I felt genuinely good walking off stage; I ached, I was sweaty, and I was pretty sure I was gonna have a bangover the next day. I chatted with some of the fans and made some new fanmily members. <3 And I received a lot of very uplifting comments from people whose kind words put any fear I had about being judged for being “a girl singing to tracks” to rest.
But one that really stuck in my mind was a comment I’ve been getting a lot on this tour – that, when I’m on stage, I’m “like a one-woman show”. Because y’know, when you’re the only one on stage, you kinda gotta rock out five times as much to make up for the lack of bodies and movement. It’s much more difficult to get “into” tracks than it is to feel the groove and energy of live music, but if it’s turned up loud enough in the stage monitors and I let all of my inhibitions go, it’s just as much fun, and can be just as energetic and fun. But anyway, that’s not what I wanted to talk about: the “one-woman” part was actually what I wanted to get to.
I can’t really talk about sexism in the music industry without talking about my manager, Kit. Some of you know her – she’s pretty tough, she doesn’t take any shit, and she’s probably experienced more sexism from men in the industry than I’ve ever seen any other woman receive. So I basically wanted to round up this long-arse post by saying that, although I’m all alone up there on the stage, there ARE another people who have been absolutely critical in making this shit happen, and that’s my team. Who for this tour, strangely enough, are all women.
Kit Watson, my manager. She does more than press play on the laptop, she’s the backbone behind my music career and she keeps me going whenever I’m feeling down. She’s put so much hard work , passion, and effort into making these shows happen, and without her I wouldn’t be on tour.
Dusty Exner, my booking agent at SIN Agency. She’s busted her arse booking my dates and coordinating everything, and all while getting ready for her OWN band’s six-month tour of North America – check them out over at Kill Matilda and make sure you see them if they’re in a city near you!
Jen Appel over at Catalyst Publicity, who has been working hard to get me press and such. She organized some super fun interviews (like spending a day at a place called Wahooz in Boise, ID eating popcorn and playing mini golf) and has been super fab to work with.
Jinnie MacManus at POC Booking, who does all of my anime convention booking. She’s also kind of a badass. Seriously, she’s smaller than me but she terrifies me, and she works so hard and so passionately for her voice actors and myself that it really, really does feel like POC Booking as a “family” rather than a client-agent relationship.
Nicole and Svetlanna at LOGiiX, and Amy at Drklght Clothing and Equalize – who are all the co-sponsors for this tour. These women have been tremendously supportive and generous, and have really put their faith in me, which is one of the biggest gifts you can give an artist – belief in them. Thank you all for being awesome to me. <3
So, yeah. There you go, music industry. Seven strong, independent, creative, beautiful women I have worked with to make this tour happen on a shoestring budget (yes, we cook spaghettios in the rain whilst camping, it’s totally a thing) who are just as powerful, just as bold, just as talented, just as capable, and just as boss as any men doing the same jobs. We’re all seeing the shift – it’s happened with legends like Suzie Quattro, Gwen Stefani, and Joan Jett; with women like Sharon Osbourne and Janet Billig Rich working behind the scenes in management and publicity. Women who have achieved so much and done things that others have said no woman would ever be able to do in the music industry.
I suppose the message behind this post is that yes, I’ve been judged and treated poorly, and when I walk into a venue people typically tend to assume that I’m going to be terrible at what I do or that I’m just gonna stand there behind a mic stand and “pretend to be in a punk band” with my cute little tee-shirt and undercut. Most women receive this treatment in the industry (from both men and other women alike) purely due to the sexism that society shoves down our throats. But that’s what makes women in music such a tough breed – we HAVE to grow a thick skin and learn to shrug it off, because that’s how we survive. We let our music, our performances, our intelligence, our creativity, and our strength do the talking for us.
I meet a lot of girls my age and younger when I’m on tour who want to be singers, but are anxious because none of the local bands want to play with a girl, bands are scared if they have a female singer they’ll be judged, they’re worried people won’t take them seriously as a female solo act, they’re worried they’re genuinely not talented enough to do it alone (or at all) because they’re female… ALL of these things. And you know what? It’s crushing. I hate to see girls who have such hope and determination and creativity in their eyes held back by the stereotypes and sexism that society chokes us on.
My advice for you, girls? CHUCK IT IN THE FUCK IT BUCKET.
No one is going to believe in you until you believe in yourself. You KNOW you have just as much talent, just as much strength, just as much passion, just as much genuineness, and just as much RIGHT to do this as any boy does. Don’t let them hold you back because you’re a woman. Don’t let them discourage you, judge you, heckle you, overlook you, or treat you like crap. Because it’s girls like you who are going to change the way the world sees women in music, who are going to pave the way for other girls who so desperately want to work in a field they are so passionate about and dedicated to. So don’t give up. Keep pushing. And don’t ever let the bastards grind you down.
As for me, I’m pretty sure Kit and I will be met with that same misogynistic attitude and even more Stans when we walk into venues for at least a few more dates on this tour, as women all over the world in music are being overlooked every single day. But the music industry is a tough pill to swallow, and the women who’ve gotten their hands dirty in it are mighty powerful creatures.
So be warned, guys… because the next female solo act who steps into your bar, club, or conference room is going to chew you up and spit you back out again. ;P