So far my career has mainly consisted of writing for other artists and for TV and film placements. I’m grateful to have learned the ropes collaborating behind the scenes with an array of insanely talented, seasoned songwriters and producers.
However, about two years ago I started noticing that most of my writing sessions were for or with young female artists who signed a record deal quickly, before really knowing what they wanted to say or how they wanted to say it.
Simultaneously, there seemed to be a consistent pressure for an artist to focus more on sex appeal rather than on quality. Some of these women felt pressure to say and become something they weren’t really comfortable with, and with pressure to also deliver a finished product quickly, most of them would blindly agree despite their inner instinct telling them something wasn’t right. They needed someone in their corner telling them it was ok to disagree and to speak their mind. Not to mention, sometimes the so-called “flaws” in their songs were actually what made their project more unique and interesting.
… sometimes the so-called ‘flaws’ in their songs were actually what made their project more unique and interesting.
This became such a consistent struggle that I set out to create a community of female songwriters and producers whose focus was more on artistry and integrity rather than the superficial smoke-and-mirrors. I wanted to provide a creatively safe space where the female artists I was working with could develop and work on their craft.
After a while, I started getting sessions based on this reputation. Artists, mostly women, were expressing that they wanted a place where they wouldn’t be talked over and felt comfortable sharing personal information. They didn’t want to worry about if what they making was “pretty” or not, whether it was a known artist with sensitive information or a young one just trying to figure it out. I wanted to be a vehicle to empower and encourage all women to take risks, be authentic, and to explore creatively.
Meanwhile, when it came to my own work I, too, wanted to get back to creating in a real way, looking at things through my own lens instead of the lens of what would be considered “most marketable.” I also wanted to pull together a community of creative women in a special manner.
I had the privilege of collaborating with AG, one of my favorite female producers, on our own interpretation of REM’s “Losing My Religion.” We were both REM fans and had talked about doing a dark, haunting version of it for a music video. It’s vulnerable portrayal of darkness and light really resonated with us, and she’s brilliant at creating a safe space for an artist to really explore and be authentic. (For example, she recently slayed Ciara’s cinematic rendition of “Paint it Black” that was featured in Billboard & Rolling Stone.)
… I, too, wanted to get back to creating in a real way, looking at things through my own lens instead of the lens of what would be considered ‘most marketable.’
Honestly, it had been a while since I was in a music video and I was nervous at the start of this project. I am easily affected by directors and it’s easy for me to shut down when I feel self-conscious. I didn’t want that to happen for this video. I really wanted to be comfortable and focused and I still have flashbacks from being told that I don’t look pretty when I cry on camera — that messed with my head a bit. For many women (myself included) focusing on “looking pretty” rather than just being in the moment, creating, can easily make performances stale and generic.
Most women understand the need for a safe space and how uncomfortable or degrading it feels to be seen as an object rather than a human being. This empathy is a woman’s strength and why I was really excited to work with women in entertainment who supported this project and understood my concerns. Together we worked to ensure that I, as well as the other actors, felt emotionally safe and protected to create something artistically raw and authentic.
That aside, I really wanted to bring more attention (and business) to talented women in the filming industry. My friend and talented photographer/director Jen Rosenstein, who has impeccable taste and a great eye, connected with our idea instantly and built on it with keen ideas of her own. Jen and I were strategic in choosing a very talented, all-female crew. It really brought out such raw and honest performances from all the actors and we’re all very excited about the final product. We wanted this whole video to be vulnerable and authentic to match the song’s message.
I’ve also decided to donate a portion of the streaming proceeds from this single to the National Center of Victims of Crime. The song and video’s portrayal of darkness and light is relatable to everyone, especially give all that’s going on in the world right now. I wanted to help out in any way I could and I’m always looking for ways to point to a light at the end of the tunnel.
I’m grateful for the amazing circle of women I’m surrounded by in this industry and excited for what’s on the horizon ahead. If you’re a female creative just starting out, be encouraged. Give yourself a little grace because it takes time to figure out your message as an artist. Don’t let bad experiences make you bitter; use your mistakes as stepping stones.
Last but not least, be willing to be vulnerable enough to collaborate with other women and support your sisters. We all need (and thrive) off of each other’s talents.