Five incredibly talented women artists and musicians shared one stage to a sold out room at the Emmy Award-winning online music series Skyville Live. Led by the incomparable multiple Grammy-winning artist, activist, and voice for women Melissa Etheridge, and joined by guitar player extraordinaire Orianthi, rising country star Cam, songwriter, musician, and country artist Lindsay Ell, and emerging Def Jam artist Troi Irons. We were entertained with so many of the songs we know and love, but for me, the pinnacle moment was watching these women play their guitars with such grace, integrity, and power. It was truly a magical experience.
Melissa Etheridge: “I really loved when they asked me to do this and knowing that I had control over what was going to go on. My first ask was Lindsay Ell. I have been watching her. She plays that guitar, she writes, she sings and I went, “I want to get on stage with that one!” Then Cam said she would come sing with me, and I loved that. A lot of people don’t know Troi but she’s the future of what’s happening. She’s a part of this alt-scene. You can’t call her music rock or country, I mean, “What is it?” And I loooove that! She plays guitar, she sings, she writes and that’s amazing. Then, you throw Orianthi in there. There will definitely be some jams going on. You won’t believe your eyes.”
Why was this wonderful celebration so important to each of these artists?
Orianthi: “I think it’s so important for us to support each other. It’s being able to to see more and more women out there who are playing drums, bass, guitar, and realizing it isn’t just a “guy’s thing.” It is becoming more of a norm seeing girls getting out there and kicking ass. I have been listening to Melissa Etheridge for a long time, and it is truly a special evening that is all about women’s empowerment. As we come together and support each other, it’s the best thing we can do to inspire each other, young girls and anyone who wants to play music.”
Lindsay Ell: “It’s so cool when a whole bunch of ladies can get up on stage and do what they love to do, together. The best part of a night like this is when you see female artists coming together and wanting to lift each other up. Very rarely can you find a healthy female environment like this one, so the fact that we can put shows together like this and show what goes on in Nashville, is amazing. When Melissa called me and said, “Hey, Lindsay, would you be a part of this show with me?” it was a surreal moment. I wanted to pinch myself! I am just so honored to be a part of this night, and I told Melissa, even if it is my birthday, I am there.”
Cam: “It is amazing to be around someone like Melissa Etheridge and all of these other contemporaries. Melissa can’t help but have this presence. There is this intense fire about her, and it’s so amazing to see something so fearless like that in a woman because I feel like you don’t see that all the time. A lot of the role models we see just aren’t as fierce. On top of that, it’s so nice to be around women where you are talking about gear, what pedals you have, and you think, “Yes, finally!” Hopefully, for girls watching this show, they think, “If those girls can do it, I can do it too.”
Troi Irons: “It’s an amazing opportunity to be a part of this whole conglomerate of powerful female musicians. To come here and have all of these musicians around me, and female one’s at that is so empowering. When people watch this show, I hope they feel the same thing they feel when they see a bunch of dudes playing. I want people to get inspired to pick up instruments and say, “This is fun!”
This night was more than just showcasing the incredible talents of women in music. It was also a night that showed the power of individuals coming together, supporting one another, collaborating with one another, and helping to elevate one another as individuals and artists. For Melissa Etheridge, being an example and resource for so many artists is a role she has welcomed with open arms throughout her career.
What fuels this desire to remain compassionate in helping artists at every stage of their career?
Melissa Etheridge: “It is nights like these that fulfill something in me. It wasn’t that long ago that I remember what it was like to be the least known artist in the room. I remember standing next to Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen and thinking, “Oh my God” and wishing someone had told me, “Hey, it’s going to be okay. Just be yourself and do what you love.” With stereotypes the way they used to be, people would have thought I was crazy to have five women on stage at once, but these women are so professional, cooperative, and each of them is holding one another up. I want to tell women to take care of themselves. Watch what they eat. Don’t let the stress get to be too much. Don’t believe everything they hear, and most importantly, just keep your eye on yourself and what you love. It’s often thought that we, as women, are in competition with one another, and that’s just not true. We have more cooperation, and that’s what’s going to help us along and get us into the positions of leadership we need to be in.”
I got to spend a little more time learning about what projects they have been working on, what’s on their horizon, advice for young artists and thoughts on how we can better support artists and our music community.
I know you have been working on your new album. What makes this one particularly special?
I have had a lot of amazing moments in my career and I feel very blessed. I have gotten to play with all of my idols and have made records I am proud of. But, I am so proud of this new record that I made with my partner, Richie Sambora. Bob Rock produced it and it’s a new sound we have written together. It’s been a project we have been working on for three years and has been a really interesting experience. This is definitely one big experience for me so far in my life.
What do you hope people experience when they hear your new album?
I hope it makes them feel something and that it moves them as much as it has moved us. Ritchie and I have written all of the lyrics together and music together and the songs are very dear to us. There was definitely a lot of love in the room. We just took a lot of creative freedom with this record, so I hope that people get inspired by it and that it helps them get through life. I hope they want to play it and crank it up in their cars. (laugh) And then hopefully, people will want to come to the show too!
What was behind your decision to wait to record and release your first album until now?
It is totally different for everybody, but for me, I feel that now is the perfect time to be releasing an album. I feel like I have finally found my sound and have finally found what I want to say and how I want to say it. I have been working with my producer, Kristian Bush over the last six months putting this album together, and I am just so excited about it!
Kristian is a mad scientist in the studio and he really found a way to let me be me, including letting me play guitar in the studio. He helped surround me with music to get the sound we were looking for.
How difficult is it to maintain who you are as an artist and the credibility you want to have with your music and you as a person?
Like in any music town, there are so many talented people here in Nashville. There are so many incredible producers, writers, musicians, and who all have great intent. And, as a musician specifically, you just get pulled in so many different directions and it is hard to drill it down to, this is the exact thing I want to say, and this is how I want it to sound. It’s hard to really know what is your sound as an artist, so I think it takes time, and a little bit of discovery, to make sure you are being true to yourself, figuring out who you are, and doing the wrong thing to figure out something is wrong.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
To this day, I still have to remind myself, you just have to figure out who you are and just go down that path. You have to be fearless and passionate about it and not worry about everything else going on around you. Because, there are so many flashing lights and people pulling you left, right and center. You will see artists doing completely other things and it’s really easy to lose focus on what’s important. You just need to remember why you starting doing this in the first place.
Although you are still early on in your career, it’s so amazing to see you getting to share the stage with all of these other incredible performers. What do you feel you can contribute your early success to?
I think part of it is finding people who believe in you, learning to stick up for the things you need to be yours, learning to make compromises, and letting go of this idea that someone else has the answers for you. I think a lot of times, young artists get into rooms with some big CEO and they think he/she is going to hold their hand and walk them down the red carpet. They will definitely help you, but you need to make allegiances and ties, and you need to know what you are doing. I think as women, we need to continue to realize we have the power to control who we are and our creative paths.
How is your work as an artist different in Los Angeles compared to your experience in Nashville?
My creative process has been pretty secluded in Los Angeles. With Turbulence, my latest EP, I produced the entire project, and now I feel the need to find a bunch of musicians to work with and be inspired by. So whether I spend a few months here in Nashville, I find these musicians in Los Angeles or I fly them out to Los Angeles, I want to have a more collaborative process. It’s just a matter of finding the right people and making it all happen. There is a camaraderie and a magic you can’t find alone in a studio. It’s a beauty I think we are losing in music today and I want to get that back.
What’s in store for you in 2017?
We are really flying by the seat of our pants here, my team and I. Everything that is happening has been so unexpected. We just released the music video for the single called Today, which I wrote the treatment for. We recently did SXSW, talked to a few booking agents while we were in Austin, and came straight from there to Nashville Hopefully, the next step is a tour, but on top of that, I have these show opportunities and collaboration with artists coming up that I am not able to talk about yet. A bunch of things are just happening. Check back with me in six months. (laugh)
What can we be doing better, not just as a female music community, but a community in general, to better support and encourage growth, development and artist empowerment?
We can believe in ourselves and we can take care of ourselves. Our power starts with ourselves. We as women, sometimes, take care of everyone else at the expense of ourselves. That doesn’t work anymore because we can’t take care of anyone else unless we are well. This means physically, and more importantly, mentally. We need to be aware of the things we are telling ourselves. If we can empower ourselves, then that example can be a beam of life for someone to see, and that is more inspirational than just telling someone, “Hey, you can do this!” We have an opportunity to show them this is how you can do it.
To learn more about Skyville Live or these incredible artists, please visit the links below.
Stay inspired! Stay bold, and don’t forget to pick up your instrument!
Albums Released: Time to Buy!
Orianthi: (coming soon!)