“Being engaged in our community is one of the most revolutionary things we can be doing right now.”
There are times when you get to witness a moment that impacts your life and inspires you to take action. She’s a Rebel was one of those moments. The music of the classic girl bands of the 50’s and 60’s have left their mark on musical history, and this night was a celebration of this incredible legacy. Tiffany Minton, a talented drummer and one of the organizers of She’s a Rebel, sat down with me to talk about what’s next for her in the new year, and the inspiration that launched an idea to create a show by women and for women in motion. She’s a Rebel is not only an unbelievable music experience, it is also an event centered on a powerful desire to educate and inspire social change.
What are you up to these days?
In 2016, I was gone for over 200 days with Adia Victoria. We have just one more west coast tour and a European tour coming up, then we are back in the studio to work on our second album.
Is the band already in pre-production mode?
We are. Adia has definitely been in the songwriter process and the band is starting to flesh out arrangement ideas. Adia has been visiting studios and come April, I think, we will be pretty focused on recording the next album. But, we have definitely been doing some demoing and recording for an EP of French cover songs from the 60’s which we are taking with us to Europe.
You are active in the community and seem to have found a way to bridge music and activism. Why is this so important to you?
My experience coming into music and becoming an educated person sort of happened parallel to one another. My degree was in sociology, and I think that, coupled with music, has informed a lot of my worldview. Music to me has always been the agent of social change. It is a catalyst to experiencing yourself and your connections to others and your world. Music informs my desire to be an activist – politically and artistically. I think of it as a tool that allows us, as musicians, to socialize and engage with the world. In a way, I think this is how I ended up playing with Adia. She and I share a very similar worldview as artists and we believe it is the responsibility of the artist to reflect the culture and the time in which we live.
How has being a woman in the music industry impacted your view of activism?
To me, within this framework is an emphasis on culture making and gender is a big part of that. I am a woman and I identify with my femaleness. I also identify with my gayness and being a woman who is gender non-conforming. All of these things interact together. Growing up in the south, I have a greater appreciation for the importance of race equality because race is a big part of this framework too. It’s a personal and cultural womb that is still healing and is really important right now, given where we are as a country and as people. This is why I am a musician and how I choose to operate in the world as a drummer.
You have been able to bring artists and musicians together in a way that is pushing people to think about our role in not only our community but also the world at large. How do you see artists and musicians impacting change?
Aligning myself with artists who share this idea that art is a function, a tool for people who have an invested interest in the world around them. We, as artists, are the people who change the world and society. The government isn’t creating these ideas, rather falling in-line after the fact. The ideas come from artists. They always have and they always will. I find it so fulfilling when you can temper that urge for the spotlight, or recognition, and focus on the things that truly matter.
Is it hard to stay both grounded and surrounded by others who share the same vision as you?
It isn’t hard in the sense that I think that there are a lot of people who share the same vision. What I have found is if the intention and the foundation are established, people will organically come. These are the people who want to be doing the same thing and I think it’s these people who invite themselves into the process.
Let’s talk about She’s a Rebel. How did this idea for a show like this come together?
It really started with just a few conversations between friends. My friend Laura Taylor had talked for some time about our love for the music of the class girl groups of the 50’s and 60’s. We thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to do a show?” Then not long after one of our last conversations, I was at Fanny’s House of Music soon and ran into my friends Jessi Zazu and Nikki Kvarnes of Those Darlins. We were just talking and catching up and they said they had been listening to a lot of girl group music. They said, “Don’t you love this sort of music?” From there, the conversation evolved into “We should do a show!” If we didn’t do this show, we knew someone else would do it and decided to just go for it.
What was the first year like?
There was a lot of learning in that first year because we had to think about how we were going to get this many women in one room. It doesn’t happen often, if ever, so we felt there needed to be a reason and a purpose behind the show. We knew we all loved this sort of music and that would naturally pull us all together, but we felt that unlike other tribute shows, there needed to be an emphasis on the meaning of why we were doing this show.
What became the driving purpose behind She’s a Rebel?
We decided the meaning would be to help try to build a larger community of women, networking together, in one room, and encouraging one another to work together. Our hope was that it would help our community of women get stronger. We also wanted to emphasize diversity because growing up playing rock and roll in Nashville, the scene always felt very white to me and the rock and roll music I grew up listening to was not white. I just knew these relationships needed to be built and we decided to center that as a part of our show. The show was to be centered around women of color and their experiences in the 50’s and 60’s. This music, that was in many ways the tool of desegregation, is still important now, for so many reasons. We weren’t sure how it would all work out, but people responded to it and wanted it to happen, so we just keep doing it. The issues behind this event continue to be as important as they were back then. We will follow that as long as we can and see where it leads.
What are some of the conversations and outcomes you are hoping to see happen with the coming together of so many artists, musicians, and all of the women involved with the entire production of She’s a Rebel?
In addition to raising the consciousness component of the show, it was also important for us to set the intention behind She’s a Rebel. We wanted to make that clear so people would be able to engage with it how they wanted. What I have observed is that, as a result of this show, a lot of these women are forming new relationships, working together, doing shows together, producing each other’s records, and building this extended community of women. They are continuing the platform we set with She’s a Rebel in their own way and is focused on collaboration. As a result, every year, more and more women hear about it and want to be a part of it.
Have you experienced any sort of push back or criticism for She’s a Rebel?
I think the biggest push back, and a welcomed push back, is a certain level of criticism from feminist women of color. We have always welcomed this because listen, I am a white woman and I cannot speak for their experience. I am doing my best to center their story in what we do. All of us in the show are trying to do that. We want to continue to foster and develop new relationships across races and across classes. It’s tough. So yeah, we have been called out a few times with concerns that there aren’t enough women of color in the show. There is this balance of trying to let these women be heard, while at the same time understanding that this is a process of developing relationships. That takes time. But, we have to be open and responsive to these critiques. We need to be listening more than we are doing, and this is true across the board, even outside of the show.
Why do you feel like there is still some level of disparity between men, women and other minority groups?
My response to this is that we mirror the opportunities we think we can embody or that we are offered. For example, if we don’t see ourselves in a position of authority, or see examples of ourselves in the living world, we are not able to self-assess ourselves into those positions. I think that goes across all things, not just music. I don’t believe it’s the responsibility of the worker, or the student, to create all of those spaces for themselves, rather they need to be opened up to them by the people above them. That’s why things like Affirmative Action are important and have worked. You can’t always successfully open up social spaces for yourself if you are a marginalized person. I always think about who has the power to change that and who can open these opportunities to those who should have them.
How is this reflected in the foundation of She’s a Rebel?
With She’s a Rebel, everyone involved in the show is a woman from the sound engineer to the videographer, to the performers. The thing is, the women are there and present, but if we aren’t being intentional about it and saying, “This is my purpose and these are the people I am going to seek out,” a change in the degree of disparity is never going to happen. We need to make this happen for ourselves if others aren’t willing to open those doors for us.
That can be a difficult effort. How do you stay committed to driving this awareness of the importance of bringing the women of our community together?
You can’t always convince someone of your credibility. You just have to do your best and be focused on the intention of the process. While I don’t have all of the answers, I do know that we need to be listening to marginalized people, hear what they are saying and believe them. We have to believe them! This is their experience and we can’t turn around and explain to them what we think it is, rather we have to invite their criticism. By inviting and believing their authority on their own experiences, we can truly honor their wishes in being a greater presence in our communities and our world. We need to see this as something important in our lives. This goes for women, people of color, transgender, and everyone. We can only claim so much space for ourselves, and at some point, the issue has to be conceded. My hope is to see us all let go of this fear of scarcity and realize there is enough room for all of us.
Do you ever see She’s a Rebel expanding into other cities around the country?
I don’t know. Personally, I have always looked at it as a focus on a locality. We don’t have any ambitions to brand it or sell it or anything. We have been asked to travel and play shows but that sort of makes it seem exclusive. I am already uncomfortable with the degree exclusivity shows itself already, but unfortunately, someone has to run the show. We are interested in growing the show and having more women participate. What we do reflects the larger world, and it’s important we continue to see our work being bigger than ourselves.
Is there anything that’s become even more important to you as a result of your efforts with She’s a Rebel?
I think what is becoming more and more important is the emphasis on the intentionality of the show. We want it to continue to feel communal, and ensure we are helping other voices are being heard, as best as we possibly can. I am really apprehensive to even doing interviews about the show because, at the end of the day, I am just a drummer who wants to build my community and be a reforming person. I want people to feel connected to She’s a Rebel in a way and I want other women’s voices to be heard.
I think that is one of the things that makes this show so incredibly impactful. It isn’t just about the music rather it’s using music as a vehicle to bring all women’s voices and stories to the forefront.
It’s the ongoing challenge and I am lucky to have so many other women helping make this show happen. We feel the most important thing is for us to build upon the show while keeping the focus on the intention. Our hope is that people will truly be a part of this experience and understand why this event is important, ultimately using this awareness as a tool in their own lives. We want She’s a Rebel to be meaningful and engaging and not just because of the music or that it’s going to be a great show. It’s truly an opportunity to learn.
Do the performers and participants donate their time?
We do pay everyone that participates, but it’s important to us that any of the proceeds given away. This year, we will split the proceeds between Youth Empowerment Arts and Humanity and hopefully the Nashville Museum of African American Music, which is supposed to be in Nashville eventually. Every year, we just try to get creative on how to divest money from the community from the hands of white people and into the hands of people of color.
What’s still on your bucket list?
If you are talking about setting goals, most of them have already happened. I don’t really want to be famous. In the last few years, I have accomplished quite a few of them, which I feel really grateful for. One of my biggest goals had been to be on TV, and I recently got to play The Late Show with Stephen Colbert with Adia Victoria. (laugh) My grandma got to see it, and while she was already proud of me, it was a big deal for me. So now, I don’t know. I have to be thinking of new goals.
Poster design for the event, and featured image on our post, by Heather Moulder.