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Women’s Music Summit Artist Interviews
WOMEN’S MUSIC SUMMIT ARTIST INTERVIEWS
By Rebecca Kane
The Women’s Music Summit is a groundbreaking concept for women in music. The Summit will be taking place at Full Moon Resort, located in the Catskill Mountains in New York, August 27-31, 2012. There will be multiple workshops, dinners and evening entertainment.
The Summit will feature Bibi McGill, Kaki King, Malina Moye, Marnie Stern, Melissa Auf der Maur, and Meshell Ndegeocello. Laura B. Whitmore, the producer of the Women’s Summit, is also a multi-talented artist in her own right, and CoolGrrrls got the chance to ask these women a few questions about themselves and the upcoming Women’s Music Summit.
Laura B. Whitmore, is producing the Women’s Music Summit. She is a veteran music producer and singer/songwriter. She also runs her own marketing company called Mad Sun Marketing. She has a lot of music related clients, and Laura also has her own column focusing on women musicians in Guitar World. I sat down with Laura and asked her the Summit came together.
Rebecca- “What made you decide to get involved and produce the Women’s Music Summit? Was this something you always wanted to do?”
Laura- “I write a column for GuitarWorld.com that focuses on female musicians and it just seemed to me that they are so underrepresented. They deserve an event where they can learn, collaborate and connect in a nurturing environment and be taken seriously as instrumental musicians. Honestly, the idea for the Summit just came about organically. It wasn’t something I’ve been planning for years. It’s the right time for this and so I ran with it.”
Rebecca- “Was there a specific selection process for choosing the female musicians invited to the event?”
Laura- “Yes. We thought about their different areas of expertise and their different experiences as artists and women. So there’s a range of different genres, ages, and just focus. It should make for a well rounded interaction!”
Rebecca- “What do you want women to experience with the Women’s Music Summit? As a singer/songwriter what would you like to experience?”
Laura- “I want them to know that there are other women musicians and women in the industry who are supportive. That there are ways to make things happen. That they are not alone. So many women that I interview for Guitar World tell me that they feel like pioneers! That they are not taken seriously as musicians. I want them to feel like they are taken seriously. And of course, I want them to learn new things, and have an amazing experience that will stick with them.
From my own perspective as a singer/songwriter, I honestly have not had that much experience collaborating in my writing and arranging, and I would love to do more of that. Plus I am working on improving my guitar chops, so I am hoping to be inspired by all of these great guitarists and to learn some new techniques. I’m super excited about the jams, too!”
Rebecca- “That sounds awesome! Being a veteran music industry maker, do you have any advice for a novice entering the industry?”
Laura- “Today more than ever before there are more avenues for musicians to get their music out there. Don’t be afraid. You’ll make mistakes but it’s okay. Play out as much as possible. Share ideas. Try new things. After thirty years of playing acoustic guitar, I’ve decided to jump in and play electric. It has changed the way I write and perform for the better! Don’t be afraid to rewrite if you feel like it’s the right thing to do. And network like crazy (without being annoying!). Who you know has always been important and it still is. Nurture those relationships. Offer to help others. It will come back to you in surprising ways! Good karma matters!”
Rebecca- “Great advice! Can you tell me a little bit about your band, and what’s ahead for you in the future?”
Laura- (Laughs). “I am the lead singer for a band called The Summer Music Project. We mostly do covers and a few originals written by myself and our bassist, Chuck Besocke. We play a very eclectic assortment of covers, from the Rolling Stones to Weezer, Metric and Paramore. We are a bunch of professionals who have day jobs but love to play. We perform at local festivals and parties. It’s great fun. We are currently working on incorporating more originals into our sets. Friend us on Facebook and we’ll give you the scoop on what’s next!”
Melissa Auf der Maur will be appearing at the Women’s Music Summit. Melissa is known for her bass playing chops in bands like Hole and Smashing Pumpkins. She has gone solo, and has come up with a new musical concept that she calls “Out Of Our Minds.”
Rebecca -”You are most widely known for being in the bands Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins before going solo. DId you always want to be a solo artist, or do you prefer collaborating in a band?”
Melissa- “I have let music guide the way for me, I’ve loved music my whole life. I’ve been playing since grade school. My Welsh choir teacher opened my mind to the power of music with the Mozart Requiem, then at seventeen years old, I worked as a ticket girl at the local punk club in Montreal. Then I became a rock DJ at the local musician hang out. I started a band at twenty one, and we opened for the Smashing Pumpkins which lead me to join Hole, and then the Pumpkins.
Music had proven to be the center of my life, so I felt it would be disrespectful to not explore it all the way in a solo album. I was given such incredible opportunities with music, that I felt I would be lazy if I didn’t challenge myself. Along the way, I tried new things, including things that intimidated me. I love playing bass in a group. It’s easier than leading the whole thing, and in some ways more pleasurable. I could have continued doing that, BUT I’d already done that. Playing in Hole and the Pumpkins was almost like a rock vacation – with a few bumps in the road, but lots of fun! Solo albums are a whole different beast and satisfying in very different places of oneself. I love both.”
Rebecca- “You are also an accomplished photographer. How did photography get to be such a passion for you, and does this medium influence any of your music?”
Melissa- “I went to art school from the age of six years old. Visual art, performance, music, film, art studies and photography have been part of my daily life forever. So no, I can not separate them. They influence and inspire each other. I majored in photography in university, and it was my passion. It seemed like a realistic thing to build my life around. Never did I think that music would become my livelihood and full time “job”. I realize how lucky I am. Photography took a back seat, but it’s something that I expect will come back around later in my life.”
Rebecca- “You recently released a multi media package called Out Of Our Minds. It included an album, a comic and a film. What inspired you to create a comic and film to go along with your latest album, and how long did it take to finish this project?”
Melissa- “This was a personal and creative commitment to myself to expand as an artist while returning to my vials and conceptual art roots that I left when I joined Hole. I was in art school my whole student life, and had always planned for a diverse life in the arts rooted in visuals and music. When the music got off the ground, I left the rest behind. OOOM was a promise to unite all my passions together in one project, and hope to build a foundation to allow me to create projects like this from then on. During this creative experiment I also created my own production company and label. From the initial writing sessions until release took over four years. Most of the delay was based on looking for label partners and funding, and there were moments when I thought it would never be released. I’m very happy to say that it’s come to fruition.”
Rebecca- “Looking forward to your next album, do you think you will continue to make multi media projects? What would you do differently or what would stay the same?”
Melissa- “I think that every album and project of mine from now on will be conceptual. I certainly want to continue merging images with sounds and storytelling. We will see what happens….. concepts will stay the same, but the themes and symbols will change. We will see where my inspiration takes me.”
Rebecca- “How did attending Concordia University’s Photography Program help shape your future?”
Melissa- “It was a great arts program, and it allowed me to explore expression and work hard. It was my fine art grade school and high school, FACE (Fine Arts Core Education) and MIND (Moving in New Directions), that really shaped me. They were progressive and made me love school. I still have fantasies of returning.”
Rebecca- “Is there anyone or anything that you would like to have the chance to photograph?”
Melissa- “I would travel more. The pyramids would be great to see with my own eyes.”
Rebecca- “What are you looking forward to most about the Women’s Music Summit, and how did this opportunity come about?”
My friend Meshell Ndegeocello recommended me to the camp organizers. I look forward to meeting the other women musicians and discussing our approach to music and challenges we face, then sharing that with the aspiring women who attend the camp to learn something new. Through them, I will learn too. A weekend devoted to women and music in beautiful nature surroundings, sounds like paradise to me!”
Meshell Ndegeocello not only recommended Melissa Auf de Maur to the Summit’s organizers, but has been instrumental in paving the way for women in music. She gained attention by being the first woman ever to be featured on the cover of Bass Player Magazine. Meshell recently performed a night of Prince covers, and takes us for a walk down memory lane.
Rebecca- “What was the inspiration behind performing a night full of “faithfully reimagined” songs by Prince?”
Meshell- “Just a love of the music. Prince’s songs have always been inspiration to me and I decided I’d try my hand at some of my favorites.”
Rebecca- “What was Prince’s reaction?”
Meshell- “I have no idea what Prince’s reaction was. We don’t correspond.”
Rebecca- “You mentioned that when you toured with Herbie Hancock, you felt he was a kindred spirit to you. What was it that made you relate to him?”
Meshell- “That was a really long time ago. I think I felt then that he and I were both after a result that satisfied our ears and our hands, not just a crowd or a label or an expectation or an easy win. He was always in his head and his heart was always in his playing.”
Rebecca- “You have played bass with a bunch of diverse artists, including; the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Santana, John Mellencamp, Joan Osbourne, Alanis Morrisette, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Indigo Girls, Tony Allen, John Medeski, Billy Preston, Chris Connelly and Chaka Khan among others. What is it that you enjoy most about collaborating with others?
Meshell- “To be honest, my favorite part of collaborations is that they usually mean I get to just play the bass. Most of your list are vocalists and when I play with them I can just enjoy my instrument, rather than also occupy the singer’s position.”
Rebecca- “Is there anyone that you haven’t collaborated with, but would like to?”
Meshell- “I’d love to work with Brian Eno. I’d also like to work with David Byrne.”
Rebecca- “How did you feel being the first woman to be featured on the cover of Bass Player Magazine? Did you think it helped break down the boundaries that label female musicians?”
Meshell- “I was very young then, so I am not sure the gravity of the honour fully registered, but I am happy to be the first only because it allowed for a second, third, fourth, etc.”
Rebecca- “What are you looking forward to most about the Women’s Music Summit?”
Meshell- “I am looking forward to meeting the people that this kind of format draws. I am excited to play, of course, and hopefully help people see and feel that musicianship, especially among women but truly overall, is a camaraderie. It’s a fellowship and not a competition. I hope to make it possible for people to learn in an environment that believes in that, and that in turn they will go on to learn from anyone who plays without any timidity about learning.
Malina Moye has been referred to as the “female Jimi Hendrix.” She has been featured in a Victoria’s Secret ad, and that’s just the beginning. Malina is very busy these days, and took some time to talk about her thoughts and future plans.
Rebecca- “How do you feel being dubbed Guitar World Magazine’s female Jimi Hendrix? You and Jimi Hendrix both play guitar left handed, but are there other similarities that you share?”
Malina- “I think that’s awesome, but there is only one Jimi. It’s a scary question, but I’d say we are both able to crossover to many genres: blues, rock, funk, and even pop. As Jimi showed the world, the guitar is a very versatile instrument and you can get so many different tones. It’s amazing that one instrument can have many different players, but have a different voice for everyone–even if they all played the same guitar. Oh and the love and admiration for Janie. We have that in common. If you get a chance to meet her you will see why…”
Rebecca- “You are an ambassador for HRH Prince Charles’ Prince’s Trust. Why did you feel you wanted to be a part of the HRH PCPT, and how did you get involved in it?”
Malina- “I love what they stand for. They believe in giving people second chances and helping others to better themselves. They heard about my story when I was touring in the UK–how I came to Hollywood with twenty dollars and lived in the streets all the way to owning my own record label and scoring Billboard-charting songs. I guess they felt I would be inspirational to people so they asked me to be an ambassador for the Trust. As of a few years ago there were only 12 US ambassadors.”
Rebecca- “You are featured in a documentary called “Stratmaster: The Greatest Guitar Story Ever Told.” What was it like keeping company with Mark Knopfler, Jimi Hendrix and Robert Cray? How did this opportunity come about?”
Malina- “The best company to keep! I’m influenced by every one of those players. My Fender representative Billy Siegle told the filmmakers that “Malina is one to watch and she would be a great fit for the documentary.” And he said, I was “the new wave of Fender players.” We shot my portion while I was in the UK touring. It was an honorable feeling and a lot of fun.”
Rebecca- “At the Robert Johnson Blues Festival, you were the only female on the bill. Do you feel you are trailblazer for other female musicians?”
Malina- “What’s funny is when you’re in the moment doing what you’re doing, you never realize that it could be monumental or trailblazing. I’m just doing what feels right to me and I just happen to be a strong, confident black woman who knows what she wants. (Laughs). I think that’s what gives me the courage to go after so many things that may only have a complete roster of men, or no other females have ventured there yet. I don’t see the barrier. I just go for the gusto. I’d say yes, I love it. Hand me the torch.”
Rebecca- “I read that you are featured in a Victoria’s Secret commercial. Can you tell me about it, and have you been in any other ads previously, or in the near future?
Malina- “I was a part of the Victoria’s Secret “Love Rocks Campaign.” Yes, there will be more. There are a few deals on the table now.”
Rebecca- “What are you looking forward to most about the Women’s Music Summit?”
Malina- “I am super excited about this opportunity. I’m so honored that Laura from Guitar World invited me. She flat-out rocks. I love people and the idea of a sleepover for a week with music, learning, fun, and great people sounds like my kind of party! I hope whomever reads this comes out and joins us. Bring your guitar, all levels welcome!”
Marnie Stern is the poster girl for the do-it-yourself female musician. She has done everything her own way, and continues to knock down walls everywhere she goes. She may be considered a late bloomer, but she is a badass that is a force to be reckoned with.
Rebecca- “You have been called a late bloomer, because you started your music career at the age of twenty one. What compelled you to pick up your guitar and start writing songs?”
Marnie- “It was always something that I wanted to do, but I never really knew how to approach it. When I finished college, and realized that I had to choose a direction in life that I enjoyed, I decided to work on music full time. That was when I started taking it very seriously.”
Rebecca- “How did you get inspired to play guitar in a finger tapping style?”
Marnie- “I was listening to a lot of math-y rock music and I found out that a lot of the people in those bands like Don Caballero and Hella used tapping. Once I started trying it out, I realized how much fun it was, and I also liked the sound of all of the notes bouncing of of each other…so I kept using it.”
Rebecca- “Have you thought about doing a collaboration with anyone? Who would it be?”
Marnie- “I haven’t really thought much about that. I think Nancy Wilson is pretty amazing, so in an ideal world it might be her.”
Rebecca- “Who were your musical female role models growing up? Do you have any role models today?”
Marnie- “This crosses over from the last question. I was a big Heart fan. I liked Joan Jett a lot, and Patti Smith is a big one.”
Rebecca- “How did you feel when Venus Magazine named you as one of the Greatest Female Guitarists of All Time?”
Marnie- “I was so flattered. I don’t consider myself to be a very good player, so any mention in that regard is a big honour for me.”
Rebecca- “What are you looking forward to most about the Women’s Music Summit, and how did this opportunity come about?”
Marnie- “I was asked if I was i interested, and of course I was because it’s such a great opportunity to get together which such great players, and learn some things from them, and share what I can with the students. I really can’t think of anything much better than that.”
Bibi McGill has a fascinating resume. She is currently touring with Beyonce as her Guitar Goddess. She also has the titles: Yoga Instructor and Entrepreneur. Bibi opens up, and for a Guitar Goddess, she is very down to earth.
Rebecca- “You’ve toured with Pink, Paulina Rubio, La Ley and now, Beyonce. How did these artists and tours come together for you?”
Bibi- “It started out with Pink. At the time, I was working in LA, pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, and I knew that awesome things were waiting to happen. I had three interviews with Courtney Love because she was looking for a guitar player. Mick Jagger was also looking for a female guitar player, so I was waiting for him to get back in the country.
Out of the blue, I get a call from someone that was working with Pink, and they wanted me to go do the Jay Leno Show, Saturday Night Live and MTV’s Total Request Live. At the time, I didn’t know that Pink was looking at me or even considering me. They put me on a plane and flew me to New York, and that’s when I met Pink. That’s when I started my new job, playing with Pink and doing her promotional stuff. That’s what really jump started my career.
Rebecca- “When did you first start playing guitar?”
Bibi- “I had been working as a professional guitar player since I was nineteen. I studied music in college for four and a half years in Denver. Three or four months after touring with Pink, I got a call from a tour manager saying that Paulina Rubio was going on tour, and needed a female guitar player, and I was the only person they were considering. For the next year and a half, I toured any time she played TV shows all over the United States, and Mexico, including parts of South America and Central America.
I did a lot of latin TV shows with Paulina Rubio, including the Latin Grammys. There was another group from Chile called La Ley, which are like the U2 of Latin music. They saw me on MTV performing with Paulina and said “We want that girl in our band!” They were trying to cross over into english speaking America. I met them in LA during a listening party for their album. For the next three years, I toured with La Ley all over South America, Central America, and Mexico. It’s pretty incredible how I got immersed in latin music for about four and a half years.
After La Ley, I was tired of the whole music industry. I felt like I wanted to quit. I put down my guitar, and since I had been practicing yoga since 1998, I thought, I’m just going to go forward with yoga.
I had previously been certified to teach yoga, so I taught yoga part time, for about a year. It was really my only job, besides some commercials, modeling work and print work. In LA it’s pretty tough to make a living as a yoga instructor, because the cost of living is so high. My bank account dwindled, and right about that time, I started getting calls saying that Beyonce was looking for a female guitar player for her band. I love Beyonce, but I didn’t want to play guitar and tour anymore. Finally, I was convinced to do it. I went to the audition and have been touring with Beyonce for the last six years.”
Rebecca- “When did you get into yoga and when did you start teaching it?”
Bibi- “I started practicing yoga in 1998, long before I started touring professionally. I found that it opened up my life and I never felt better than I did when I went to that first yoga class. I knew it would always be a part of my life. Within the year, I started getting more and more into yoga. I started out once or twice a week, then I started doing it as much as I could. In 2001, when I started up with Pink, I was doing yoga while on tour.
While I was touring with La Ley, I actually did my yoga teachers training online to get certified. I had reading assignments every week, and I had to practice yoga six times a week and write down everything I did from when I woke up, what I ate, how I meditated, and which nostrils were open at what times of the day. These are all very important when learning yoga as a science.
I did this for five and a half months, while on tour, keeping up with assignments from my teacher who was in Thailand and India. When we got a break from tour, I went to Thailand for a month and completed my teacher’s training. I was immersed in yoga every day from 4:30 am to 8:30 pm. I then went back to tour with La Ley, and that’s when decided I needed a change.”
Rebecca- “I didn’t realize that getting a teaching degree in yoga was so rigorous.”
Bibi- “I wanted to get my teaching degree because I wanted to understand it more. I wanted to go deeper into it. It turned out that later that I realized that I wanted to share it with people. It had such a profound impact on the way I saw things, the way I felt and my energy. I felt connected to myself and other things like nature, and it all just came together.”
Rebecca- “I have read that you started packaging your own line of kale chips in Oregon called Bibi’s Kale Chips. What gave you the idea to start packaging your own line of kale chips?”
Bibi- “The more I got into yoga, the more I realized how different food affected me, and how changes to my diet made me feel better. I started leaning towards more vegetarian and raw food. When I was in Portland I had a garden, and at the end of the season I had a lot of kale. I didn’t want to waste it, so I went online and tried to figure out how to make kale chips. I followed a recipe, but I didn’t like it because it was really boring and bland. I got inspired to make my own recipe and I took some garlic, cayenne pepper, and crushed red pepper. I dehydrated the kale for about 15-20 hours, and the next morning I got up and tasted one. My jaw fell to the floor because it was so good! I couldn’t believe it!
When I shared it with my friends, the reaction was the same.They wanted to know what it was and how I made it. In November 2010, I decided that I was going to get my kale chips on the market by January 2011, and I did. I got my commercial kitchen and food processing license, along with my equipment. When I go on the road, I’m running my business from the road and making sure everything is going properly. Right now I’m at a point where in order to grow, I need an investor. It’s exploding, and the stores that carry the product are really supportive of me. I’m very excited about it!”
Rebecca- “Are there any new flavours that you are working on?”
Bibi- “I have six flavours that I’m just waiting to put into production. The process is time consuming because I have to wait for the kale to dehydrate (around 15-20 hours). It’s not like I can flash fry them and be done. It’s challenging to supply the six flavours without the proper equipment and people. It’s just a matter of time till I find an investor and introduce my other flavours.”
Rebecca- “How do you find all the time to do the touring, play guitar, make your kale chips, and do yoga? Is there a secret that you can share with us on how to successfully multi-task?”
Bibi- “You have to really be focused and realize that where you put your attention, that’s where you are able to create and manifest. There are a lot of people who are distracted and unable to organize, and they’re not balanced. Yoga is the number one thing that helps me to maintain balance in my life. I decide what it is I want, and I put my actions behind my words, and I do it.
You have to be driven, organized and have the integrity to follow through. It’s not a secret, I believe anyone can do anything that they want to do. You can’t give up. When things start to get challenging, you’ve got to keep going. It doesn’t matter what people tell you. I’ve had people tell me “no, you can’t do this, no, you can’t do that.” My family never told me I couldn’t do anything. People outside of my family have. I go and share my ideas with people that tell me “I can.”
Rebecca- “That’s great advice! I was wondering what you are looking forward to about the Women’s Music Summit and how the opportunity came about for you?”
Bibi- “I got an email and a phone call one day. All from the same person. (Laughs). Laura contacted me and I thought, this is excellent! Different women, different instruments, and different backgrounds. What a great way to share with them, to encourage them, to follow their dream and do music. I think for a long time women have been taught that you can’t play an instrument, and if you do want to play an instrument, you can play the violin, you can sing, you can dance.
Women can play the trumpet, the saxophone, the bass, or the drums. Women can do anything we want. I think this is a time in our history, energetically and spiritually, that things are shifting and women are starting to become more into their own power. They are pursuing their dreams. I’m really happy to be a part of that, encouraging and inspiring that. Likewise, that will encourage and inspire me.”
Rebecca- “This conversation has been inspiring to me, and I know you will inspire others.”
Bibi- “I hope so. That’s what it’s about. No one’s perfect. I don’t have all the answers, but we can help each other.”