Thursday, November 20, 2008 : Women's movement : Women's movement

Female musicians gaining locally
Women's movement
By Kevin W. Smith
Tucson, Arizona Published: 11.20.2008

While women make up more than half the world's population, in American popular music they're largely outnumbered by dudes with guitars. This also holds true in Tucson's music scene, but one area the ladies are increasing in, both locally and nationally, is the singer-songwriter field. "It's kind of an exciting time in the world to be songwriting," said Tucson's Amber Norgaard, one of many women leading the local scene.

Nothing away from the guys in town — Nick Luca, Al Perry, Al Foul and Andrew Collberg, to name a few — or the women rocking out in bands such as Winelord, The Okmoniks and The Runaway 5.
It's just, if you're seeking the most diverse array of female voices in Tucson music, you need to listen to the singer-songwriters.

Local radio personality Cathy Rivers said she's seen more and more women performing on local stages since she started crafting her own music here in the '90s.

"There's a lot of chicks around town playing music," Rivers said. "It's absolutely growing."
The result is some of the most honest, exciting and diverse material the city has to offer, with varying styles, from pop to folk to rock.

"Everyone is totally legitimate in their own right, too," said Namoli Brennet. "It's not just that they exist in this scene."

Segments of the women singer-songwriter collection in Tucson are like small communities that tour, play and share lineups and resources, negating competition.

"There's no making it in Tucson. It's happened, but it's rare," said veteran singer-songwriter Amy Rude. "People are here for the music."

Tucson has a rich tradition of women singer-songwriters, like longtime resident and blues diva Lisa Otey, Americana artist Nancy McCallion, the folky Kathleen Williamson and the incomparable alt-country songstress and Old Pueblo transplant, Neko Case.

This year we've had such quality artists as Ani DiFranco, Sheryl Crow and Johnette Napolitano swinging through town. This month has seen local performances from national acts K.D. Lang and Grace Potter of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

"Women have a softer way of looking at things, almost more sarcastic and less animalistic," said Potter, who played Club Congress earlier this month. "And I really enjoy playing with that and experimenting with it."

Two pioneers, Lilith Fair founder Sarah McLachlan and Alanis Morissette, will perform at the Tucson Arena on Dec. 11 for the listener-appreciation show from The Mountain (92.9-FM).
On the national and international stages, there've been several who have found success pushing the boundaries, starting way back in the '60s and '70s with Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith, all the way to the '90s with DiFranco, Melissa Etheridge, Björk, Lauryn Hill and PJ Harvey.

Today there's a female artist — be it Feist, Regina Spektor, Cat Power, Joanna Newsom, Norah Jones or M.I.A. — at the forefront of just about any genre.

The winner of the Arizona Daily Star's 2008 Battle of the Bands was the folk-pop duo Mirror Image. Twins Andrea and Juliet Wilhelmi, the only females in the competition, prevailed against 24 guys.
Still, reasons vary as to why more women don't use the musical-strength-in-numbers philosophy as often as guys do with bands, instead of opting to do their own thing as solo artists.
Rivers said many garage bands evolve out of friendships, and, more often than not, that's "boys getting together with boys."

"Women, then, are like, 'Well, I'm just going to learn to play guitar. I'm going to start playing on my own,' " she said.

Local crooner Marianne Dissard doesn't consider herself a singer-songwriter because she only writes lyrics, but she said the advantages of being a solo artist are simple.

"If you're a one-person band, you are free to do whatever you want, whenever you need to do it," she said via e-mail while on tour in France.

A challenge for women musicians is that they are often lumped into a stereotype — even the term "singer-songwriter" is seen by some as a way to marginalize a large group of distinct voices.
"I think the expectation of a female musician should be just as high as a male, and I don't like it when people lower their expectations because there's a girl," Potter said. "It's like, 'Oh, give her a chance, she's really pretty.'"

Tucson's Kaia Chesney thinks guys, for instance, get more credit for being emotional in songs; when similar sentiments are coming from a woman, it's expected.

"I want to be honest in everything that I write and sing, and I want it to be realistic," she said. "But at the same time I don't want to be swept under the rug as a 'feminist, coffee-bar singer.' Which I think happens to a lot of good female musicians."

Potter, who is signed to a major label, would love to see more women making music, but said they have to give audiences something different.

"Don't complain about having all this flooded industry of men if you're not going to provide something substantial for people to latch onto," she said.

"I don't want to hear a million Tori Amoses. We've got one."
Among Tucson's female singer-songwriters, there were also mixed feelings about the number of venues that support their music.

Coffeehouses such as Epic Cafe, Javalinas Coffee and Friends, Shot in the Dark Cafe, and Bentley's House of Coffee & Tea are all seen as being supportive.

There are also traditional music venues such as Club Congress, Plush, Solar Culture, Red Room at Grill and the Living Room that will provide a forum.

Kris Kerry is the concert booker at Plush nightclub and husband of Rivers. While he's not keeping a tally of the male-to-female musician ratio at Plush, he said it is a welcoming venue for singer-songwriters.
"I don't think there's any blatant sexism," Kerry said. "But there does always seem to be more male artists than female artists."

Rude would like to see more venues in town welcome singer-songwriters, although she's been known to get creative: Her first Tucson gig was busking on a Downtown sidewalk near Hotel Congress.

Williamson, a singer-songwriter who moved to Tucson more than 20 years ago, said she would like to see additional art galleries open their doors for performances from "a poet with a guitar."

"The venues aren't going to be created unless the audience comes out," she said.

Williamson also thinks that some of the coffeehouses that do support singer-songwriters could do more to promote the shows, and that musicians often receive little or no ompensation.

"It's a labor of love," she said.

Today we introduce you some women making music locally — and there should be plenty more new faces in the years to come.

"More parents are buying girls guitars," Rivers said. "They never used to. And that's just pure evolution of the feminist movement."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Music notes | ®

Music notes ®: "

Music notes

Tucson, Arizona Published: 11.14.2008

The Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave., will become boogie woogie central as Lisa Otey presents her Fourth Annual Boogie Woogie Blowout on Saturday.

Among the acts will be pianist Doña Oxford from Los Angeles and Carl Sonny Leyland, a blues and Boogie Woogie player inspired by classic artists such as Roosevelt Sykes and Otis Spann.
Local favorites Otey and Arthur Migliazza also will perform.

The evening begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance (call 370-5912) and $30 at the door."