Women in Music Wednesday Partners with NMG to Feature Female Artists: Karen Waldrup, Dana Radford, Ashlee K Thomas, and Hilary Romaine
Written by Katharine W. Poole
Nashville has a power house that is virtually unexposed to the rest of the real world. Women. Women of music. Women who rock the house, the writing, the scene, every day of every week. Yet, for some reason the market still calls for “Bro Country.” The ‘Good ‘Ol Boys’ network monopolizes the industry, as if the only songs we want to hear contain flip flop party scenes and truck driving men with tight jeans on their mind. Contrary to popular belief, men do listen to female artists on their personal playlists while airplay for women on Country radio continues to be challenging at best. It’s a frustrating dilemma for a talented group who have to take it on the road if they want to make any kind of living.
This trend in music effects women artists country-wide. However, Nashville has the pull to be a catalyst for change. Women of Music Music of Women (WMMW) is taking the initiative to generate a new trend. It is our goal to not only introduce and promote women of music, but to connect them with each other in a supportive collaborative effort to take the public, media and industry by storm. It is time for a change.
Cilene Bosch President and Founder of WMMW established Women of Music Music of Women in 2000 to support, promote and connect women in the music industry. It was an entity for four years. Due to familial issues, the creators of WMMW were forced to take a hiatus. The Nashville Music Guide offered us a platform to share our stories, information and connections in hopes of supporting women musicians, artists, writers, performers and business executives to promote and support the artistic endeavors of women in the music industry.
To kick off our bi-monthly column, we will be introducing readers to featured women artists, some based in Nashville, others frequent guests of the Music City. Their stories will not only compel, inspire and entertain but may guide and educate the listener and the aspiring musician, singer/songwriter, music business professional. Their travels and tales are from all walks of life, all unified by the shared experience of the Nashville music lifestyle, each pursuing a career in their own way.
The first four artists featured in our upcoming articles shared with me a taste of who they are and how they chose Nashville. As I listened to each history, path and pursuit I realized the common thread that bonds them, (besides their desire to write and perform music.) It is, the thread of frustration. The same story no matter the experience, talent or style – a “you can’t get there from here” cycle, in which women are told they are talented but not worth investing in. The tunnel vision of what comprises marketable music has become our downfall.
Karen Waldrup has led an interesting roller coaster of “almost there” in her still blossoming career. Singing her way through college she made the move to Nashville, two months after graduation from college in 2007. Within a very short time she found herself on a reality show, had a label backing her and looked towards what she believed would be a recording deal. “Every one told me five years, give it five years to get established in this town. You hear it over and over. Well, it’s been what, eight? I’m looking at the ten year plan,” she laughs, but it isn’t a joke.
Dana Radford and her husband Judd Fuller thought for sure they had something extremely unique to offer Nashville. Both had been big fish in the little pond of the Martha’s Vineyard music scene. Both had extensive music careers but loved the island way of life. Then Judd was offered a gig with Rodney Atkins. This meant a move and change of lifestyle. Dana had promised herself she would not live in a big city again and was relieved to find, upon moving to Nashville in 2005, that it was a small city. “It was truly ‘Little big town.'” The change was a challenge. “Here we were, little fish in a small pond, there are just a lot more fish swimming around,” Dana smiles. “But, I have a different sound, so it does not feel competitive. I Love Nashville because I get to be me in Nashville”. Coming from a long line of entertainers, Dana has been a professional singer since the age of 15, starting her career in her native Canada, working in New York City as a successful jingle singer and performing every night, singing five nights a week on the Vineyard and eventually landing in Nashville. “I thought I would have a cut by now. I honestly thought we had a chance in the game, and I still do after ten years.” She too was told, “This is a five year town.”
Ashlee K Thomas has created a collaborative approach to her art, incorporating her music with yoga instruction. Though her true focus is music, she is finding unique ways to marry that passion with her other talents. “I love using music and yoga together whenever I possibly can…Putting yoga in unlikely places.” She still goes on the road to play, but her goals have changed to stretch beyond stage performance and publishing. “I was going to get a record deal. I was going to give it one year,” she laughs. “I heard people say, this is a five year town, and I was like: ‘I don’t have five years,’” she laughs again in self realization, “yeah ya’ do, you got eight. Ya’ got twenty.” The change for her comes in a therapeutic form “I still want to write better songs and the good thing is, that can always happen. I sing in all my yoga classes – you open the body and you pour some music into it – it’s like magic.”
Hilary Romaine’s approach is soothing and grounded, a testament to her calming personality and to her craft. There is an old world, old school presence that she brings to the scene. A bit Joan Baez a bit Joni Mitchell. A poet who captures music from the stories of the people around her. “I’ve always written poetry and I’ve always sung…but then when I actually bought a guitar the two came together. I literally started writing as soon as I learned the major and minor chords, it’s been non-stop.” Hilary is a talented visual artist, a single mom and an independent spirit. She makes you believe you can accomplish anything with ease, grace and patience. Her goal is very different from any one I have encountered in Nashville. It’s come what may approach. “I’ve never been a planner. I’ve never been like, OK in twenty years I’m going to do that. How the Hell do you know that? So, I never consciously said OK so this is going to be my goal. I suppose thinking about more now, what is it that I actually have to start doing – what do I do with my songs now? I’m going to be doing this the rest of my life regardless, writing. How am I going to make money doing it? Because, I think there is money to be made.”
Each of these women has a gift. A gift that should be heard. Not just by a small local following, but by the world. Their words along with their music and understanding of what this town has to offer aspiring women singer/songwriters are invaluable to our community. They are out there performing, writing and striving to be heard, recognized and signed. The proof is in the asking. The men who write with, play with and attend their concerts, rounds and events will tell you. As my neighbor Danny states: “if we sign them they will come.” He is flabbergasted that these artists are not signed, that the road for talented women is wrought with speed bumps and stop signs.
As for “Bro Country”…
Don’t get me wrong, I like songs about trucks, tight blue jeans and even a well written party song, but it’s time for a change up. There are women with equally fun and compelling songs. They perform with intelligent grace and Rock and Roll hearts. They are powerhouses, divas, poets and troubadours and they will knock your socks off. Sorry boys, you’ve hogged the stage for far too long. Here come the girls, well dressed and ready to rock!
Women of Music Music of Women is an alliance for women in the music industry to network, support, promote, and recognize the many talented women in the industry by bringing them together with all aspects to include artists, attorneys, agents, managers, artist development, label execs, publishers, media, songwriters, past present and future talent to discuss and address the issues that concern women in the industry.
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*The material included in this article is the sole property of the writer, (Katharine W. Poole,) and the photographer, (Cilene Bosch.) All elements may be used in other publications as determined by the owners. Permission must be obtained for reproduction.