The writing on the wall at Record Plant reads, “Those who can go anywhere, come here.” Reaffirming that sentiment are photos of musical heavyweights like David Bowie, Prince and Freddie Mercury on a wall that pays homage to the iconic studio’s star-studded list of clientele. On Dec. 11 and 12 the Plant was home to an all-women songwriters camp that was curated by a pair of organizations with a shared interest in supporting and celebrating the music industry’s women talent, American Express and She Is the Music.
Since its founding in 2018, She is the Music has programmed a variety of initiatives including songwriting camps to cultivate a growing pipeline of women creators. Alicia Keys, the non-profit’s co-founder and host of the December camp, reflected on the organization’s beginnings. “She Is The Music was basically born out of the need that in the music industry -- really in every industry, in every way -- we all have to be focused on getting more women to the table.”
During the two days, a talented pool of songwriters, producers and engineers set out to make magic under the direction of Keys in a series of recording sessions. The full list of attendees included:
Songwriters – Mozella, Ingrid Andress, Ingrid Burley, Kirby Lauryen, Kaydence, Destiny Rogers, Madi Yanofsky, LIIV and Jade McKenzie
Producers -- TOKIMONSTA, Wendy Wang and Alex Hope
Engineers – Lynne Earls, Ainjel Emme and Lauren D’Elia
Like its past iterations, the goal of the December writing camp was twofold as the attendees came together to create both music and community. Keys spoke to Billboard about the significance of the latter. "Oftentimes, if you're in a studio and creating, it's rare that it's a room full of women. We felt like it would be really awesome to create this community, to create this camaraderie, to create relationships where we were able to bring women of all facets together and experience each other in a space that felt like we can collaborate, share and be honest."
Throughout the camp’s second day, Keys popped in on the simultaneous sessions to listen to the beginnings of tracks and offer up advice to campers who were trying to find their groove in the booths and at the boards. In studio one, a group comprised of TOKIMONSTA, Kaydence, Destiny Rogers, Wendy Wang, Mozella and Jade McKenzie chipped away at a women’s empowerment anthem tentatively titled “Soldier.” The chest-thumping track featured a songstress chanting, “She gon’ be her own soldier,” as Keys sat among the ladies bopping her head with a pen and pad in hand.
In a second studio, songwriter Ingrid Burley (see her 2016 EP Trill Feels and Beyoncé’s “LOVE DROUGHT”) contributed to a few tracks that Keys took a particular liking to. For Burley, the camp offered a unique opportunity to network. “I think the bond we formed there was the most valuable and priceless thing that we took away from the experience.” She added of the interaction with Keys: “Getting direct, specific feedback on the music was really helpful in our creative process. She had the strongest reactions to the rough ideas we had and it was cool to see her taking notes about each idea she liked. She even jumped in the booth for a bit and laid a couple of vocals to one of the ideas and that was super cool. For someone so successful and powerful to be so gracious was a lesson in itself. You can be kind and inclusive, and still be the boss.”
For others, the camp was a reaffirmation that women’s stories matter. Billboard’s December 2019 “Chartbreaker” artist Ingrid Andress (“More Hearts Than Mine,” her debut single; “Boys,” Charli XCX and “About You,” Fletcher) noted that women-driven songwriting camps are a way to promote new perspectives musically. “There is an energy that I feel like the industry hasn't tapped into yet by putting women together. There are a lot of stories that haven't been told yet by women, and I think these all-girl writing camps really help showcase what we have to offer.”
Below, you can check out a behind the scenes video documenting the songwriting camp: