In honor of Women’s History Month, several showcases were held this week in Nashville to recognize the females who work tirelessly in the music industry to have their voices heard.
While the lineup of female songwriters performing at 3rd & Lindsley on Mar. 9 as part of Backstage Nashville was vocal about the struggles each woman has faced, other events like Sony Music Nashville and WME’s joint concert, “A Celebration of Women’s History Month,” on Mar. 11 at City Winery focused solely on songs by women that had a major impact on the genre. Meanwhile, the all-female singer-songwriter collective Song Suffragettes celebrated its fifth anniversary this week by honoring songwriter Liz Rose with their inaugural Yellow Rose of Inspiration Award for her contributions to the songwriting community.
Saturday’s Backstage Nashville songwriters show and VIP experience saw several women performing on an all-female lineup for the very first time. "I'm honored to be here and to a be part of this and help out anyway I can," Lucie Silvas said before playing her new single “Black Jeans.” She then admitted that it is no small feat to have her single played on the radio as an independent artist. "There [aren’t] enough women on the radio but that doesn't mean we can't keep doing what we're doing. We gotta just do it anyway."
Songwriter Tia Sillers headlined the showcase and shared her wisdom with the audience. Having penned hits for Lee Ann Womack (“I Hope You Dance”) and the Dixie Chicks (“There’s Your Trouble”), among others, Sillers reflected on her start in the ‘90s when country radio was filled with songs from powerful female vocalists.
“I've been so fortunate. When I started out as a songwriter, I started out in the early 90s when women in the music business were very much a force. We were just regular women working in the 90s, doing what women did,” she recalled. “It was 40-something percent women, 55-percent men. That's OK. People would always talk about the glass ceiling. What glass ceiling in the music business? It's great!”
She then went on to explain what she believes is the reason less females are heard on today’s country radio. She cited the deregulation of radio, which happened under the Clinton administration in the late 90s, as well as 9/11, which she credited as the “death wheel of our tender hearts.”
“We were scared and bitter and so all of those things had an effect on the music business. And then these fabulous three blonde women from Texas named the Dixie Chicks said something incendiary in London and got raked over the coals for it and all those things I believe slowly eroded the music business,” she conceded.
She’d end her performance with a hopeful message for her fellow female songwriters though. “The glass ceiling, we'll kick it through one day. So just keep on ladies.”
Days later, Sony Music Nashville’s roster took the stage at City Winery to perform some covers from the women that helped shape the genre. Hannah Dasher shared a memorable version of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” while Rachel Wammack had the room silent for her rendition of Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine” and LeeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood’s “How Do I Live” on keyboards.
While both Dasher and Wammack admitted how much they loved each of the songs they selected, Seaforth, Robert Counts and Carlton Anderson also shared their appreciation for the women they covered, including Loretta Lynn, Patty Loveless and Shania Twain.
“I love Loretta. She taught me a lot about songwriting. She keeps it simple. She keeps it honest. I appreciate that as a songwriter,” Counts said prefacing “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man.” “I don’t sing it like Ms. Loretta. I try to channel Ms. Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, maybe a little Brandi Carlilie after some whiskey. I want to honor her tonight. She’s done a lot for my career. She’s a huge influence.”
Anderson, meanwhile, marveled at the fact that one woman – Gretchen Peters – penned Patty Loveless’ “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am.”
“Gretchen Peters wrote this one by herself. Nowadays it takes three or four of us to write one of these songs,” he admitted. “I grew up listening to this one and it probably took me until I was 18 to really understand what the song really meant. When you finally figure out what that song is about, it hits you in the chest and I think that’s the beauty of the genre that we’re in and that we can write about stuff like that.”
Sony Music Nashville and WME’s event raised over $3,000 for She Is the Music, a non-profit that aims to create equal opportunities for women in music as well as help to develop the next generation of females. Backstage Nashville’s showcase also raised awareness for Thistle Farms, a non-profit whose mission is to provide support and resources to women who have suffered from trafficking, prostitution and addiction.