On Monday, March 8, the Recording Academy kicked off a Grammy week unlike any other with its first of many scheduled virtual events. In honor of International Women’s Day, the Academy presented Women In the Mix, which featured Ingrid Andress, Sheila E., Emily Lazar, Saweetie and others, aimed to “celebrate contributions by women across the industry.”
Harvey Mason Jr., chair and interim president/CEO of the Academy, spoke first, saying he ran for his position “on a platform of change and understanding … that we have to actively and urgently pursue the transformation we want to see [in the industry].”
Following a knockout performance from Chloe Flower, who performed “No Limit” while seated at a disco-ball inspired piano, it was announced that the Academy was donating $25,000 to a handful of organizations and charities that support the growth of women and girls in production and engineering.
That’s far from the only tangible action being taken to reach gender parity, one of which was revealed later in the evening. Below, we break down the five best moments from the event.
MC Lyte And Sheila E Took a Trip Down Memory Lane
The first in-depth conversation of the night took place between rapper-DJ-actress MC Lyte and singer-percussionist Sheila E. The two spoke about their lengthy history as Los Angeles chapter members of the Recording Academy, the need to amplify women’s voices in the industry and create more opportunities for women to enter the industry, as well as how the pandemic has impacted their work and mind. Each artist has been involved in the Academy for nearly a decade, and agree on one major takeaway: “Say nothing if you have nothing to say,” said MC Lyte, to which Sheila E replied, “And raise your hand if you do have something to say.”
They later discussed coming up in male-dominated fields and how even though Sheila E worked with women engineers back in the ’80s, she still believes it should have been and should be better. “I think we want to encourage the up and coming women to strive for greatness and respect and encourage them that no doesn’t mean you can’t do it or you’re not able.” Added MC Lyte: “If a door shuts or doesn’t remain open it’s just not for you … Go back to home base and practice, rehearse, create and better your craft. Keep at it, just get better and create some more tentacles.”
Ingrid Andress Answered Five Burning Questions
Next up, the Academy delivered a segment called 5 Questions that featured country singer-songwriter Ingrid Andress. She recalled how industry veteran Kara DioGuardi first showed her she could both write and sing, and encouraged her to sharpen her songwriting skills to better help others and herself down the road. The advice paid off, as it pushed Andress to pull from even more personal experiences that connected with fans on a deeper level (as illustrated by her Best New Artist nomination this year).
As for her best advice to those eager to enter the industry? “You need to be your biggest cheerleader,” she said. “At the end of the day, if you don’t really believe in what you’re doing, nobody else will.” She also emphasized the “fine line” between “learning from other people and comparing yourself to other people. I‘ve learned so much from other women in music, but in no way am I ever trying to be exactly like them or thinking I’m doing something wrong because the way I got to where I am doesn’t look like their journey. We as women have been programmed by society to think we have to compare ourselves, but believe in what you do separate from what anybody else is doing. You have to be the one to show people that what you have to say matters.”
Haim Introduced (and Praised) Emily Lazar
Later, Album of the Year nominee Haim virtually dropped in to introduce Emily Lazar, the mastering engineer on Women In Music Pt. III (as well as two more of this year’s AOTY nominees’ records: Jacob Collier and Coldplay). Lazar, who also founded New York audio mastering facility The Lodge, then spoke about her new initiative Moving The Needle, a nonprofit “whose ultimate mission is to permanently close the gender gap on the technical side of music making,” she said, adding its three core goals are: “educate, equip and energize female-identifying producers and engineers.”
Lazar said though she knew the gap is quite prominent, she was surprised after learning that just 2.6% of producers and engineers across popular music dating back to 2012 (sampling about 900 songs) were women, according to a recent study by USC Annenberg. As a result, she felt inspired to make a “quantifiable difference” in increasing that statistic. To start, Moving The Needle will provide eight scholarships for women-identifying audio engineers and producers, with goals of expanding that reach in the future.
Elaine Welteroth, Teen Vogue’s Editor-In-Chief, Chatted With Saweetie
Saweetie first recalled how when her debut single, “Icy Grl,” started to take off a few years ago, she was working nonstop. She said since her first show in Istanbul, Turkey she never took a break and that since quarantine, she was finally able to give her body a rest. “I really encourage the go-getters to really take care of your body and your health,” she said. “If your body’s not working, your music isn’t working.”
She later discussed how her recent collaboration with Doja Cat, “Best Friend,” came together, saying she first met the artist two years ago in London and that she was a “cool, vibrant and creative girl.” The next time Saweetie collaborates, though, she said she hopes to be in the studio with the artist (her bucket list currently includes Rihanna and H.E.R.). She also discussed the purpose behind her career, shouting out her nonprofit Icy Baby Foundation and its aim to give back to her community as she continues to rise.
Lanre Gaba, Nova Wav and IV Jay Shared How They Combat Fear
Atlantic Records’ general manager/svp A&R, Lanre Gaba, Grammy-winning songwriting and production duo Nova Wav and R&B artist IV Jay had an honest discussion about being authentic and strong in the industry. At one point, Nova Wav recalled IV Jay working on a song about being a “damsel in distress” that didn’t fit her own story or narrative, and why working with women can help bring about the truest version of oneself in the studio.
Later, while discussing how to combat fear, Nova Wav revealed they’ll “power pose” in the bathroom mirror as a way to increase testosterone levels. “You’ll create the muscle memory, and do the next number right,” said Brittany “Chi” Coney. IV Jay related, saying at one point her anxiety was so bad “I’d go to session and disappear and probably be in the bathroom crying.” She continued to say: “I feel like a lot of women are ashamed of getting help — and if you need it you need it.” Gaba added that she’s coped with imposter syndrome in the past, and “always dealt with it by being as prepared as possible so there’s not even a moment of ‘I don’t belong here, because I’ve done the work.’ And to be honest, sometimes you should be uncomfortable in rooms, otherwise you’re not really growing.”
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