Just recently, a collective of the music industry’s most powerful female executives collaborated on a letter calling out the Recording Academy for being “woefully out of touch” following comments made by the Academy president Neil Portnow, who stated that women in music need to “step up”. In response, the academy announced a new task force to tackle gender bias in the music industry.
Women colluding in the name of equality is no new occurrence. This February marked the 100th anniversary of the 1918 suffragette and suffragist movements which took place during a time in which women’s rights were truly limited. Collectives of brave women used both peaceful and chaos-inducing methods to raise awareness of their want for political engagement and equality. Though thanks to the efforts of the 1918 movements women were granted the right to vote, the new ruling was restricted to women aged over 30 and in possession of or occupying property worth more than £5. Much like in the modern music industry, despite victories, there was still progress to be made.
We caught up with Manchester singer-songwriter Morgan Harper Jones, who is currently in the process of working on her debut EP, to talk about her track ‘You Have A Voice, Give Me Half’. The track explores themes of feminism from the suffragette movement to today’s battles.
What was your ethos behind writing ‘You Have A Voice, Give Half To Me’?
Musically, I was really inspired by the sound of Laura Marling’s 2013 album Once I Was an Eagle and the subject matter of her 2017 Album Semper Femina. Subject wise, it was written after a time which I think everybody has some form of opinion on: when someone incredibly vulgar and misogynistic was chosen as arguably the most powerful man in the world.
Like a lot of people, I felt really frustrated and angry about this and about how it seemed like feminism wasn’t being taken seriously. I wanted to look back at the first wave of feminism during the suffragette movement and compare it to its second wave in the 60s-80s and where we are today in its third wave. The lyrics are structured in that order.
How does the suffragette movement resonate with you?
I can resonate with it, but I can’t for one second comprehend what it took those women to do that. Any kind of movement for justice and equality in history has me in absolute awe. The idea of people standing up and risking their lives to stand up for something that they believe in blows my mind.
Do you consider it important for female artists to promote equality?
Yes, oh my goodness I could talk forever about this. I think we’ve really got to support each other. In Manchester the support for the female musicians in the community is great, with Brighter Sound putting out amazing female music projects like ‘Both Sides Now’ and “Girl Gang Manchester”, promoting and arranging all things womanly wonderful. We need to celebrate each other. I love the quote:
“Real queens fix each other’s Crowns.”
I sometimes feel really sad when I’m the only girl on the bill at local gigs in Manchester, and it blows my mind to see such a small amount of female artists playing the UK’s festival line ups! Because it’s such a male dominated industry as a female artist I sometimes feel a bit intimidated or patronised by my male counterparts (especially when it comes to tech – but thats another story). I know that I’ve just got to keep going and ignore the voice in my head that is conditioned that way. There are so so so many incredible female artists in Manchester at the minute: Lindsay Munroe, FINOLA, Thea Brooks, Caitlin Gilligan, Camilla Sky – I could go on forever! You Rock Ladies!
Could the track relate to yours (or anyone’s) experience as a female tackling the music industry?
I think that the title, “You have a voice, give half to me” could relate to the idea of equal male/female gig line ups, which I would love to one day be the norm. If it is only (or predominantly) men on the bill, then we only hear one half of the story. I sometimes wonder if that with there being so many male dominated line ups, aspiring young female musicians watching might be subconsciously absorbing that. It may be appear like something they can’t aspire to as women, if that makes sense? I think it’s a process and it will take a while but we’ll get there.
I think that the line, “A movement has to move” would hopefully relate in a sense that us female musos have got to stick together and keep moving forward, even if it’s a little bit at a time – any progress is some progress whether that’s in you as a musician or in tackling the industry as a whole.
What are your biggest inspirations?
Joni Mitchell is the absolute queen in the long list of my inspirations! Her ear for a melody and how they are so emotional and unpredictable has just captivated me since I was about 14 and heard her album ‘Blue’ for the first time. My aunty Louise has also been an incredible inspiration to me as she has always written and made music; growing up I knew eve
ry word to every single song she wrote. She’s the one who showed me how much fun performing is. I’d go along to her gigs from being about 7 and even if I just played tambourine – she’d have me up doing something!
At the minute, I’m hugely inspired by Laura Marling, Alice Pheobe-Lou and Agnes Obel. If I could ever support them at one of their gigs or write with them I’d be absolutely over the moon!
Morgan Harper Jones will be debuting a selection of her tracks on 6th March at the Castle Hotel in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, supporting band Finnish acoustic band Samoja. Other support will include London based folk/country musician Mike West and Manchester based musician Liam McClair. Keep and eye on Morgan’s Facebook page for ticket details.
Words by Hannah Walford – Hannah.firstname.lastname@example.org