Updated: Mar 22
Throughout the month of September, we will work with, talk to, and introduce you to many women behind the scenes of music around the world, visualizing the importance and roles of many of them through interviews, portraits, and articles.
Management agencies, record labels, sound technicians, light technicians, stage technicians, photographers, managers, PR, lyricists, merchandising, designed costume, there are countless roles, professions, and jobs behind the career of an artist or a band, all working with the same goal. However, although the growing visibility of women in the music industry has become noticeable in recent years, (almost half of the 20 best selling albums of this century belong to women) when we look at the record credits, female names are scarce, composers, producers, arrangers, sound engineers, session musicians, are still mostly men. The gender ratio behind the music scene remains uneven, we can compare years, decades, the past will not change, but the work of the present can stabilize the future. Today, to start this month dedicated to women behind the scenes, we will introduce you to three important women who were behind the success of great musical icons.
“The lads were something different and something special and those of us who returned night after night to the Cavern Club knew they were going to be big one day. We just didn’t know how big”.
Freda Kelly about The Beatles
The Beatles were and still are one of the most important bands in the history of music. You may not be a fan of the band, but I'm sure you know who George Martin (musical producer of the band) is, known as the „The Fifth Beatle", or Brian Epstein, their manager. You know who Yoko Ono is, or was cute McCartney was, you know many names of people close to the band, colleagues, partners - but honestly how many times have you heard of Freda Kelly? Just answer that question by telling you that in ten years of the British band's career, she worked eleven. Freda was a fixed variable in the career of the four Liverpool boys, not only because of her work as a secretary and assistant to the band but mainly because of her loyalty and unwavering dedication. She never wanted to talk about them, however, more than four decades later, she starred in the documentary "Good Ol' Freda" where you can hear her and meet the most important woman behind the career of the most important band in the history of music.
Most people will not recognize the face of Ola Hudson, and if you search her name on Google, it is likely that before a picture of her, the first thing that will appear is a picture of David Bowie, John Lennon, or Slash. Ola Hudson was born in Los Angeles, California as Ola Oliver. As a teenager, she traveled to Paris to study ballet, until she finished her studies in London in the mid-sixties. If we place ourselves in time and space, a historical context in which the most important part of British musical history was in development. Ola was a woman with a stunning presence, she knew how to stop a room and attract all eyes, her good taste in fashion stood out above all. Her achievements as a dressmaker and costume designer led her to work as a costume designer in the early careers of artists who became musical icons such as Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, John Lennon, and her most recognized work as a costume designer for David Bowie. Some of the items she designed for Bowie are among the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). But Ola's connection with the music surpassed generations, those who recognize the name “Slash,” ( Guns N’ Roses) might be surprised to know that his mother was Ola Hudson.
“But I had spent my entire youth looking at pictures of control rooms on the insides of album jackets and I knew that I wanted to be there.”
Behind the glass of a recording studio, Trina Shoemaker has produced the works of countless artists, like Queens of the Stone Age, for instance. She grew up in Illinois, but at the age of 19, she moved to Los Angeles, with the express goal of becoming a record producer, where she got a job as a secretary at Capitol Records, but unfortunately, the record company and the recording facility were two separate entities. She then briefly moved to London to be close to the studios. Upon her arrival, she worked in a bar, and briefly attended a small private recording school. After that, she worked with singer Hugh Harris, but without achievements, she returned to LA. There, she began working for producer Daniel Lanois at Kingsway Studios in New Orleans. In 1992, she became the studio's house engineer, but her break came in 1995 when the singer Sheryl Crow turned up in her life to begin recording her eponymous follow-up to the immensely successful "Tuesday Night Music Club". Since then, Shoemaker’s career was firmly established. In 1999, she became the first woman to win a Grammy award as a sound engineer for Sherly Crow's album "The globe sessions". In the years since, she has worked with a lot of artists, like Brandi Carlile, and Steven Curtis Chapman, whose 2004 album "All Things New" netted Shoemaker her third Grammy.
Looking at the incredible achievements of Shoemaker, Hudson, and Kelly, it almost comes as a shock that most of the most dedicated music lovers are rather unfamiliar with the names of these women. In order to shine a light on the (underappreciated) professionals behind the scenes, music is her passion dedicated the month of September to the work of some of the hardest-working but unknown women of the past and present. Let’s give it up for the women behind our favorite records!