Feminism Through Song: Erika Lloyd Celebrates Powerful Women in Music

We spend a lot of time talking about the worlds of rock, pop, hip-hop, and even EDM, but there is a big world of music we have barely been able to scratch the surface of so far on the Haulix blog. It’s not that we don’t want to cover more areas, but we do want to be sure we know what we’re talking about. The content produced on this site is the result of direct experience, so if we’re going to post about something our team doesn’t fully grasp we’d rather find an outsider to come and write for us. The best content is created by the people most informed to write about that particular subject, after all, so when we knew we wanted to cover strong women in music we knew we needed to have classically-trained vocalist Erika Llyod help us out.

Erika Lloyd is a vocalist unlike any other we have featured on our blog. She has studied with world-renowned early music performers, earned a Bachelors of Voice Performance Early Music from Indiana University, and she was a featured soloist in the revered choral ensemble, Pro Arte. Erika’s work in cross-genre performance and composition led to the Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Chanticleer, arranging and performing Erika’s song, “Cells Planets” on its international 2010-2011 Out of This World Concert Tour . She’s an early music renaissance women if there ever was one, and there is still much she hopes to accomplish.

Along with her husband, Brad Whiteley, Erika has been able to hone in on a sound entirely her own that the world is quickly learning to love. Her debut album, Power, will arrive in stores September 18. You can view the lyric video for the title track below:

Erika recently penned a wonderful blog about powerful women in music, or the lack thereof, and we begged her to let us share it here on the blog. You can read here thoughts below.

If you would like to learn more about Erika Lloyd’s work, click here to visit her official website. Power arrives in stores September 18.

Feminism Through Song: Erika Lloyd Celebrates Powerful Women in Music

As I prepare for the September release of my debut solo album, “Power,” I’ve been enjoying digging in to the meaning and inspiration behind the album’s name and title of the first single. The word “power” has a lot of connotations both positive and negative, as well as a ton of different meanings, which made for an intriguing title. Influence, energy, capability, and strength are the positive meanings that I chose to reference in the song and recurring themes of the album.

Western classical music and musical theater are where I got my start in training and performance. I studied piano, trumpet, and voice, later receiving my Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from Indiana University. In learning about the way music history was recorded, I noticed something peculiar. After taking seven semesters of music history classes, covering over 800 years of music, I can count the number of female composers discussed on one hand. Looking through collections of The Great American Songbook, I find only a few women’s names in the composer indexes. This is even true when studying anthologies of 19th and 20th century American folk, blues, and country music. In the 135 years of the Metropolitan Opera Company’s existence, they have only performed one opera written by a woman! This does not mean that women weren’t composing music all along, it was just attributed to men. Or, it wasn’t printed, distributed, or performed outside of the home at all, because it was written by women.

Okay, so many people know that women weren’t credited for their contributions to music hundreds of years ago. That’s totally in the past though, right? Nope. This year, it was misreported so many times that Björk’s recent album Vulnicura was produced solely by the man who co-produced it with her, that she put out a statement trying to correct the mistake. (This had happened regarding previous albums as well.) She was recently quoted in a Pitchfork interview explaining, “I learned—the hard way—that if I was going to get my ideas through, I was going to have to pretend that they—men—had the ideas.” The cultural roles of women only being up front singing, and men being the creators and shapers of the art form, were created long ago. They are not based in reality and yet, they are still widely accepted even by other women. This past fall, writer, performer, and engineer, Imogen Heap blogged about her false assumptions about Taylor Swift before co-writing “Clean” with her for 1989, “I had done what I HATE others do of me, which is to pre-judge a person based on assumptions. I had assumed Taylor didn’t write too much of her own music and was likely puppeteered by an ageing gang of music executives… How wrong was I?”

“Power” is not about all of the obstacles created because of sexism in the music industry though. It’s about all of the people who write, record, perform, arrange, produce, engineer, and tour in spite of them. I want to thank all of the female artists who make my life so much better with their music. They are 100% who they are and won’t compromise their artistic integrity for anyone: creating their own roles, on their own timelines, breaking boundaries, and changing the rules for the next generation. These artists are as vital, relevant, and as hip as they want to be at any age, with whatever gender identities they choose for themselves. In the “Power” lyric video I illustrated my top nine favorites: Grace Jones, Björk, Kate Bush, Nina Simone, PJ Harvey, Elizabeth Fraser, Joni Mitchell, Jane Siberry, and Tori Amos.  

As a music teacher, I want all of my students to know that gender has absolutely nothing to do with creative capacity, intellect, knowledge, or skill. I want to celebrate the power of music and the musicians behind it at all levels of notoriety. I will leave you with one more quote from Björk’s Pitchfork interview, “You’re not just imagining things. It’s tough. Everything that a guy says once, you have to say five times… I definitely can feel the third or fourth feminist wave in the air, so maybe this is a good time to open that Pandora’s box a little bit and air it out.” We need to first acknowledge the unfair treatment of women in the music industry, and then join our powerful influences in the quest for proper recognition and equality by doing what we do best: making and sharing great music with each other. Now, that’s power.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.