International Women's Day: Libby Raper Women in Music Production Award

By Carmen McLean


To celebrate International Women's Day on 8th March, we're looking back at the winner and nominees for the Libby Raper Elevate Award for Women in Music Production. 

Which women in the music industry do you take inspiration from and why?

Someone I take huge inspiration from in the music industry is Chelsea Cutler. Especially with regards to stylistic content and vocal manipulation. However, what inspired me the most was the independence she takes as she carries herself as an artist. She maintains the role of producer, writer, singer, distributor (although this has now changed since joining a label). If I am perfectly honest I take most of my inspiration from those that are around me. I was fortunate enough to work with a really talented friend of mine for my final project. Whenever we were in the studio she would inspire me with her calmness, creativity and ability to open up her emotions to create depth in her music. She certainly was never afraid to take risks - turning a Westminster choir recording into an Avant Garde style piece for example! Taking risks is something I struggle with sometimes, so I really admire her for it!

If you could give any advice to 16 year-old you, what would it be?

It’s easier said than done, but firstly I would say - try not to care what other people think about what you’re doing. I was always so scared to tell others or show others my musical work and development in fear of being laughed at by my peers. I think if I cared less what others thought and took everything as feedback (positive or negative) I would have progressed even further. Which leads me quite nicely onto- don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Music and the arts as a whole is a tricky route filled with rejections and criticisms. In reality, as humans, we naturally need to make mistakes in order to develop and learn. This is what will make you better, so make as many mistakes as possible!

What are your goals and dreams for the future?

This for me is an especially tricky question. There are so many things I would love to see myself doing but it’s incredibly hard to pick one! Throughout my career I want to strive to support the arts, particularly in the education industry. The arts have become incredibly depleted, un-respected and under funded despite how valuable they are to a student’s development. Currently, I am aiming to be the headteacher within a school. To develop from this, I want to be able to put myself in a position on the National Curriculum whereby I can lift the respect for the industry back into schools.

What has been your favourite project you have worked on during your time at Leeds Conservatoire?

Not really a project, but an experience I thoroughly enjoyed, and will find hard to forget, was my time working at The Church, for there is a little story that goes with this: I don’t know if I can say the name, but a very well known band was recording while I was working there. I was their studio runner and ended up searching around Crouch End specifically for Haagen-Dazs Pralines and Cream. It was a horribly humid day, it had been almost an hour, and to make it even worse, the rest of the ice cream I had got was melting. When I eventually got up to the studio to quietly (and nervously) deliver the goods, I was met with a round of applause from everyone in the live room - the band and their team and Paul Epworth and his team. It was really nice to see that my efforts hadn’t gone unnoticed and it made me feel a little less bad about the state I had delivered the ice cream in. Too short than I would have liked, but my time at The Church was incredibly insightful in demonstrating the day-to-day runnings of a top studio.

What would you like to achieve as a music producer in the future?

Everyone says it’s hard to get your foot in the door. I found even when you do, it doesn’t get that much easier. For some time, I’ve been set on developing a space which allows the more behind the scenes aspects of the music industry to be more accessible for young people, particularly women. These roles should be in the reach of any person that truly wants to thrive in this area of music, and there’s no harm in creating another avenue to help achieve this.

A Grammy would be nice also.

What advice would you give to women who are studying production/forming a career in music production? 

In a single word, persistence. It’s how I have formed and founded all of my current connections and work experience opportunities, but most importantly, how I have grown to become a better, more confident producer. I couldn’t count the amount of rejections I have received over the years, but I learnt a lesson to to really hone my efforts on applications when reaching out and to follow up with a phone call. A few things I’ve picked up on after receiving that ‘yes’, is to; be early, use your initiative, learn, (if you can) stay later than is expected of you and stay in contact! - You never know where, or who, your next opportunity is coming from.

What is your favourite memory from your time at Leeds Conservatoire?

My favourite memory is more of a realisation. I spent my first two years of the undergraduate production degree producing singer-songwriter based work, trying to force a production style that wasn’t clicking for me. My peers’ work was heavily studio based, so I figured that was what I was supposed to do. When I reached third year I became a lot more independent in myself and as an artist and got the opportunity to study computer based music. It was then that I felt a massive relief! I found a production style that motivated my work and that I thoroughly enjoyed. However, I wouldn’t have changed the process one bit. I’m so glad I spent that time experimenting with studio environments and the challenges they bring, as well as learning production skills that are still integral to my work now. It has meant I’m able to adapt to different genres and soundscapes, making me a better producer for it. I also thoroughly enjoyed masterclasses, in particular Andrew Schoeps and Susan Rogers. The masterclasses put on are so great for widening your perspective and knowledge, and are very inspiring.

Which producers in the industry do you take inspiration from and why?

Gold Panda is definitely one I take a lot of inspiration from. His collages of different production soundscapes never fail to keep me engaged even if I have listened to his work over a long period of time. Bon Iver has always been an inspiration from day one, his dedication to developing himself as an artist and exploring new ways of creating music is something that drives me to do the same. M.I.A is also up there, her independence and resilience in what can be a challenging industry is something I aspire to greatly as well as her use of samples within her work.

What advice would you give to other women who are wanting to work in the music production industry?

Stick to your guts. It’s so much easier said than done but it really does make such a difference. Definitely don’t be, or at least try not to be, afraid to differ from what your peers are doing. At the end of the day it’s your artistic individuality that will engage not only others but really yourself in your own work. Ask anyone you possibly can for advice and feedback and collaborate as much as you can, it’s amazing how much you can learn from even the shortest conversation with someone.

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By Carmen McLean

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