CAITLYN SMITH & FEMALE TEAM CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY AT RIAA PANEL
USA Today’s Melissa Ruggieri Moderated a Conversation Also Featuring Monument Records’ Katie McCartney, Universal Music Publishing Nashville’s Missy Roberts,
Producer/Engineer Gena Johnson
Their Unified Strength is Collectively Embracing Space to be Vulnerable
In celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8) the Recording Industry Association of America® (RIAA) with the Creative Right Caucus, National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) and the Recording Academy hosted a special conversation with critically-acclaimed Monument Records’ artist/songwriter Caitlyn Smith and her all-female team. Katie McCartney (GM of Monument Records and Caitlyn Smith Manager), Missy Roberts (VP A&R Universal Music Publishing Nashville), and producer/engineer Gena Johnson rounded out the panel alongside moderator and USA Today National Music Writer Melissa Ruggieri for an open discussion about women in the music business. The overall theme of the night proved vulnerability is strength, showcasing what a woman’s unique perspective offers to the wider industry.
RIAA Chief Policy Officer Morna Willens welcomed the audience with excitement and acknowledgment that women have made a lot of progress in the music business – but not nearly enough. She shared a few insights from a recent Annenberg study reflecting the slow movement toward equality before introducing video remarks from Congresswoman Judy Chu. The co-Chair of the Creative Rights Caucus said, “hearing from these amazing women in the industry on International Women’s Day is so important because they are showing countless girls that they too can succeed in this business. We know that when women see other women in these positions, and especially when they receive mentorship and guidance, they are much more likely to succeed. In fact, over 90% of women in the music industry who had been mentored felt that their careers benefited as a result, and women with mentors earn more money and are more satisfied with their career growth. I look forward to continuing our work together to make the music industry even stronger and more inclusive.”
Melissa then opened the dialogue with each woman sharing how they got started in the music industry and their role working together now. “In the last few years, I’ve shifted to this team of women and it gave me a space to be more vulnerable, to be more comfortable. And it pushed me into a spaces like production, things I’ve never done, all because of this magical group of women,” said Caitlyn.
Gena offered, “I’ve learned over the years that a lot of friction comes from an insecurity of whoever is in that chair, but in reality, we need room for open communication. I want any artist, especially a woman, because this story happens all the time, to know she can speak up and not wonder if they can make decisions about their music. That to me is the biggest thing I can do for somebody, give them that confidence because I’m not always going to be in the studio with them. If we have one record or 10, I want to have made some impact where they feel seen and able to say to the world, ‘I’m confident about who I am as represented in this music.’ It’s so important to me that our time recording feels safe and allows them to be vulnerable.”
Hearing their experiences and how finding support systems like these enables everyone to succeed, Katie said, “in different ways, we try to eliminate each other’s worries. As women, we know, or maybe sometimes we don’t, that we carry so many burdens – ‘How do I need to look? Will there be a camera and two hours added for glam? What should I say?’ – all of the mind clutter. But in the end, it’s all about cultivating a safe space for music and creativity.”
“For Caitlyn specifically, because she’s so good at so many things, her time is so limited that it’s all about intention and making the most of it when she has time to write,” Missy continued. “And she’s always been really great about helping the next generation, finding and spending time with newer songwriters and artists – females especially because she knows what it is like to search for your community.”
“I have had some incredible mentors – Faith Hill, Sheryl Crow, Karen Fairchild and Lori McKenna – that have sat down with me and talked about being a mom and an artist, all of the challenges in balancing important aspects of your life. So being able to sit with a hero, in whatever field you’re in, and have them say ‘you can do this,’ it for sure helped me keep going in times that I didn’t know I could. To have these pillars in my life, I mean that’s just the best damn thing,” said Caitlyn as Melissa thanked everyone for the space to have such an honest conversation.
Strapped with a guitar and a powerhouse vocal, Caitlyn wrapped up with an acoustic performance featuring her Miley Cyrus cut “High” along with “Lately” and “The Great Pretender” from her self-produced third album HIGH & LOW, due April 14 on Monument Records. Reflecting on the symbolic night, she finished the set with a stirring cover of Carole King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman.”