Growing up in Georgia, country music was a way that I shared my emotions — from Friday night bonfires in the backyard to my very first high school heartbreak. I can associate some of my favourite memories with a specific country song; like that time my family rented an eight-person van for a road trip and sang “Folsom Prison” by Johnny Cash on repeat, or the first time I got homesick at college and listened to Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried” until my tears dried. While I’m forever grateful for those songs, as I grew up, I did start to notice a problem — there were always more men on country radio then women.
Once I moved to New York City after graduation, I recognised that there was much more of a world out there than I realised before. Country music, especially the country music of my youth, sometimes didn’t paint the full picture. Don’t get me wrong, there have always been strong, leading country ladies (hi Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Patsy Cline, and Loretta Lynn), but I was craving even more stories written and sung by women for women. There were stories not being told, particularly about current events in the world — even after early trailblazers like Loretta Lynn released songs about contraception (please, do yourself a favour and look up the lyrics to "The Pill") in 1975. You can't get a much bigger name than Loretta Lynn, yet "The Pill" was banned from radio stations, so not many people got to hear it. Not only is there room for nuanced women in all music genres, but if you take a look there have been women trying to break in and change the mould throughout history. It's about time we gave them a megaphone.
When I was invited to attend the CMA Fest 2018 and interview some of the most badass women in the business, I was beside myself. This was my dream come true (and it fell on my 26th birthday, too! Talk about an epic birthday wish). The women you’re about to see are taking back the stage, claiming their space on country music radio and looking hella good while doing it. I think there’s often a misconception that you can’t be a woman, a feminist, and a country music fan. But the thing is — you can. And I’m so proud to be all three.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know we still have so far to go. The fact that there are hardly any women (or men) of colour in country music is an issue that is only beginning to be addressed. And according to the current Billboard Top Country music (as of publication date), there are only two females in the top 10 — and both are singing duets with men. We still have a lot of work to do. But it's hard not to feel hopeful about the future of country music after talking to the women below.
Check out the interviews below, y’all!
Lauren Alaina talks about the damage images of "perfect" women can cause, and why she doesn't try to please everybody. Check out her full interview below.
Cassadee Pope shares how she learned to be a badass after a rough year, and why she's not letting the act of worrying drag her down.
CAM points out the absurdity of people saying women in country don't like each other, and the empowering lesson she learned about controlling her space by clearing out her Instagram list.
Jillian Jacqueline on why culture wants to make women less complex, and the need for more opportunities for women to open up in country music.
RaeLynn shares the low-key way women in country support each other on social media, and why she gives all her new music a quality check by listening to it in her truck.
Kalie Shorr implores the "people in suits" to pay attention to women in country and how the Song Suffregettes are changing Nashville.
Ashley Campbell gets real on the "dogfight" to get new music on country radio and the new era of songwriters in Nashville.
Bebe Rexha divulges why she wants more women on the radio, and how ice cream and Harry Potter can fix anything.