You may have heard a song during the Olympics called "I'm That Girl." It played on NBC promos celebrating the female athletes on Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. It's by Alise Indall, the stage name of a songwriter and performer called Dallin. She plays in Rachel Platten's band as her day gig and, after her experiences in the music industry, decided she wanted to craft an all-woman project in order to write and produce pop songs with a positive message — and to prove she could write and produce on her own. "I think subconsciously I was receiving the message: 'You're the girl, you're the singer, you write top-lines and melodies — that's it,'" she told Refinery29 in a recent phone interview. "I wanted an outlet to prove I could defy those boundaries."
Her notion proceeds an outbreak of conversation in 2018 about representation for women in music that was kickstarted following the Annenberg Institute's study and a serious lack of women celebrated at the Grammys. The statistics showing women wrote only 22.4% of the most popular songs over the last six years and the suggestion that women "step up" by Recording Academy head Neil Portnow are a reflection of reality that many working female musicians have been fighting to overturn.
After playing a charity event for the female empowerment group I Am That Girl with Platten, Indell found the inspiration for her single (and the charity is making it its theme song). "I was thinking about that phrase, 'I am that girl,' and how, when I was growing up there was a negative connotation for me to being bossy or taking control of a situation," Indell said. "This charity flipped it, or at least flipped what I thought of the phrase." She took the idea home and turned it into a song. It turned out to be the perfect starting point for her all-woman project.
Indall is a classically trained pianist. She started writing her own songs at 13, after she was gifted recording software that she describes as a "CD-rom with 8-tracks that made a little recording studio." She was invited to join the band of a reality show contest singer, Ryan Star of Rock Star: Supernova, as soon as she graduated from college. "What I feel really great about from that experience is that I took that role, and I said I'm not going to be the typical stereotypical girl in a band," Indall said. "The stereotype is out there that the girl in a band, she can't really play or she doesn't really have a real musical knowledge. I maybe overcompensated for that." She took on playing the keyboard, singing backup, and programming all of the computers for the group.
Making music on her own has given Indall the confidence to stand up for herself in recording sessions. While producing her own songs, Indall wrestled with the myriad of choices available to a producer as well as how competitive the field is. "Today, everybody has really good equipment at home. There are a lot of really good producers that are just like these 18-year-old kids in their basements," she said. Trial and error showed her that her style was best expressed by keeping it simple. For her next album, however, she wants to cut down on the "shiny, pop" production and be a "a little bit more raw."
By entering into production, Indall is embodying being that girl her song talks about. "When women are competitive and confident, we're told that we're too bossy. I used to get called type-A, which is another version of that. Men are allowed a certain confidence and a little bit of that ego — if they don't have it, naturally they're taught how to fake it pretty well." The biggest change Indall has seen since the industry started talking about representation for women has been among other women. Some friends, who she declined to name but identified as successful female artists, have started talking about actively looking for other women to manage them. "It feels to me that like five years ago they would've thought they need that 'top manager' who has done it for awhile and, of course, that's a male. Now, they're looking for a female manager and they're taking interviews with different people. We're starting to have that conversation, and and it's important. If you are a female artist, just the way that you speak to your team is going to be different if there are more females around."
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