By Alex Teitz
Ten of the thirteen artists featured on Shekinah are pictured in this photo. They are: (top row, from left to right) Polina, Kyler, Kristin Cifelli, Cami; (middle row, from left to right) Adrianne, Clare Muldaur,Anne Chandler, Antje Zumbansen, One Elle; (front) Valerie Brinker. Photo credit: Liz Linder
Epic Records working with Berklee’s Heavy Rotation records did an amazing thing in February. They released an album of thirteen of Berklee’s women alumni in an album called Shekinah. Shekinah is an ancient word to describe the feminine force of the divine. This album shows it.
Berklee is a school that in one word is a legend in the music business. Berklee alumni include Paula Cole, Melissa Etheridge and Diana Krall, to name a few. The artists of Shekinah are not as well know, yet. They include Clare Muldaur, daughter of Geoff Muldaur; Anne Chandler, winner of the 1999 John Lennon Songwriting Competition; Polina, daughter of Russian pop diva Anka. FEMMUSIC was honored to speak (via e-mail) with three artists of Shekinah. They are: Rhea, Mariam, and One Elle. For more information visit Heavy Rotation Records at www.hrrecords.com
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
R: My songwriting technique is just a reflection of the experiences I have had and the stories that I have heard. I can be walking, driving or just relaxing at home and when I get an idea I have to write it down and record it. My best ideas have just evolved from humming or singing around the
house. I am always singing because I constantly have ideas that are just waiting to become songs. I took a couple songwriting classes at Berklee but I feel that you have to learn your own ability and work with what you have in your soul. I like to write songs that are catchy but also that have substance and longevity. Songwriters are storytellers.
M: It comes from melodies and tied with AABA form stuff. Technique varies.
OE: Divine inspiration… My best songs always just COME to me. When it happens, it’s almost like the song already exists and I am given this opportunity to see it for a second and have to write it down as fast as possible. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen like this… and often I
have to sit down and build a song from scratch. I usually start with a basic groove that serves as part or all of a verse and then just build from there. Lyrically, I tend to be kind of vague. It’s a good way of protecting my sometimes very personal thoughts and experiences. Ha! But also, it’s kind of fun to find alternate ways of saying things and not being totally straightforward. It gives me the chance to be more lyrically creative.
FEMMUSIC: How did the Berklee experience prepare you for your music career?
R: Berklee prepared me in many ways musically. I had to attend certain classes that increased my level of musicianship. I also met a lot of interesting people, students and faculty that helped my growth as a musician. Once you have a basic foundation, it is easier to understand what you want to do musically and how you want to express that. There were a lot of opportunities to perform and watch others perform which can be almost as beneficial as attending a class sometimes. Overall I felt more confident and prepared in starting my music career because of all of the knowledge and experience that I gained through Berklee and the people I met at Berklee.
M: Berklee has introduced me to the amazing professors that have taught me well about the industry. From stories about how they did it, to interning with hands on experience.
OE: Development of people skills I think. Working with other musicians, producers and engineers on a personal project can be pretty trying. You have to really know what you want and to be able to get the ideas across.
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music business, have you been discriminated against?
R: I cannot say that I have felt discriminated against as a woman yet. I know that there is a lot of that going around and although times are beginning to change I feel that it is more than likely that I will encounter this at some point. Being a woman in the music business is a hard road to travel but I feel that whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger and that is why there are so many empowered women currently at the top of their game in the music industry. More power to anyone that can stand up and face discrimination, prejudice, racism and any other form of hate.
M: Never out in the open. However, you feel as if the male aspect looks at you hesitantly.
Like, ” Can she do it?”
OE: Not really. It’s never really gotten in my way. I notice that in some cases, people are quicker to assume that I won’t understand technical things, but that just makes me want to prove myself even more. To tell you the truth, the fact that I had to prove myself constantly was probably a
good thing for me! Ended up boosting my confidence level. Sometimes I worry that I’ll come across as too outspoken – and an outspoken woman is looked upon differently than an outspoken guy is. I guess that is the hardest thing. Feeling the need to be tough to be accepted, but then
worrying about how that toughness may be perceived.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
R: I would like the music industry to be more about music. It is driven by money and has become a business more concerned with selling a “product” than making wonderful music. Artists are not as free to be who they are and are sometimes “made” to be something they are not. I feel that sometimes talented people are overshadowed by other people that are more “marketable”.
It just needs to be more about the music.
M: The extremes spread out more. I mean if we are going to have meglo-mega-stars lets have more than 5 and leave room for the mega-indie-stars. Radio is ridiculous. Muchmusic (Canada program) is doing an excellent thing!
OE: Hmmm. Good question. If I could change anything it would probably be the social politics. I hate that it’s more important who you know than what you can do.
FEMMUSIC: What advice would you have for an artist just starting out?
R: I would tell them to learn as much as you possible can and after that learn some more. You can never be too prepared, it is a demanding business and the more ready you are the better your chances are. Stay true to yourself. People will like you more and respond better if you “keep it real”. Follow your dreams, don’t let anyone discourage you or tell you to give up. If it
is in your heart reach for the stars, make the music and it will happen!
M: JUST DO IT! You must have NO FEAR! Artists’ come and go these days so,
don’t get your feelings caught up in it.
OE: Get an album out as soon as possible. There are limits to what you can achieve without having a product to show.