Photo by Eloise Campbell
Artists Worked With : Charli XCX, Frances, Hailee Steinfeld, Tom Bailey (Thompson Twins), Hey Violet, Billy Lockett
FEMMUSIC: How did you become involved in music?
VW: I started playing bass in a band my friend formed when I was 12 years old. I fell in love with the feeling of being strapped into rock and roll and decided to take lessons, eventually moving to London aged 18 to attend a music college for a Bachelor of Music in Popular Music Performance. I landed my first industry gig when a pop production house came to my music school to scout for musicians. From then on, I got to know more musicians and found more work in the London scene. I later ended up working in the music scene in New York City, and now I am based in Los Angeles.
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique? How does that change with a band vs solo?
VW: If I’m writing with another person or in a group, it can often be a more formulaic experience. It’s very focused and usually cathartic, because we often start the session by diving into what’s going on in each other’s lives as an inspiration for songs. Normally we start a drum loop or a loop of chords and go from there. Writing alone has a lot less structure; I can just pick up the guitar and fiddle around with something for a minute and it might turn into a verse or a chorus. I could spend just half an hour on it and move away and come back to it a day or two later. Songs emerge slowly, from little stolen moments with myself. I usually write when I’m meant to be doing something but else. If I’m consciously writing – alone or with someone else – I usually like to have a few song references in mind so I know what kind of mood I’m trying to create.
FEMMUSIC: What has been your biggest challenge touring?
VW: I love touring, and love trying to play a consistently great show every night. I suppose that’s a challenge, but one I really enjoy. I think the biggest challenge as a touring musician is managing your schedule. Dates change all the time, and it’s hard to know what your work life is going to look like. Committing to other plans like friends weddings or family functions is really tricky. Not ever really knowing what you’re doing is just the ‘con’ to this job, but I also like that every month is different.
I’ve been lucky in that my actual time on the road has always been a great experience, but every now and then, there’s tension between people and that’s always tough. Usually the case is that it’s short lived and happens as a result of tiredness or a bad day.
The lack of personal space when you’re touring by tour bus is obviously a struggle sometimes, but for me it’s just silly things – like not being able to hang around in a robe or have time to be butt naked and moisturize after a shower!! If there’s one shower for 10 people, it’s not relaxing.
Photo by Eloise Campbell
FEMMUSIC: How much studio work do you do?
VW: Not as much at the moment, but I’m still new in town and would love to do more of that once I meet the people in that world. With bass, I feel like it often gets recorded by the producer anyway; especially in pop. If I record things for people, I often do it remotely with my set-up at home.
FEMMUSIC: How do you separate projects? Personal? Studio? Band Touring?
VW: Projects naturally separate themselves. I tour or do live shows or write with many different artists. My own personal projects include releasing music under the name Ainslie, and working on my upcoming podcast, which is an extension from my blog about touring – www.whereareweagain.com. I interview touring musicians and crew about their experiences and try and get their juciest stories from life on the road. I’m also looking to start recording music for another personal project that I’ll probably release under a different name (there’s really not enough hours in the day)! Everything I do includes collaboration though, and I love that.
FEMMUSIC: What challenges, if any, have you faced as a woman in the music industry? And how did you overcome them? Are those challenges increased or decreased when touring?
VW: I think we all face challenges, and I suppose some of them have come from being a female. I’ve definitely not been considered for certain gigs because they wanted males. However, I’ve gotten some gigs because they wanted a female, so it probably works out. It’s just a shame that deciding to hire someone based on their gender is even a thought. There’s not many industries left where that’s still an issue. I think in general, women still have to work harder to prove ourselves and be respected in the same way dudes are. A couple of times I’ve told other bass players that I play bass, and they’ve grabbed my hands and told me they’re too soft for me to be a bass player. That feels hugely disrespectful and something they wouldn’t have done to a guy. It’s still such a male dominated industry, but it’s so great that the large majority of men that I work with build healthy, professional relationships with everyone they work with.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you change about the music industry?
VW: I wish there was a union that really could put rules in place that everyone would adhere to – things about minimum fees and cancellations and a way to put more contracts in place. All parties would be in a better position. There’s also no HR department in this industry. It often it feels like raising any issues like that or talking about fair fees is going to risk you keeping your job.