Monday, 1 October 2012

Lake Montgomery

Folk blues storytelling singer-songwriter from Paris, Texas

As a female musician, have you experienced much sexism?

Things like being kinda ignored, the soundman being surprised that I actually know something about the equipment. When I travel with a male friend of mine - we gig together a lot, I see first hand how he's treated differently. I've never labelled it as sexism, it could be because he's British. There's so many other reasons it could be; as an American, as a black girl. It's really hard to say why I'm being discriminated against.

Don't you get pissed off?

Not really, because there's so many assholes in the world, and I've experienced a lot of racism, but it's definitely different outside of Texas (where she's from). I'm just glad to know that you're a jerk, so I don't have to deal with you anymore. I appreciate when people show it to me immediately.

Have you found the recording studio environment to be a particularly male-dominated space?

I wouldn't really call it male dominated. I've worked with a male engineer and a female producer, so not really. But that's just my experience.

Have you had to put up with much sexist behaviour from audiences?

My crowds are like the coffee/tea crowds – laid back people, families etc. I think if I were more in a rock scene, I'd experience more of that. The worst experiences I've had have been in pubs, because there's guys drinking, but my songs are softer... I've been hit on etc., but I think that's gonna be normal when you're around a bunch of beer drinking guys.

How about when buying guitars and equipment in music shops?

Yeah, but again, I don't know if it's because I'm female. But yeah, they don't pay me much attention to me, or they point me towards the beginners guitars. When I'm talking about technical stuff, I see guys being pleasantly surprised.

"Like a Time Bomb", Out of the Bedroom, Edinburgh

How long have you been playing?

About 14 years.

So do you think that things are better now than when you started?
It's hard to say because I've moved around so much, but when I go back to Paris, Texas, I see that a majority of the racism has been replaced by curiosity. I remember this drummer from Curacao (very small country in South America). I introduced myself to him because I liked his playing. Apparently he said to his friend (before he had heard me play), 'well if she can't play she has a nice ass'. But it was a nice venue and I was playing with a good band, so he couldn't really realistically assume that I'd be shit, but he thought it was all about my ass, that I'd gotten there because of my looks. He'd say 'What are you? You have woman energy, you have man energy, you have to choose'. But that kind of macho thing, that comes from his (latin american) culture. He was afraid of losing the spotlight. He didn't like it when his name was not next to mine on the poster. We're not friends anymore, and when the decisive arguments happened, he said that I was a primadonna and I had too much male energy, stuff like that. That was always a big thing for him, my male energy vs my female energy. But maybe it's true, of course I have both. But he felt like he was competing with me, he wanted to be the man.

But you were the frontwoman...

Yeah, so he couldn't do it by himself. He couldn't just go on stage and play drums by himself.

If you had been a man, if you were Lloyd Montgomery, how would it have been different?

I feel like it would have been more equal, there would have been less confusion. But I might not have been able to charm him into the band in the first place. So maybe some of what he said was true, I do use female energy when it's beneficial to me, and male energy on stage.

I would call it empowered female energy.

Yeah, exactly. But these terms are too simple for the public, they really see it as male and female, black and white, circle and square. Empowered female energy is not simple enough for the general public.

But its about passivity rather than simplicity, people expect women to be passive.

Yeah, when people go for simplicity it is also them not accepting the full range of colours, as it were. So I think that it could be either/or.

Have you ever felt pressured to sexualise yourself on stage?

No, I'm not in that line of work. Maybe if I was more of a pop singer. But with the gigs I get, its more laid back. I don't have to encounter that pressure.

Who were your inspirations?

When I first started out my biggest inspirations were Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, so I would do Nirvana and Hole covers. Then I got into the guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix, and Memphis Minnie..and Sister Rosetta Thorpe, she was an amazing guitarist. When I started getting a little better, people would say, 'you play guitar like a man'. I got that comment recently at a session here (in Edinburgh). I said 'so do you play guitar better than Bonnie Raitt?' (meaning that all men must play guitar better than all women). He was laughing, and he said 'she plays guitar like a man too'. I said 'I play guitar like a woman who plays guitar well'.

Did you not want to punch him?

If he'd said 'you play guitar like a white man' then I would have. But that illustrates that my experiences of discrimination are all rolled together. In this profession, I could be angry all day, but I choose not to be.

So you're saying, you're a black gay female musician so you could either be angry all the time, or forget it and try and have a nice life.

Yeah (laughs). But it's also my profession to be sociable and have as many fans as possible. I tend not to get angry at things people say. I know I'll never make a huge change, but I keep chipping away at the block. I say things that set people up for a new way of thinking. But I give a really long breakdown of why I don't sound like Tracy Chapman. I'm so tired of getting compared to Tracy Chapman! I have dreadlocks and I'm black so I must sound like her.

You don't sound like Tracy Chapman..

I know! So there are some things I get militant about. But I grew up forgiving people, I was raised Christian in small town Texas, in a racist environment. So I still think there's a place for that (forgiving people), but it's not just about forgiveness, it's about teaching by example. So I just believe in seeing the good in people rather than trying to demolish the bad in people.


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