by Karen Peterson
Powerhouse British guitarist and singer-songwriter Laura Marling—whose meteoric rise began when she was 18 with her 2008 debut album Alas, I Cannot Swim (Virgin)—has women on her mind. “It occurred to me that in ten years of making records, I had only come across two female engineers working in studios,” writes Marling in the introduction to her podcast, Reversal of the Muse (listen above), an exploration of female creativity in a male-dominated industry. “Starting from my experience of being a woman, I began to ask myself what difference it might have made had I had more women around,” she continued, adding that she finds it “easier to learn from a woman.”
Launched in August 2016, the podcast seeks to answer that question through conversations with a range of female (and some male) music professionals, including friends, peers, strangers, heroines, and, yes, a sound engineer—Vanessa Parr, in-house engineer at famed West Los Angeles recording studio, the Village. Parr assures listeners that more women will be in the studios, in time and with the right education.
Marling works to keep the 25-minute conversations on track. Her episode with UK peers, guitarists, and singer-songwriters Marika Hackman and Shura raises the darker issue of objectification of women, “as a product, something to be analyzed.”
Her delight at discovering Fanny’s House of Music, a guitar shop in Nashville, shines through in her conversation with the shop’s co-owner Patty Cole.
“I had never seen a woman in a guitar shop—let alone run one. It was quite a joy,” Marling says.
Cole comments, “Women have been left out of history, in general. The world needs a lot of healing, and music is one area that can do it.”
Her last podcast of the series is perhaps her best, though Marling doesn’t think so, apologizing for “sounding like a quivering wreck.” That’s because she’s interviewing her heroines, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, revealing that she learned fingerpicking by listening to Parton and backup singing from Harris. (Parton, speaking to Harris, responds with her trademark giggle and drawl, “She should be pretty good then.”)
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“Two of the greatest feminine creators in music,” as Marling calls them, offer their perspectives as industry veterans. “I feel like we’re one of the boys. I don’t think of it as male-female,” Parton offers. Harris adds, “You’re a musician, you have a job to do,” also quipping, “It’s not like [the US] Congress, where we should have more women.”
Marling’s parting words to Dolly and Emmylou: “Thank you for existing.”
Read more stories from AG‘s Women & Guitars special section.