Gender and the Blues

I often get asked if it is any different playing in an all women’s blues band and then with a bunch of men. And my answer is yes…..and no. My trio work has mostly been with guys while I’ve played in a variety of all women bands from original blues to an all women Led Zeppelin tribute band.

My recent women’s blues show at Everett’s Madison Avenue Pub was a great example of a group of exceptional women singers, players and songwriters all taking turns in the spotlight and supporting each other to shine on stage. Are guys supportive of women players on stage? – That depends on the guys.

I’ve recently been playing in a blues trio with guys who really listen and are supportive of me and it makes all the difference, but it’s not always been that way in other bands. As a guitarist in rock bands, I’ve had to stomp on every pedal in my arsenal just to be heard, or to have a turn to solo. And while working as lead guitarist for hire in bands, I’d still be placed center stage as the “girl singer”. When guys find out that I can really play, some have gotten really competitive with me or have been unwelcoming. Others have become my mentors and friends.

The women’s bands I’ve been in have involved lots of collaborative decision making, indecisiveness, hurt feelings at times and seemingly endless discussions about clothing. I do think it’s easier for men to just throw on a relatively clean shirt, jeans and boots and there’s more pressure on women not only to play well, but to look good too. With guys, discussions tend to be around sports or whatever new gear (toys) they’ve acquired. I’ve found there’s less discussion and chatting and more just getting down to business – a plug in and play attitude. As for feelings, I think guys are just quieter when their feelings get hurt.

There’s no doubt that playing in all women bands is different than playing with guys, but it’s not necessarily better or even about gender. It’s about making music with other players who know their stuff, and also have the right attitude.

After all these years playing music, I’ve come to the conclusion that the finest players regardless of their gender, tend to have the least ego and are the most welcoming to other musicians. The best players have nothing to prove by aggressively competing with others or overplaying to gain attention. They’re simply working as hard as they can to make the music sound as good as possible and to connect deeply with an audience.