Michelle Miears | MIEARS
As I was browsing around Guitar Center, scoping out the Novation Launchpad Pro, a male sales associate swaggered toward me with a grin. “How’s everything going?” he asked. “I’m doing well, thanks, just kind of browsing right now”. His presence lingered briefly while I read the back of the box and decided not to engage in any further pleasantries. I was in a hurry and wanted to check out the price and compare two of the models. I was building my live set and needed a midi controller for tracks, and the Launchpad had been recommended to me by a friend. “So who are you shopping for?” he asked. This question struck me as funny, as I assume that most people browsing around Guitar Center at 4:45 pm on a Tuesday in August aren’t out browsing for a gift for someone. Was there a holiday coming up soon that I had overlooked? Looking around the open, vast store, there were musicians-a-plenty on display. The quintessential drummer that you can always find showing off on the electronic kit was pounding away with his display Vic Firth 5As, and the ever-popular piano-cover-song-phenom was doing his best Titanic-theme in the right wing of the store. A producer was sitting at the Maschine display, working his magic and hoping to catch the eye of a passerby. All of these musicians fluttered about the store, unscathed by the questions of Mr. Swagger and his colleagues. “Oh, I’m shopping for myself…” I said. Intrigued, Mr. Swagger made sure that I was aware of what this potential purchase would entail of. “Well, you do realize that you need a computer to use the Launchpad, right?” he asked. “Yes…” I said, in a flat tone. Needless to say, I was less than amused. Feeling a little flustered, I ended up leaving the store, sans Launchpad Pro.
I have spoken to Chris from my band, BLSHS, about these types of interactions, and he has assured me that he has never received these types of strange questions in all of the years that he has spent producing music. “Has anyone ever asked you if you produced your track, when you show them a demo or a finished song?” I asked him the other day. “Never,” he replied. I, on the other hand, often receive this question. I have also had people ask if my BLSHS bandmates produced my tracks for the MIEARS project, which I, unfortunately, expected would happen. I figured the line between BLSHS and MIEARS might be a little blurred, so I have tried my best to communicate the difference: BLSHS is collaborative, and MIEARS is strictly solo. It is not that I am unwilling to collaborate with other artists in the future, and BLSHS will continue to create together as well, but I was pretty adamant on releasing my first solo EP with no collaborative help during its creation. With all of the interviews that I have read from Bjork and Grimes, I have learned that a male producer will be assumed to have done all of the production, even if he only contributed to a small portion of the drum production, for example. I did not want this to happen to me. Unfortunately, when music consumers see multiple artists on the production credit line, for some reason, they assume that the woman listed had a very minimal role in the production or didn’t contribute at all. This is why I was pretty firm on the production credit line exclusively listing “Michelle Miears,” for my forthcoming EP.
On a more hopeful note, I have recently had some extremely positive experiences as a female producer. Firstly, I have had some local Houston artists (shout out to Guilla) share my music and call me a rad producer. It was really positive for me to be recognized for that part of my role in MIEARS. A few days ago, I also had a well-respected percussionist and producer (Coffee Guzman of Gio Chamba) from our local music community talk to me as an equal; we bantered back and forth about drums (we were both marching band nerds and I was on the drumline), and how understanding rudimental percussion is a really helpful skill set to have in production. And of course, my BLSHS bandmates have always encouraged and supported me as well. These types of conversations are so meaningful to me and really encourage me to know that women who produce music can hold their own in these often male-dominated communities. Houston’s music scene is really amazing, and we have a lot of really rad self-produced women who are really rising at the moment. Artists like Pearl Crush and Tee Vee (who are playing my EP release on March 3rd) are at the forefront of the scene right now. I am playing a private/secret show this Saturday with Black Kite, another amazing solo female act out of Houston whom I greatly respect. There is also the ever-inspiring Zahira Gutierrez, who I am dying to see perform solo again. It’s almost dangerous to start naming names, because there are so many women in Houston’s music community whom I admire and I don’t want to leave anyone out; I support and love all of them. I am just excited that Houston is so open to embracing us as multi-faceted artists, producers, and creators in the community, and I am excited and hopeful to see this trend move forward. This sense of community between our strong women in Houston is something that I will continue to support and embrace as we all trudge forward through our journeys in music.