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Grace Parker, The Blue Hit

How would you describe your music?

The Blue Hit is very lyric and melody-centered. I sing with a cellist and a guitar player. It is minimalist music that is highly orchestrated, closest to an acoustic Portishead. I tend to write pretty complicated vocal parts - it engages the audience and I enjoy the challenge.

What is your role in your band? In the studio? In business or marketing decisions?

I am the lead singer and I write most of the songs. Usually I will play the finished song for my boys and lead them through the arranging process. Some of the songs were instrumentals that they wrote together and I wrote lyrics and melodies over them. I also make all the merchandise - I design and screenprint the t-shirts myself and I design and print the postcards, stickers, and other handouts we have.

Describe your gear.

I sing with a Shure Beta 58 mic. I take it to every gig so I do not get sick from using random microphones. I play a Martin 000-C electric-acoustic guitar, and I have a Yamaha P-80 keyboard.

Related Themes: Gear

Do you think being a woman and a musician is different from being a man and a musician? If so, how? Was there a moment that made a difference clear to you?

It is definitely different for women in music because it is mostly males with whom we work. There is a sort of camaraderie of competence in the field, and in my experience I have noticed that a lot of the music guys we deal with will immediately talk to my male bandmates first about stage setup, pay or other details. I am respected in my field only if I prove myself by performing well or speaking with confidence about a subject. We also perform in bars a lot, which is a place where men and women go to meet other singles and find mates. Being a good-looking female who puts herself out there, I get hit on a lot - even sexually harassed - while I am working. Many men are either intimidated unnecessarily by me or they don't take me seriously at all. The one moment that sticks out to me is when we played a small town in Louisiana. The sound man, the bar manager, and the booking agent (all male) literally ignored me when we first came in, they only talked to my bandmates. Once we finished playing our set, all three of these men were falling over themselves to talk to me with this newfound admiration that hadn't existed before. They set us up with a place to stay (with hopes of getting closer to me) and begged us to come back anytime. Funny how that works.

Related Themes: Cashing In

Do you see differences between generations of women musicians?

The older women who have been my mentors tell me that I am doing a very brave thing. They warn that it is hard to earn your place in this industry, especially if you are doing it for the love of the art, but once you make your name known the way can be paved for you. The younger ladies I have met are often either very shy or over-confident. It seems like they have had to jump some significant gender hurdles already in their career, and everyone handles that differently. The younger girls are also much more concerned about their looks than their stage presence or musical content.

Related Themes: Off The Clock

Did anyone ever give you any valuable advice about making your way in the music industry? What advice would you give to a woman musician just starting out?

Anais Mitchell told me to never be afraid of making music that doesn't "fit" anywhere. If my heart is compelled to compose it, the piece has an innate right to life and I should nourish it all the way. She also encouraged me to hold onto my publishing rights because so few people still do. I would tell a new musician the same thing, and I would add that a little confidence goes a long way. But the most important advice I can give is that (if you are a singer) your lyrics are prayers that you say over and over. If you only write about one subject, like bitter love or endless war, you are bound to relive that feeling over and over in your heart. Too long repeating negative prayers or mantras like that will weigh heavily on you eventually - you are better off taking that negativity and turning into a song about what you learned from it, rather than just griping aimlessly.

Related Themes: Advice

Why did you choose to play the instrument you play?

I have always sung, but I have not always been "a singer," if that makes sense. Growing up I was pretty insecure about it - about everything really. I knew I had an extraordinary gift, but I could never visualize myself singing for people. I guess you could say I was afraid of doing well, thus drawing attention to myself. After twenty or so years of closely studying music, I came out of my shell and took command of my voice. I started writing and singing because it was so therapeutic for me - something I had to do to maintain my physical and mental health.

Related Themes: The First Time