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Lisa Mathews, Milkshake

How would you describe your music?

upbeat, fun, accessible, melodic, Beatlesque. It's good rock music that kids can call their own.

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

"Band leader, songwriter, lead singer, guide.

Same, although I have learned that opinions of my band are to be listened to and valued -- especially in the studio.

When making business/marketing decisions it's still primarily me, although I confer with my partner acoustic guitarist Mikel Gehl for the big stuff. I also do all the creative upkeep behind our online and in-concert presence, creating and maintaining our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/milkshakeband); website (www.milkshakemusic.com)."

Describe your gear.

I play a 1980 Ibanez guitar I call Creampuff. A black hardshell case covered in bumper stickers from places Milkshake has played keeps Creampuff safe when I travel. My ukelele is a bright green Makala I received as a gift from fellow woman musicians Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer. I also have a Sony wireless hand held microphone which allows me to move freely on stage and off into the kiddie mosh pit that seems to be a fixture at a Milkshake show.

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?

Good question. One fun fact is that women musicians of the fifties weren't allowed to join the musicians union, so early on, there was a bit of inequality going on, I guess. But I think the genre of music you play has something to do with how you are received, perceived and expected to act. I've played in rock bands most of my life. And I have found the male musicians are mostly predatory but not to the woman musician in the band. I have always felt like the leader in the band, and respected as such. On the road, there's no mincing of words and monitoring of language within the band, which almost makes me "one of the boys." But it's truly impossible for that to be 100%, simply because women and men are different. Now, as far as a woman who is a musician who can play well, it's always "Wow...that girl can play" from the male-counterparts. That's nice but what matters to me is reaching the girls in my audience and making them think "Hey--you can play guitar and be just as cool as the guys that do if you want to do." It's liberating. So in a way, playing music is a great equalizer.

Do you see differences between generations of women musicians?

Again, I think it's based on musical genre. Take country music in the fifties and sixties vs. rock. I think the country music women played it safe and fit into a mold expected by their audience longer than the women in rock. Change was really evident in rock women musicians of the fifties (Shirley Bassey), sixties (Janis Joplin), seventies (Linda Ronstadt), eighties (Chrissie Hynde), nineties (Fiona Apple, Alanis Morrisette). With each generation, women have grown more fearless, outspoken and as blatantly sexual as they might want to be.

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?


Be true to yourself. Don't sign anything just because you're desperate or there's nothing else going on. Think. Make connections with good people. Be ready to be your best at all times -- even if it's just busking in a subway. Don't follow trends. Be persistent. Be flexible. Listen. Always think of the next project and don't wait to do it. Follow your muse. Write what you know and experience (ie it always amazes me there are kid music artist without kids!). Be on top of changing technology and if you can't do something that needs doing to better your career, hire someone who can (Milkshake employs a booking agent, and publicist, for instance). If you've run out of worthwhile things to sing/write about, do something different with your life (I'm prepared to go dig dinosaur bones in the desert when that time comes, and I'm excited about it :) "

Related Themes: Advice

Why did you choose to play the instrument you play?

There's something incredibly empowering about putting on a guitar and letting it rip. I feel strong and invincible without having to become one of the boys.

Related Themes: The First Time