Written by Nicole Rayy. Edited by April Barlow
For as long as I can remember when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up my response was always, “A Singer”. Growing up this big dream didn’t seem so impossible, but the older I got, the crazier the looks I got from people were when my answer remained the same. The more I worked towards this big dream, the more I realized there was a lot more to it than I had originally thought. It isn’t good enough to just be a good singer, I needed to learn the ins and outs of the music business to really make a career out of singing. But little 6-year-old me, dreaming of performing on a big stage in front of thousands of people, never imagined the thing that would prove most difficult in achieving my goals would be being a girl. I never once thought as a child that my gender would slow me down, that being a woman would later be a hindrance to my career.
For years now, women in the country music industry have been told by labels and booking agents that there is only room for one on the roster. That on the playlist or the radio we can’t have female songs back to back. But why? An question I feel I have been searching for the answers to the past few years without a reasonable explanation. I’ve heard that the audience wants to hear more male artists so that is what the radio has to play. An explanation that even if it was true at some point, seems like old news - I say poll again!
I think the more realistic explanation lies with the fact that we all love music that we know. The songs we’ve heard a thousand times, the ones that bring back memories and transport us to another place. Well, radio or labels or playlists don’t give the audience a chance to fall in love with songs by women because they only have room for one at a time. The audience isn’t going to call in and request a bunch of songs by females if they have never heard them before. If the industry made more room for female-sung songs, and not just because they are women but because they are talented and deserve to be heard, I think the results of “what they need to play because the audience demands it” would be vastly different.
There are a lot of talented country artists both male and female, but from my perspective as a female, it seems that female artists are held to a higher standard. If you are a male and you can sing, it seems the industry assumes that is enough and people will take a chance on you, but if you are a female, it is a risk to take that chance on you and you better have all the boxes checked in terms of talent, look, and personality to even be considered. I think all artists, male and female, need to be seen equally and held to the same standards.
It does feel like some progress has been made because we have called attention to the problem, but there is more to be done. In a recent study published in consultation with the woman’s advocacy group WOMAN Nashville, you can see just how appalling the results are. There has been a 66% decline in the number of songs played by women on the Yearend Airplay reports between 2000 and 2018. Also, the ratio in spins by male artists and female artists went from 2 to 1 in 2000 to 9.7 to 1 in 2018. (Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/country-music-radio-has-ignored-female-artists-years-we-have-ncna1137571)
The scary thing about learning these facts is that it can bring out the competitive side of women. Knowing there is so little room for women, we all have to fight each other to get to the top to claim that one spot. However, this frustration in the industry has lit a spark that has brought women in country together to fight for ourselves and each other. It has motivated me to create platforms for women in music to come together and provide opportunities for them to share just how talented they are. I started my first all-female lineup show, “Girl Talk” with the help of my cohost Alessia Cohle, at The Moonshine Café in Oakville on January 31st, 2019. Every other month we invite a female artist to join us on the stage to share her stories and songs and indulge in a bit of girly chitchat. After the success of this show for a year, I decided it was time to expand even further and inspired by my latest single and EP “All Woman”, I decided to create a second female show called “All Woman Music”. Although the pandemic threw a bit of a wrench in my launch plan, I have successfully taken this show to Facebook Live, which has given me the opportunity to have guests from other provinces as well as women in country here in Ontario. I am truly inspired by the amount of talented female country singers, and all I can say is the industry better watch out because these ladies have so much to offer and they aren’t slowing down!
As women, boss babes, and fierce competitors we have so much to give and celebrate, a message I was trying to capture while writing my latest single “All Woman”. It is about celebrating all aspects of being a woman, that you can love to rock a dress and high heels or jeans and a t-shirt, it’s not about having to choose one thing to define yourself as a woman—it’s about embracing everything that you are. It makes me so happy to see women coming together to support one another and rising up to fight against this inequality. And I’m so excited that many of these rising female artists have lent their talents to a special video for “All Woman”. I’m hoping this song can be an anthem for this movement. A song to remind women that they never have to put themselves in a box, that they can be whatever they want to be and can accomplish anything. And I’m hopeful that the industry embraces more females as they are and stops looking at being female as being a disadvantage.
We are “All Love, All Fight, All Woman”.
Nicole Rayy knows something about drawing inspiration from love and loss. The universal struggle with finding a solid footing in relationships manifests itself within her process, and gathering from her myriad travels and connections – she has created something that is both familial and engaging.
Nicole has been continuously pushing forward the limits of country music in Canada and abroad. And with her unquestionable talent and incredible showmanship – she has gained the attention of local music lovers and the music industry alike. Her new album captures and continues to build upon all that buzz. www.nicolerayy.com