This month we celebrate Women’s History Month, and our focus for this year is on the independence and success of women in the music industry. Our first spotlight shines on singer/songwriter Tiana Woods, whose band VARNA is the only unsigned female fronted independent band to have two Top 40 singles on the Billboard Mainstream Indicator Rock Charts. The LA-based musician has faced all the trials of being a female rocker and then some. Read below to hear more about her story and some inspiring advice on how to persevere in this industry.
I have been singing since I was three years old and have wanted to be a singer/songwriter my entire life. My father and grandfather were both successful and famous musicians, but I grew up without either of them, so I will just say that I was given the love of music from that side. I grew up in a single-parent household with my mother and I was the only person who was obsessed with music, so my journey has always been quite a lone effort and I have always had to rely only on myself for any opportunities and connections that I have forged along the way in this industry.
Interesting enough, the first person that inspired me to become a musician was a female, Mariah Carey. Not only her vocal ability but the fact that she wrote all of her material and had a first hand in producing it. It was unheard of for a worldwide, commercial-pop artist at the time she came out.
Due to my upbringing, I always had the mentality that women could do anything. Working hard and never taking “no” for an answer are qualities that I realized were perceived as “masculine” later on in life to other people. I have faced so many hardships in my career as a woman in music, let alone a woman in a genre that is 90% men on and behind the scenes–hard rock. More than anything I have had experience with people underestimating who I am and what I can do as an artist because I refuse to compromise my “girly” femininity. People don’t understand that I like to wear makeup and beautiful outfits, but once I get on stage–I sweat, scream, go wild, and am not afraid to jump off stage and get in your face. There’s a lot of stereotypical walls that don’t cater to me and it has been interesting to see the response through the years which has been both positive and negative. Lucky for me, I never have cared what anyone thinks of me.
The advice that I would give other female musicians is:
1. Seek other women who are involved in and around your field. Find women who are excited that will support you and lift you up. Never underestimate the power of another woman who wants to see you succeed.
2. Surround yourself with men in your genre that support and believe in YOUR TALENT and respect you as a fellow artist, first and foremost. They will also be there to help you if a situation arises where you can not do that for yourself.
3. Do not make connections or befriend people–men or women–who make you feel uncomfortable–physically or verbally–for the sake of your career. The gamble will never pay off.
4. Don’t compromise who you are to make other people feel at ease.
5. Women have the great gift of intuition. Use it at all times and don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself.
6. Be a champion for other women. We are unstoppable together and we all bring our own special gifts to the table!
I am proud of the women who have come forward in the #MeToo Movement. This is a shift in our industry that shows that women in powerful positions have finally arrived. We are here to stay to change the landscape for the future generations. There have definitely been times in my career where I was spoken inappropriately to by someone or in front of someone, due to being a woman and in a position of power in my band, it happens almost on a daily basis on tour. I have used the advice I have learned through the years to protect myself but even so, you can still be put into a dangerous or uncomfortable situation regardless of how “careful” you are. Men will never understand how it feels to always have to be “on guard” every single day. Thankfully as I said before, we do have allies in other supportive men and women. We are all in this together.
[You can find more on my band at www.varnarocks.com.]