Have you ever tried a google search for “female music producer”? Try it. Now try “Canadian female music producer.” So sparse is this category, that the internet often mistakes it for female artists in general: producers of music, rather than those behind the scenes.
Saying that the music industry is male dominated is like pointing out that the desert is dry, but if even a google search can’t provide some solid statistics, it begs the question: why aren’t there more females in music production? It’s a question not easily answered, but it’s safe to say that if more were celebrated, more would be inspired to come forward.
The artists mentioned here are talented and successful producers in their own right, female or not, but with a slow build of think pieces piling up online about the lack of women in music production, it seemed a fair time to point out and celebrate some of our own.
Perhaps most obvious on this list would be Vancouver native Claire Boucher, aka Grimes. Boucher, who produces, writes and records her own music as well as directs her own music videos, has always been an advocate for women behind the scenes. As told to Rolling Stone: “I don’t think there are few female producers because women aren’t interested. It’s difficult for women to get in. It’s a pretty hostile environment”.
Her latest album Art Angels has been shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize, she has a song featured in the Hollywood high-octane blockbuster Suicide Squad, and she recently starred in and provided the music for fashion designer Stella McCartney’s new fragrance campaign. Brains, talent and business savvy, we can’t wait to hear what she’ll do next.
While still relatively new, Mu are making some of the most exciting music to come out of the West Coast’s blossoming electronic music scene. The eclectic dream pop duo got their start in the depths of Vancouver’s underground. Brittany Rand was in school for film music production when she met Francesca Belcourt, who was performing as a solo artist. The two immediately bonded over their love of electronic music and the world of Mu was born.
With two EP’s filled with intricate instrumentation and cinematic textures, it’s evident their technical chops are a key element to their songwriting. In an interview with BeatRoute, Rand said “[My production style] has always kind of been experimenting with fantasy versus reality. I try to do something that’s both organic sounding but also rough by using a metallic sound and then using a really really soft synth, something like that. I think that’s what makes it kind of interesting.”
Their music is a visceral experience, and with a sound so unique and visual that it’s hard to imagine them not expanding their world well beyond dream pop and into film and television scores.
3. Charlotte Day Wilson
Charlotte Day Wilson is a multi instrumentalist, singer and producer from Toronto who’s music is strongly informed by soul, R&B, jazz and electronic. Her voice’s deep tone has an oddly calming effect, paired with tasteful musical arrangements that are so self possessed that it’s hard to imagine anyone else with the reigns over her music.
Without releasing even an EP she has already secured a guest appearance on the latest BADBADNOTGOOD album, attained a much sought-after opening slot for buzz band Local Natives, and some very high profile head nods including the likes of BBC, Pitchfork and The Globe and Mail. As she sings in her first single “Work”, “people come and go, but I think you should know, that I think this will work”. Yes, we think so too.
4. Jessy Lanza
Hailing from the industrial city of Hamilton, Ontario, Jessy Lanza spent part of her childhood helping her father set up raves. While she didn’t actually attend them until playing them, this small moment in her life had a huge impact.
Flash forward to the present, where Lanza worked Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys on both her debut album Pull My Hair Back and her follow up, this year’s Oh No, opening up the space between electro pop and house music with her exquisite blend of melodic vocals and kinetic beats.
Greenspan is sometimes mistaken as the sole producer of Lanza's music, a result no less of the ever present stereotype involving male-producer-female-singer dynamic. But that doesn’t phase Lanza. If you’ve ever seen her perform live, you’ll know who’s behind the wheel.
Like most savvy millennials, she taught herself how to record music from watching videos on Youtube at the ripe old age of nine. A few years later, she won the 2012 Battle of the Beatmakers in her hometown of Toronto. After sending a beat to Houston rapper Travis Scott, she saw the beat land on none other than Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail and well, the rest is history.
WondaGurl just might be the next Timbaland, and hopefully will inspire young aspiring producers to follow in her footsteps.
6. Lydia Ainsworth
A former student of film composition at both McGill and NYU, Lydia Ainsworth found her niche in avant-garde pop songwriting. Using both her skills as a classical composer and lover of melody, she wrote and produced her debut album Right From Real which came out in 2014 on Arbutus Records.
In a single song, you’ll hear sonic references to Kate Bush, Bulgarian women’s choirs and classical film scores. Her unique ability to make complicated arrangements sound effortless and serene are one of her greatest talents, and with an album and a full length feature film score already under her belt, there’s no telling where she’ll go next.