Women with a Purpose Showcase at Fresh Produce Records

While most people were hashtagging “slay” Sunday night after Beyonce’s performance on the VMAs, I was thinking about her popularity with the recent visual album Lemonade. Obviously, a lot of its success has occurred due to Beyonce’s bluntness about her relationship, her hair flippin’ attitude, and that swinging baseball bat, but maybe more so because she is advocating the right for women to have a voice. There’s a camaraderie Beyonce seems to have instilled in her fans because she tells women to “get in formation,” be who you are, and stick with each other (I’m not sure if Becky with the good hair qualifies for this last part, but you get my point).  Interestingly, this same concept is going on right here in our little town of Macon with the event Women with Purpose.

After thinking about the dwindling focus on female musicians in Macon, Savana Cameron decided to put together a night of entertainment dedicated to women in the arts. “I was talking to a really good friend of mine, Jenny Lawson, and we both used to play a good bit at the Golden Bough.” Cameron said when asked how the event started.  “We were reminiscing about some acts we used to see like oh dorian and Moontrash.  And we thought it would be really awesome if we got all the girls back together and have a female showcase to give women a space to share their craft. So that was just kind of like a whim.  We were just having a conversation. I was kind of like, maybe we can make this happen.”  But more than just an evening of music, Cameron hopes that Women with Purpose will bring about a change in the atmosphere of how women think of each other and themselves.

Women with Purpose will be an all-female showcase that includes local musicians and artists with the proceeds going to benefit the Safe House of Central Georgia, an organization that helps women and families who have been victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault get back on their feet. A raffle will also be held to support the Safe House and some prizes will include works donated from female artists at the showcase. Cameron has also dedicated her efforts to educating patrons on domestic abuse by having guest lecturer Dr. Sheree Keith of Middle Georgia State University speak on the topic. Among the diverse list of musical performances including Chance Moorman, Sister Sandoz, oh dorian, and Cameron’s new project with Caroline Payne, Atria, visual artists such as Brooke Scott and Christie Flowers will have some of their work set up.

Cameron had a chance to sit down and talk to me about the showcase and why she thinks promoting female musicians is pertinent to Macon’s music community.  I also spoke with Louise Warren, one of the musicians who will be performing this Friday.

Why do you think it’s important to showcase women musicians and artists in Macon?

Cameron:  I think that it’s just important for their gifts and stories to be heard, and for us to lift each other up. I think women can put each other down and be more competitive with one another. But I think that it’s important to promote sisterhood . . .to see that they can ask us to do things. We’re happy to do it. We’re introducing a lot of ladies that normally aren’t involved in our community into our community. This is a melting pot of people. We’re going to have students there. All kinds of people are coming. We have professors coming. And it’s just going to be a wonderful group of people coming together over this cause.

Do you want this to be a springboard for other women to get out in the community more with their art?

Cameron:  Absolutely. I would really love to see more women. And there are so many women that just haven’t come out. There are people I play with at school that have solo projects and they haven’t played shows. I’m meeting all kinds of artists that should be introduced to the community. And I think that this will give them a platform to come out of hiding maybe [laughs] and join the group.

Do you think this showcase was in some ways very personal being a woman musician yourself?

Cameron:  It is very personal to me not only in being a musician. I’ve had experience with the Safe House. Not this one in particular but I have had some reasons in picking this organization. It’s very near and dear to my heart. My music to me is a sanctuary. It’s a place where I can go and connect to something higher and center myself. And that’s the one place I can go, just like education, where nobody can take that from you… one place that I can go and expand and connect and nobody can take that away from me. It’s very personal. All musicians and artists they have those special places, and when you share those special places it’s very personal to you, but it also helps other people connect to their special place. Trying to give people a time out from just going to work or going to the grocery store or just everyday life. Just something where they can feel connected to something and have ideas and get excited about something. It’s just about the trickling down of education. The more people that you inspire, the more people that they’re going to inspire. That’s the beautiful thing about this common language that we have in art and music.

What will patrons get out of attending this event?

Cameron:  They’re going to see some really amazing women perform. I think they’re just going to be shocked at the talent that we have that they haven’t seen yet. They’re going to see women coming together and [they’ll see] sisterhood. And it’s going to be a very warm and friendly environment and they’re going to get a great feeling out of this being able to give back to organizations that maybe they can connect to later if they need to, having questions answered, making new friends. I think it’s just going to be a one of a kind experience.

Getting to know local female musicians in Macon is one of Cameron’s sole purposes for the event.  I had a chance to speak with one of those musicians, Louise Warren.  She is currently working on her first full length album, Lavender Sounds, releasing this fall.  She shared with me why she got involved in Cameron’s project, the feeling of being seen and not heard, and her relationship with her therapist.

How did you get connected with Women with Purpose?

Warren:  My good friend, Savana Cameron, who I’ve done shows with in the past, contacted me and asked me if I would like to be a part of an all woman’s showcase. I’m a huge proponent for female musicians, being one for the past seven years. I’ve understood the ups and downs that come with being a female musician. And I was excited to be supportive and empowering of other musicians, regardless of gender, but I was super excited by that concept. When she told me that it was a benefit concert I was even more on board because I’ve known a lot of women to go through really intense sexual abuse and domestic abuse. I’ve known people personally to have to suffer from that and I was just super excited to do something about that.

What does the showcase mean to you as a woman artist?

Warren:  It means empowerment. It means coming together for a really good cause so we can all understand and relate. It means showing the world that women do not have to be pitted against each other and that we can be loving and supportive, leading by example, raising people up rather than seeing them as competition. That is a huge thing for me.

You mentioned the ups and downs of being a woman musician.  What do you think are some of those struggles that women have?

Warren:  I think the major one is just not being taken seriously. When I do feel judged as a woman musician it’s usually because I feel like I’m supposed to be seen and not heard. I feel like I’m judged more by the outfit that I chose to wear on stage rather than the content of my lyrics and the quality of my melody. And that has always been a struggle. Firstly, because I’m not a very visual person and I’m not super into fashion [laughs]. Secondly, because I think that musicians want people to hear their message and a greater meaning to them behind the music and behind the art . . . I’ve just been a firm believer in learning from every situation and really delving into quality work.  I think the biggest struggle that I’ve had is that I feel as though I’m supposed to market myself more than men are, and market myself physically/visually rather than from my sound. [Sound] is my favorite part of it, so it’s jumping out of my element to do so.

Last year you won the Eddie Owens Open Mic Night at the Red Clay Theater.  Tell me what that was like.

It was a long-time goal of mine and it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt in my life.  You’re thrown on stage with a bunch of extraordinarily talented – some nationally touring – musicians and you all compete for these final three slots that then turns into the last one. I have done open mic night competitions for years, since probably 2009, and I have never ever been asked to come back up. Or let alone won. I had gone through a really tough year.  I had lost my father that year and I just felt like I was making him proud and just really making myself proud by sticking with something long enough to reach that moment.

You’ve been writing music since you were 14?

Actually before then.  I first learned guitar when I was 14. When I was in elementary school, probably first or second grade, my mom asked me what I was singing and I told her that I was just writing music, that it was just something I had made up. I think a lot of kids do that naturally. I just managed to hold onto it because I enjoy doing it so much. I had really encouraging parents who wanted me to explore things that I was passionate about. My parents really struggled to make [piano classes] happen for me but they did it.  I just started playing around with chords and lyrics and melody. When I picked up guitar that’s where music really took a solid form and it wasn’t just pieces here and there. It was very solid, very finished songs that were better than anything I had written before. I stumbled upon something that really felt like it was genuine to myself and that I really loved doing. That was kind of my story with writing but I’ve always had different song ideas pop into my head, and I’ve always had a love of doing it. I would run out onto the playground when I was in elementary school and I’d spend the whole time swinging so I could get quiet to write songs, which didn’t make me many friends [laughs]. But it did make me very skilled at doing this one thing.

One of your songs was featured on Zooey Deschanel’s website.  How did that happen?

That was a result of me knocking on as many doors as I can and hoping that they open [laughs]. I sent out a bunch of emails trying to get a little bit of buzz going.  It was just something that I’ve gotten better at, lining it up with releases and doing it when it was necessary. But back when that happened I was just trying to get anyone to put my music out there. I sent them an email: “I have this passion. I love doing this. I have a video. Would you mind posting it on your site?” The site had just opened up that year. And they did it. They were more than happy to do it, and they were very sweet and encouraging and definitely gave me a boost that day.

You’ve said your relationship with music is your “therapist and best friend.”  Explain that to me and do you think in some ways everyone should use art as an outlet to keep their sanity so to speak?

Absolutely [laughs]. The same way you want to use a level to hang a picture on a wall. I think art has this wonderful ability of connecting you with the greater humanity. The most important thing is your higher self. In my own spiritual belief, I believe that everybody’s already whole and I think that making art connects you back to that place. It kind of reminds you of everything that you are because you’re expressing yourself in a way that’s unique. I definitely think that everyone should sit down with some medium and learn how to get connected with their feelings and where they are. For me, personally, I cannot function without writing or without music. If I have a bad day, I talk about it with my friends, or my boyfriend, or my mom or I sit down and write a song. And the best days are when I do both [laughs]. The world is constantly putting us in a place of taking on things and it feels really heavy on our shoulders, so there’s many different ways we can let go of some of that. I think that everybody should at the very least find their way to let go, and I think art is one of my favorite ways to do that.

What do you hope people take away from the showcase?

The fact that we can be empowered and not in competition. I think collaboration is number one. I think that collaboration is the same thing as competition but raising us to a higher level without some of the negative effects. Showing that people can connect and use our voices, especially as women. We’re taught very much to not express things directly with one another and be in conflict and competition rather than collaboration and harmony. I think that the number one thing is that we do have a very real sense of community amongst the female musicians here in Macon, and I’d love to be a positive role model of that, a positive example. And also give these women a  voice that may not feel like they can use theirs right now. They have it. It’s always there. [The showcase] is reminding them of their own power.

Women with Purpose will be held Friday September 3 from 6pm-10pm at Fresh Produce Records, $5 cover benefiting Safe House of Central Georgia

Check out the full lineup for Women with Purpose here