Women in music honor those who’ve influenced them

Now more than ever, creators need each other’s support.

With that in mind, we asked a handful of artists to share who within the music industry has had the biggest impact on their careers – from creation to how they run their businesses and beyond.

The result is a collection of artists and executives who’ve mentored, celebrated, and blazed a path for creators to follow. Learn about how they’ve influenced these creators below.

A blueprint for a legacy: TRAKGIRL celebrates Ethiopia Habtemariam

TRAKGIRL (born Shakari Boles) is a music producer, composer, and the founder of The 7% Us, a platform designed to highlight and create a safe haven for women in music. TRAKGIRL celebrates Ethiopia Habtemariam – here’s why:

“Ethiopia Habtemariam is the president of Motown Records. Ethiopia inspires me tremendously through her journey, drive, and passion. She’s a leader, someone I look up to – an inspiration and light. Her impact and influence gives me the blueprint on creating my own legacy within this business, and within life.

She’s paved the way for a lot of women who look like me and continues to break so many barriers. It’s truly inspiring how her work continues to open doors and create lanes for others, and she’s such a boss! Mentorship is important and often rare. I’m blessed and fortunate to have the support from someone I’ve always admired.”

Learning to own your value: Heather Sommer celebrates Karra Madden and Bebe Rexha

Heather Sommer is a singer-songwriter who’s worked with some of the biggest names in the electronic music space. She’s celebrating both Karra Madden (KARRA) and Bebe Rexha. She said:

“Karra Madden is an artist, singer-songwriter, topliner, and absolutely killer vocal producer. She’s best known for her Splice packs and vocals on EDM tracks and has been making major waves in the pop world. Bebe Rexha is a chart-topping pop artist and singer-songwriter.

She reminds me to never settle for less than what I deserve and to always fight for the proper credit, pay, and representation.

– Heather Sommer on KARRA

Karra has been a mentor and friend of mine for a little over a year now. Before I met Karra in person, I had always looked up to her and respected her as this incredibly strong-minded, powerful force in the industry. When we had our first session, we instantly clicked, spending a solid hour and a half talking about our own lives, goals, stories, and how it is to be a woman in an industry constantly surrounded by men.

What she shared was incredibly encouraging and inspiring. She explained how she saw a lot of herself in me with only a few years of difference. I’m beyond lucky to have her as a mentor, friend, and collaborator and am always inspired by her outlook on life and music. She reminds me to never settle for less than what I deserve and to always fight for the proper credit, pay, and representation.

Rejection and failure often come with the territory of being a musician and Karra has emphasized that we should only see these experiences as stepping stones to a greater success story. She’s a prime example of how powerful your mind can be if you stay focused, balanced, motivated, and hungry. Karra has taught me that, as women in the industry, we really can do anything we put our minds to.

Bebe Rexha has always been someone I’ve looked up to as a female in the industry. For the past few years, she’s held her annual ‘Women in Harmony’ brunch, specifically designed to bring together some of the most powerful and accomplished females in the business. I absolutely love everything Bebe stands for. It’s imperative for women to support one another as opposed to seeing each other as competition. Bebe is no stranger to preaching this message.”

A lesson in manifestation: Caroline Partamian celebrates Sarah Van Buren

Caroline Partamian is a sound / visual artist and a curator influenced by her training in dance. She has worked for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and artists including Laurie Anderson, Eva Dean, and Amanda Browder, and was an archivist for New York University’s Fales Library. She’s celebrating Sarah Van Buren. She said:

Sarah Van Buren is a multi-disciplinary human. Her positivity and productivity are infectious and her actions and words continually remind me why I continue to pursue the practices that I do, make the choices that I make, and surround myself with the people who I hold closely.

Sarah co-founded CHERYL in 2008, a collective that traveled around the UK and greater Europe throwing ‘weird interactive parties and doing art installations and interventions.’ Since, she’s organized events such as Basilica Hudson’s 24-Hour Drone Festival, a drone stage for Far Out Festival, and O+, a festival organized to create the exchange of ‘the art of medicine for the medicine of art.’ Currently, her practice involves making sonic maps of imagined and real places. Last year, she started a school which evolved into a DJ collective called Mostly Girls.

I first met Sarah in person at Hudson’s Half Moon bar in 2018. I lived in Brooklyn at the time and found myself in Hudson selling my Weird Babes zines and mixtapes at the WGXC Wave Farm Record Fair. A friend introduced her as a potential player for a 24-hour sonic event my partner and I were organizing at the Newburgh Artist in Vacancy.

When I met Sarah, we had a short but excited exchange. We traded hugs, tapes, and verbal elation, during which time she mentioned we should play the 24-Hour Drone Fest – an offer I’d hope she wouldn’t later regret, having never heard our music! Little did I know the absolute force and rooting this person would have on me and continues to have on everyone in her community, which is global.

Sarah thrives at many things, but collaboration is at the heart of her pulse. The energy from working and meeting other people has fueled her solo sound practice. She does… a lot, but everything she does is interconnected and seems to lie on a greater trajectory manifested by Sarah herself.

I’m so lucky that our sonic capabilities connected us. She makes sure you feel heard and are heard. Her presence is a reminder of the power of coming together, and that if you work hard enough with grace and kindness, your heart and home can extend far beyond the walls of the city in which you live.”

A lesson in determination: Karra Madden celebrates her mom, Donna Madden

Karra Madden (KARRA) already received quite the introduction from Heather above. She’s celebrating her mother, Donna Madden – here’s what she said:

“My mother, Donna Madden, was my voice teacher growing up. She’s been teaching voice for about 25 years. When the average kid was coming home to a quiet house, my brother, sister, and I were coming home to my mom giving lessons. I know pretty much every single broadway showtune, aria, and vocal warmup you can imagine. I’m convinced that her lessons (and simply hearing her teach others) are why I have a naturally good ear and skillsets for singing and vocal production.

She literally took any job she could get without getting precious about it, and that discipline and fluidity is what inspires me everyday to navigate my career the way I do.

– KARRA on her mother, Donna Madden

My mom didn’t really write or record original music, but she is an incredible pianist who sang and played the piano at the same time. She mostly performed show tunes, classics, arias, and hymns. She’s responsible for bringing me into the church at a young age, and that was my first-ever paying job in music. I still sing with her at church when I go home for Christmas.

The biggest things I learned from my mom were discipline and the importance of practicing. I must admit, it was tough having my mother be my teacher at times, especially when I was a teenager because she’s a no-excuses type of person. We bumped heads quite a bit because I naturally rebelled by not wanting to practice the way I should’ve, but she never gave up on me. She pushed me. She’s hands-down the hardest working woman I know. She would juggle 30+ students a week and multiple functions at church including weddings, funerals, and mass, and also teach choir at a high school in the area.

She literally took any job she could get without getting precious about it, and that discipline and fluidity is what inspires me everyday to navigate my career the way I do. I see so many parallels and similarities between us, especially with the way she treated her students like her own kids. I’m the same way with the artists I work with in the studio. In hindsight, I’m truly the luckiest person in the world to have had such a role model in my own home.”

Permission to unapologetically be yourself: Orla Gartland celebrates Regina Spektor

Orla Gartland is a singer-songwriter and guitarist from Dublin who gained popularity by posting cover songs on her YouTube channel, which has over 18 million views. She’s celebrating Regina Spektor – here’s what she said:

“Regina Spektor makes piano-driven pop music. She was the first artist I grew irreversibly attached to. She writes lyrics that feel like such an uncompromising, undiluted version of her. There’s so much personality in every moment of each song. I love that. She was the first artist who gave me permission to be unapologetically myself, on record and on stage.”

Inspiration to write what you want: Emilie Brandt celebrates Taylor Swift

Emilie Brandt is an American singer-songwriter and performer who’s been captivating audiences with her music and energizing stage presence. She’s celebrating Taylor Swift – here’s why:

“Taylor Swift is an ever-evolving powerhouse making country, pop, or whatever the hell she wants. As a pre-teen, I had about one hour between the time school ended and when anyone else would come home. T-Swift was up-and-coming during this time. I remember rushing home every day so I could use those 60 minutes to secretly use my stepdad’s acoustic guitar (yeah, the one with a ‘Do not touch’ note on it) to teach myself chords to some of my favorite songs. I think the first song I ever learned to play was ‘Teardrops On My Guitar.’

I think it’s fair to say that her work had an incredible impact and influence on my career – from learning music to eventually writing my own. Like other nerdy, camo-pants-wearing teens, I was invisible to all of my love interests. I’d like to think the way I related so closely with Taylor’s songs is what inspired me to write the angst-y songs I wanted to. My first song was appropriately named “I Hate You,” and was about the popular girl dating the boy I had a crush on (maximum cringe).”

Since, I’ve written and recorded tons of songs that prove I still have just as much to say and just as many people to call out as I did at 14. More currently, a song I wrote called “Mr. Big Shot” comes to mind. Looking back, I guess you could say I saw a part of myself in her, and that allowed me to emulate her empowering spirit and express my emotions through music.”

Who inspires you?

Who’s someone in the music industry who’s had an impact on you and your music career? Let us know in the comments below!

March 26, 2020

Shannon Byrne Shannon Lee Byrne is a freelance writer focused on the music industry, creativity, entrepreneurship, culture, and mental health. She's also a copywriter, marketing strategist, and podcaster.