On Ep. 4 of Live From Gibson Drive–our new digital concert series broadcast from our Facebook Live every Thursday at 8pm CST–we welcomed Kristina Murray to enchant you all with her sweet vocals, and simple-yet-powerful melodies.
The entire music industry is facing one of the most difficult periods in living memory. With the arrival of COVID-19, touring musicians, booking agents, and venues are being forced to reevaluate how to continue making live music.
When I spoke with Kristina on a rainy Tennessee Wednesday, she lamented,
“If independent venues don’t open by the end of 2020, some of them never will. As an independent artist, it can even be hard to book independent venues. It’s really scary to me to think that so many of these places can go belly up. A lot of small artists depend on them. AEG and Livenation are buying everything up and becoming a booking conglomerate. For people like me who don’t have that representation; it’s terrifying.”
We can all agree that making it in the music industry is a Syspyphian battle, and it can be a straight-up wilderness to boot for women trying to find success–especially in the realm of country music (look up Tomatogate if you don’t believe me). Many women – see T-Swift, Maren Morris, etc. – started out as country artists, but found that they were only heard when they marketed themselves to pop audiences.
If you disagree, take a moment and name your favorite top five contemporary female country artists. I bet it’s harder than you think. Sure Patsy, Loretta, Tammy, Reba–names of yesteryear role easily off of the tongue. But present day female country artists outside – of the glossy, psychedelic arena shows of Kacey Musgraves and Margo Price’s rambling road tours – are made to live in the weeds by most of the industry fighting for any kind of recognition.
Kristina spoke to this, as someone who has dealt with it for years, “Being a woman and existing in the world, you have to work around these unseen limitations. Many people, especially men running the industry don’t see them.” Even worse, female artists like Kristina are expected to stay seductive, single, malleable, and young. “As a woman in the music industry, so much is contingent upon age, and since I’m quickly approaching middle age, it’s an intimidating reality.”
There are different performative social expectations of genders, and many refuse to acknowledge that these create and maintain an alienating divide in most industries, not just music. Even though Kristina is a beloved fixture of Nashville’s scene, she admits, “It’s very frustrating for me having worked in this industry for 10 years and not making as much progress compared to men in the industry. Even as I say this I want to temper what I say so I don’t come across as a ‘bitter woman.’”
Despite these social demands, Kristina has stayed true to her old-school blues-country roots, writing and singing with intimate transparency. “Something I’ve been trying to remember is that it’s not really necessary to put pressure on yourself right now. I just want to be honest and be vulnerable and not fake it,” she says.
It’s easy to get lost in comparison, and the *ahem* patriarchy thrives on pitting women against one another. Competition is, at the end of the day, the ultimate sign of oppression – making people believe that their peers are the threat, not the systematic undermining of self-worth put in place by a capitalist, consumer-driven society.
And it isn’t any less complex in a creative microcosm like Nashville. Kristina says “In Nashville, I have felt extreme support from women in this community, but also the opposite end of that. The pretend support. I would like to turn and focus instead on the women in the community that support me, rather than the times I have not felt seen.
At the end of the day, comparison only serves as a divisive, creeping malaise (similar to the ‘rona). Kristina is a true-to-herself, angel-voiced, smart and well-spoken addition to a chorus of women who we’d love to see more of. So just remember: don’t let the patriarchy get you down, give love, not judgement, and wash your dang hands. And go watch Kristina slay on Live From Gibson Drive.