International Women's Day 2023
Talent is Timeless is proud to celebrate International Women’s Day with a collection of insightful and inspiring articles written by our female members. Join us in recognizing the contributions of women in songwriting, as they share their stories, struggles, and triumphs. These articles offer a glimpse into the experiences of women songwriters over the age of 50, revealing their unique perspectives and invaluable contributions to the music industry. From songwriting tips to personal reflections, our members share their insights and wisdom, proving that creativity knows no bounds and age is just a number. Read on to discover the talent and resilience of these incredible women, who continue to inspire us with their passion for music and dedication to their craft.
I remember in the early 80s waiting for my band to go on in a small club in Greenwich Village New York. There was a band fronted by what I deemed a very old woman, she must’ve been about 40. I thought to myself oh my god if I’m still 40 and playing in these tiny little clubs I will have been a failure and where was her self respect? I didn’t realize at the time that my judgment of her was a me problem. As I entered my 30s I began lying about my age because I thought it would be harmful to my career. Ironically I was offered a development deal by Sony records when I was 35 years old. I told them I was 27 as I was convinced they would drop me if they found out. Again that was a me problem. When I turned 40 the New York Times was coming to my house to do an article about a new album I had independently released and when the reporter and photographer asked me my age I refused to tell them. Regardless they found out and printed it in the article. I was devastated. A me problem once again. What I wasn’t aware of during this time was that I was simply reacting to all the societal cues I’d been fed by the media that youth and beauty for women is tantamount to talent and experience. That for women there is an expiration date for being beautiful and sexy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if iconic aging women musicians would embrace the natural aging process like Robert Smith of the Cure or Mick Jagger of the Stones instead of mutilating their faces and promoting make up and hair products that basically tell us we’re not ok as we are? For me Carole King has been a guiding star because she’s always been true to her self as a musician, songwriter and is aging with style. She dares to say to all of us that if you have a problem with a vibrant 80 year old woman on stage, that’s a YOU problem. I have watched many women leaving the music business feeling that their time has come and gone while so many men that I know are still at it. Now as I’ve entered my 60’s my voice is as strong as ever, I have over 100 club dates this year, teach songwriting to at risk elementary school children to help support curriculum, write personalized songs for kids in hospitals via the Songs of Love foundation and continue to release my own albums. I finally have the confidence to walk on stage knowing that if anyone is going to judge me because I’m a woman of a certain age it’s not my problem... it’s theirs. http://www.aliceleon.com http://www.thesongs4u.comAlice Leon Tweet
What is it like to be a female songwriter over 50? I am 77, female, and a songwriter. There are many paths through the labyrinth of discovery that is songwriting and there’s a story attached to every stage of my journey. However, I’m going to answer the question, how does it feel? I wrote my first song, for my daughter’s 21st birthday in 2003. Little did I realise the enormous impact that songwriting would have on my life. I had no previous musical experience or training, and I don’t play any instrument. Also, I am not a confident singer or performer. When I write lyrics I ‘hear’ or ‘feel’ the melody and later I can hold a tune well enough to sing it to a musician or producer. They can then arrange and play a backing track which they present for my approval and then either they sing a demo of my song themselves or find other vocalists to record it. I mostly write songs because I have to, not because I want to! I find it impossible to ignore the words that stream into my mind. Occasionally I sing a song from beginning to end and then rush to find paper and a pen and try to remember how it began. Songwriting plays a major part now in my everyday life. To my amazement I find I can write for most genres and if I haven’t done it yet, I love a challenge. My songwriting has, on the whole, had a positive effect on me. I’m an optimist, my next song is always going to be my best. I am not famous or well known, but I have achieved personal satisfaction in small but significant ways. My first album or collection of songs ‘Rainbows Of Hope’ led to a concert where for three hours talented amateur singers sang only my songs and enough money was raised to pay for a year’s education for 72 children in ‘Clouds Of Hope’ an orphanage I had visited, in Underberg, South Africa. My song ‘Real Life Country Song’ won ‘song of the month’ in Nashville in 2013 and my folk songs are frequently played on our local radio. I can’t describe the feeling of sheer joy and happiness I get when a presenter plays one of my songs and names me as the songwriter. I consider my songwriting at times to be a ‘gift’ and at others a ‘curse’ The fact that it has come to me in the later stages of my life I welcome, as it helped me adjust to retirement which I found very hard. At present I’m working on three albums, collections of Gospel songs, of children’s serendipity style story songs and my third 80’s style pop album. My songwriting is continually evolving and luckily has not reduced over the years. Thankfully I have never experienced writer’s block. I owe an awful lot to the love, encouragement, support and talents of others. My lyrics would have remained words on paper and my melodies just tunes in my head without their willingness to collaborate.. I lead a songwriting group ‘A Lilt Of Songwriters’ for Bournemouth U3A (University Of The Third Age). Not really a university, it is a National charity for retired and semi-retired people that provides many different interest groups for its members. Several of my groups’ members had never written a song and all have written a variety of songs now. Since the pandemic as a person with serious ongoing health issues I have run my weekly sessions via Zoom. During that period my members have written over 60 songs and we have created three CDs of sea related songs. The moral of my story is that it is never too late to achieve your dreams even if it is a dream that you never knew you had. You can listen to all 22 CDs/collections of my songs free at https://www.mavisellenjackson.co.uk And you can listen, also free to ‘A Lilt Of Songwriter’s’ songs https://soundcloud.com/mavisellen-jacksonMavisEllen Jackson Tweet
Songwriting is something I have toyed with since childhood. On the way to and from primary school, I remember making up melodies and verses, sometimes sharing them with friends. I always thought I would one day write a song or two, but it wasn’t until my fifties that I did. My relationship with singing was always easy and fruitful; I sung in various choirs at different points throughout my life, with friends and more recently, in an acapella duo, Gaga Ladies. By contrast, my relationship with music was troubled. I was banned from the music room at secondary school where I had wanted to join my musically talented friend; and was denied the opportunity to learn the double bass for dubious reasons that wouldn’t now be permitted. It was a real set back and knocked my confidence. I turned to other activities instead. However, my dad bought me a guitar when I was 18. I took it to France for a year and taught myself the basics. I loved it because I could add singing to music. I struggled to progress further than the basics, however, and lacked the funds to buy guitar lessons. Then work, family and life took over. Until my fifties. This was when I resumed singing in earnest and fell into arranging songs for our small choir. The formation of Gaga Ladies a little later prompted me to write original songs to add to our repertoire of covers and perform at local gigs and art events. Completing that first song was quite a milestone. At around the same time, I started having guitar lessons. At 62 I haven’t looked back. Adding guitar to my acapella songwriting took me on an entirely unpredicted path leading to going solo as Jude Searl. Two people have been crucial in addition to my husband whose support and steer have helped enormously: my guitar teacher persuaded (pushed me, even) into recording my songs, and at the same time by coincidence I bumped into an old friend, a musician, who has a recording studio and supported me in arranging and producing my songs. Being such a latecomer to songwriting, not being musically trained, very aware of how age and gender is viewed in the music world, and naturally rather shy about sharing my work publicly, it took five years to complete the ep and a further two years to risk releasing it. During that time I did, however, submit a couple of songs to the UK Songwriting competition. I didn’t reach the finals but was commended for one song and another was awarded a special mention. Last year, one of my songs was featured on an American radio programme, promoting women’s original songs. I was pleased to hear about and join ‘Talent is Timeless’ and joined a workshop in the summer last year. I continue to write and perform songs both as a solo artist and with Gaga Ladies with a view to recording a 2nd ep or album later this year. Songwriting is a craft and I know I have only touched the surface. A friend about whom I wrote a song and who also plays guitar and sings beautifully, said, when I casually asked him whether he wrote songs, that ‘you have to have a reason’. He didn’t. It made me think about why I do it. There are lots of reasons of course. Lyrics, melody and a story are what drive me and there’s the knowledge that at last I’m giving an outlet to something that has been inside for such a long time. I adore singing, so playing guitar to accompany my own songs is a privilege. I remain aware, though, that being a woman of a certain age is a harder place to be than it should be, particularly in music. And the clock ticks. I would advise anyone, women especially, to follow their music dreams in whatever way they can. Taking lessons and collaboration have been enormously helpful to me and provided a big step on the way. The more we can do openly and publicly, the better; it makes it that much easier for others to follow. But equally, playing just for oneself or friends and family can be the perfect tonic in a difficult world. Jude Searl February 28, 2023Jude Searle Tweet
This is how I feel about being a woman songwriter north of 50. Profound reverence, deep heartfelt gratitude for being alive. As a songwriter, we are the lucky ones. I simply love to write. To let it out. To get it out. Whatever that is. Whatever that looks like. When you are giving birth to creativity it is so freeing. North of 50? We are living the life of legends now. We have made it. We survived. Often not unscathed from years of questioning our own validity. Am I of value? Is my writing any good? Does anyone care if I ever write anything? I often would say, “Songwriters do not become songwriters because they have it all figured out.” North of 50 we arrive at the doorstep of great good fortune. For many of us, songwriting is our purpose, putting to music the stories that we feel, fuel or fascinate us. We are writing about our experiences, journey lived this far, journey to go. There is no destination. The success is truly in the day to day journey. What is your inner state in this moment? This moment is the perfect moment to express your beauty. There is no time limit on songwriting. No time like now to simply take the time to allow a melody through. A word through. A thought, vision or dream. Once you are north of 50 you can simply stand in it. Stand tall in who you are. Stand, looking forward with enough experience to know which direction you want to head in. We have a wealth of information and lived experience to draw upon. We have fallen down and we have lifted up. It does not seem so long ago that I remember just dreaming one day, maybe, maybe, I would write songs. Seems like yesterday. Life truly moves by so quickly. We all have the ability to be a songwriter. I wish to inspire all to write. If you are over 50, just write about something that happened or matters to you. Put a melody to it. Your own style. It does not need to be like or sound like anyone else. You are free once you are north of 50. Just simply allow yourself to be. Allow for flow. You might surprise yourself. Walla! Lucky is the artist that finds the pathway of communication through songwriting. We that are north of 50 are able to draw from the yin within and the yang without. We have the ability to write in any manner we choose. We are able to communicate through a universal language, emotion of the soul. A unified field of awareness. I have often said that there will come a time when only the strong will have the courage to speak, to sing. When you arrive at a place where nothing can tempt you or distract you from being your most honest, authentic self, songwriter. No longer afraid to let it all hang out. What is there to hold back from? When you are willing to give birth to the song and to know what the song needs to come alive. It is such a heart opening experience It will be the artists north of 50 who have experienced a multitude of relationships. As women who are proudly aging, we care less about what others think and find it easier to align with our spirit in our own acceptance. You can write for Mother Earth, for the children, for the critters, for the oceans, forests, and water, sun and moon, climate change. Anything that makes you tick. Your own environment or where your people originate from. You can bring voice to the voiceless. Songwriting is deeply healing. My Mother, Beth Jacobsen, once said, “You never feel older, you just look in the mirror and see you are.” Maya Angelou put it like this. “When you see me sitting quietly, like a sack left on the shelf, don’t think I need your chattering. I’m listening to myself. Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me! Hold! Stop your sympathy! Understanding if you got it, otherwise I’ll do without it! When my bones are stiff and aching, and my feet won’t climb the stair, I will only ask one favor: Don’t bring me no rocking chair. When you see me walking, stumbling, don’t study and get it wrong. Cause tired don’t mean lazy and every goodbye ain’t gone. I’m the same person I was back then, A little less hair, a little less chin. A lot less lungs and much less wind. But ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in.” Recently at the Folk Alliance International Conference, the great songwriter Janis Ian said, “I did not write the song 17 when I was 17. I wrote it many years later when I had the breathing room from the experience. I looked back on being 17 and I wrote the song.” Arriving north of 50 is a gift. A beautiful, heartfelt gift. As a female songwriter north of 50, I am grateful. Totally grateful to have the ability to receive and share such a touching gift. Bella! Bella! for all people, for the women, writing songs north of 50. What a golden opportunity to speak. Every experience you have ever had has a song in it. Keep writing. Let go. Write some more. Bring the song to life. Keep writing. Never give up! Songwriting is ageless. Anything is possible. Never give up! Breath. Repeat. LoRa Elizabeth is a singer songwriter currently residing in NWA, Northwest Arkansas. USA. She has spent a lifetime creating music and supporting other creators. She loves to collaborate and improvise, and revels in making songs up on the spot. In striving to bring exposure to musicians and artists, and opportunities for the public to experience great creativity, she has produced numerous multi-day music and art festivals. She brings together artist and audience. She has also released five independent albums and is featured on other recordings. LoRa Elizabeth hopes to one day be able to sustain herself solely as a songwriter, artist and producer. You can find her at www.loraelizabeth.comLoRa Elizabeth Tweet
What does it feel like to be a female songwriter over 50? I’m turning 52 in a few weeks, so the topic of age and creativity is top of mind… On the one hand, it’s an amazing vantage point. So many of my musical heroes are older female songwriters and musicians – Patty Griffin, Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams. These women have evolved and shapeshifted over the years and deepened their artistry, making relevant and timeless contributions to the world of music. So I’ve always had this sense that a woman can continue to have a thriving creative life and performing career past the age of 50. The benefits of being older include spending years honing my craft and creating a body of work that I feel proud of. I’ve put in a lot of time practicing my instrument, writing and re-writing and winnowing my words so I can convey precisely what I mean to say in my songs. I have listened to a lifetime of talented artists, attended their concerts, studied their catalog, and incorporated that inspiration into my own style. And I have discovered my own voice and learned to use it -- instead of being tossed away by nerves and constantly comparing myself to other artists. Over time, though, I’ve struggled with injuries like repetitive stress and overuse, due to the way I physically approached music making. I was self-taught for many years, so had to undo bad habits, learn proper techniques and get better at managing stress in my daily life. These issues really took the sails out of my earlier efforts at a musical career and forced me to take a step back and re-evaluate my dreams and goals. Like many women in my generation, I got married and had a child later in life. I wanted to combine being a parent and a musician as I had seen other women do, bringing their kids on the road and making it part of their family journey. But raising an autistic child often requires a different approach, which makes a significant demand on one’s inner resources. My daughter needed me more and more at home while other kids her age were becoming more independent and I chose to be there for her. While some parents are able to give more time to their creative pursuits as their kids grow, I continue to have my hands full of parenting and the day-to-day concerns of making a living for my family. There is also a kind of invisibility that happens to women over 50 in general. I know we live in a culture that fetishizes youth, commodifies beauty and judges women by their perceived desirability. As a feminist, I’ve tried to live my life outside of those confines! So it’s shocking to arrive in mid-life and find that these ideals still exist – stronger now, in some ways, due to the screen and image-based platforms provided by the internet. In the music world, I notice that there are fewer older women that show up in the song circles. And those of us that do are no longer willing to be ornaments for someone else’s performance: we have our own work and dreams to attend to. All of which brings me back to the question of what it’s like to be a female songwriter over 50: It’s challenging, of course, due to the physical nature of the work and the ways of the world we have inherited. But it’s powerful because I have a lifetime of practice and experience to draw upon. It’s freeing, because I am no longer bound by society’s expectations for what it means to live a woman’s life or inhabit a female body. And it leaves a creative legacy for our children and generations to come about valuing your talents, working toward what is most important and dreaming about what is possible.Kelly Brightwell, 2022 Talent Is Timeless Winner Tweet