Fret Sisters: Using the Internet to Spotlight Women in the Music Industry

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Photo by Dema Designs
       

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 18 Winter 2021 – Women in the Music Industry

Now more than ever is the time for women in the music industry to take back the power, and women have been doing just that. Female-fronted businesses and bands have more than doubled in recent years, and we wanted to take the time to speak to one that creates a platform that uplifts female musicians on the strings. 

Fret Sisters is what they like to call a sisterhood of women who play stringed instruments. They connect online through a community created by four women, who all craved a space to showcase their musical and vocal talents. The main facets of their community include their social media pages and weekly podcast, Between Frets.

The Fret Sisters: Shorn, Genny Jam, Lacole Rose, and Autumn filled us in on the genesis of the community, what goes into keeping it alive, and each of their loves for music and the industry.

What are your names, where are you from, and how did you each come to start your music careers? 

Shorn: My name is Shorn “Shorny Shorn” Marshall. I’m based in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Music runs in my family, so I have desired a career in music since the age of 14. I started with poetry and then expanded to lyrics as I continued to progress along the trajectory of my career. 

Genny Jam: My name is Genny Jam, and I am from Washington, DC. I started playing guitar in high school and performed with several bands. I got my big break a few years later, touring with recording artists and traveling the world.

Lacole Rose: My name is Lacole Rose, and I’m based out of Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve always had a love for music, as it runs on my dad’s side of the family. I started playing clarinet in the 7th grade and picked up the saxophone later in high school. The love for guitar found me much later in life, around my early 20s, when I first heard Stevie Ray Vaughan playing “Lenny” at Austin City Limits. The sound of his playing literally woke me up out of my sleep. In fact, “Lenny” was the first song I learned to play, and I’ve been hooked since then! 

Karyn Smith (Autumn): My name is Karyn “Autumn” Smith, and I’m from New York City and am endorsed by Brian Moore Guitars. I was exposed to music by a few different people in my family, which really opened my eyes to this industry. I was influenced by my mother, who was an accomplished pianist and organist for her church. My godfather, Al Hibbler, was a professional jazz singer and recording artist with the Count Basie Orchestra. My uncle-in-law George Rhodes was the pianist and music director for Sammy Davis, Jr. In middle school, I began taking private guitar lessons, and in high school, I began playing in both the school pop band and the senior mixed chorus. This prepared me to become a professional guitarist and bandleader and to continue my music education at Berklee in Boston, Massachusetts.

Tell our readers a little bit about Fret Sisters. What is this platform all about, and why is it important to uplift women in the industry?

Shorn: Fret Sisters is an online community for women in music. We started two years ago because we wanted to highlight women playing “stringed instruments” out here in the industry. Fast forward to 2021; we are seeking to expand our brand and just show more women working hard in the industry. 

Genny Jam: I think it is important to uplift women in music because of the way women have been portrayed and ignored throughout the years. It was very necessary and important for us to create this community. 

Let’s talk about the creative process. What does a day in a Fret Sisters episode look like? What all goes into this creative process from start to finish?

Lacole Rose: It’s definitely a collaborative effort. We all have different strengths, so we all utilize those gifts to make sure that we bring the best quality material to everyone. We generally have monthly meetings to brainstorm new ideas we may have for the Fret Tea Talk portion of our Between Frets podcast. We also use this space and time to discuss merchandising, branding, and selecting guests, among other things. We are currently booking guests for the sixth season of Between Frets. Last season we upped our game to include video, so not only do we have the episodes posted on all streaming outlets, but we also have the video portion of the interview on our Fret Sisters YouTube page. 

We round out a day by searching social media sites for different female musicians to spotlight daily on our social media pages. We typically allocate specific music genres to each day of the week, and if anyone wants to be featured, they simply DM us on Instagram. No matter the level of player, instrument, or country, Fret Sisters strives to have a positive and uplifting space to showcase all the women killing it in music today! 

Shifting gears to mental, spiritual, and physical wellbeing. What do you all do to protect your spiritual and mental wellbeing? What does a day of self-care look like for you all?

Shorn: I’m a mom, and my house can be chaotic, so I try to take time to meditate, practice yoga, do skincare routines, and crochet. When I have a few minutes to myself, these routines help me stay calm. 

Genny Jam: I exercise five days a week. My workouts consist of cardio, free weights, and stretching. This helps clear my spirit and keeps me in shape for onstage performance.

Karyn Smith (Autumn): For relaxation and self-care days, I enjoy exercising, reading, praying, and doing something special for myself.  

Lacole Rose: I begin every day with prayer and thankfulness for my spiritual health. For relaxation, there is nothing like a cup of peach tea and a good suspense novel. During the pandemic, I found enjoyment in comic books and the new hobby of urban sketching.

Do you have a guitarist in mind that you would like to interview on your podcast and have not had the chance yet?

Shorn: H.E.R. most definitely.

Genny Jam: Lari Basilio!

Lacole Rose: Rhonda Smith, hands down! 

Karyn Smith (Autumn): Tracy Chapman, Bonnie Raitt, and Joni Mitchell. 

Was there a defining moment that you all realized you want to do more for diversity and inclusion within the industry? What was that moment, and what did you feel inside?

Lacole Rose: In the grand scheme of things, I was late to the party, even with regards to being a musician. I started playing guitar in my early twenties and did not even begin taking the instrument seriously until my mid-thirties. Even still, I started to look for other female musicians or musicians who looked like me, and I realized there weren’t many out there. The majority were all male, or if I did find female guitarists, they were tall blondes that didn’t play the types of music I enjoyed. 

Thankfully, we now have social media where I have been able to find summits and workshops where musicians would meet to just vibe and learn from one another. Even though there were amazing female musicians present at these events, they were spotlighted very little. It was like a male musician’s jam fest. Enjoyable, but the space was lacking in diversity. Genny, Shorn, 

Karyn and myself are all POC, over thirty, and dope musicians who play and sing all styles of music. And it’s time we are seen and heard. 

Genny Jam: Times have really changed for the better, but there is more room for improvement. Throughout my musical career, I have always been in diverse environments, from performing in go-go bands to touring with hip-hop artists. Being female and playing an instrument came with many challenges, and I think it is important to me and the Fret Sisters that we not only expose the great female talent that is out there but expose the culture, music, and skills worldwide to create a global voice.

What is next for Fret Sisters?

Shorn: We’re working on a new season of our podcast, Between Frets.

Genny Jam: We are constantly coming up with new ideas for the platform and podcast from sharing knowledge, tips, or creating tutorials. Anything that will help us engage with our audience more and get them involved is what we aim to do. We hope to take it on the road one day!

Karyn Smith (Autumn): We are discussing a Fret Sisters in-person or virtual music summit for the future.