Country music star Cam was one of several producers on her latest album “The Otherside,” but had she not gone the route of being an artist and singer, she would’ve loved to be a producer and engineer regardless, a space that remains difficult for women to break into in the music industry.
Cam said in a discussion along with her producer Tyler Johnson as part of the TheWrap’s Power Women Summit that unless you’re also a successful artist, there’s a shortage of women who are the ones behind the soundboards playing with knobs and producing someone else’s sound.
“When they ask what women are producers, they’re producing on their own art. So it’s that thing where you have to be so exemplary or magical that you’ve made it into the system,” Cam said. “You can’t just be someone who is bad at singing but is good at producing. There aren’t as many of that.”
Before she became a solo artist and put out her first record in 2015, Cam was a songwriter who composed material for Miley Cyrus and Sam Smith, among others. And for a while she resisted feeling like she could be the center of attention or the singular artist, even preferring to be the one behind the scenes.
“I couldn’t dare to hope for that kind of thing, and then it worked out, well we always joke, I jumped on the grenade of being the artist,” Cam said. “I remember the first time I realized what that was, I was like, oh, that would’ve been really fun. I would’ve had a really good time being an engineer.”
“You have a knack for it,” Johnson added, backing up her technical chops. “It was unrefined, for sure, but your pursuit of these really high-level artistic moves, at the time, I heard where it could’ve gone.”
Cam’s latest record “The Otherside,” which dropped on Oct. 30, allowed her to work with Jack Antonoff, Harry Styles, Sam Smith and the late Avicii, but she and Johnson also made a point to bring in female engineers who could help give the album a sort of “balance” and find complexities that another producer might overlook.
But she added that many women simply don’t realize that being an engineer or working in a technical space is an opportunity that’s available to them, and it’s a problem she’s observed as she’s served on the Grammy’s diversity committee or looked at numbers from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The group found that in 2019, only 2.6% of the top 500 songs released that year were produced by women, a ratio of nearly 37 men for every one woman in that role, and only eight songs featured any women of color.
Johnson added that it’s up to the industry to help create those opportunities that can get more women into the engineering chair, and it can make better music because of it.
“I don’t know exactly why we’re here as we are today in this disparity in inequality, but I just think that one of the reasons is that it isn’t presented as an option, a viable option that would be safe and inviting. It’s like, oh that’s not going to be a zone where I’m accepted. People are so complex. There are definitely females who want — and I’ve met them — who are obsessed with engineering,” Johnson said. “I think music is at a loss not having more females in music and engineering. It’s lacking in quality because of that.
Check out the full conversation between Cam and Johnson above.
The Power Women Summit, presented by the WrapWomen Foundation, is the largest annual gathering of the most influential women in entertainment, media and technology. The Summit aims to inspire and empower women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year’s all-virtual PWS provides three days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking around the globe to promote “Inclusion 360,” this year’s theme.