Bassist Ruth Goller of Acoustic Ladyland, writes about her experience as a female jazz instrumentalist and the decisions she has made to further her career.
Today I was inspired by the International Women’s Day to write a few words.
When I first started playing the Bass in bands it felt very natural – I was little aware that there weren’t many other women doing the same thing – I never really questioned this. But slowly I began to realise that I would sometimes be treated differently to my fellow band members – by sound engineers, audience, or other musicians (for example – sometimes it would be assumed that I didn’t really know how to work my own gear!). It was, and still is, a long learning process for me to understand in what situation I feel comfortable in, and what I want to support. It took a while of saying no to certain things, and in general being careful about what work I took on. Soon I started saying no to all girl-bands or bands that expected me to wear something different to what I wanted to. I don’t want to be judgemental – as I understand the pressure that comes with these things, and because I recognise that people make certain decisions for different reasons – but one of the most enjoyable aspects about music for me is the equality between the people that make it – so making a band where all the musicians have to be women (for a non-musical reason) seemed contradictory to this. Also wearing something provocative or sexy is just not my style, so I felt that it was not honest of me to do this on stage – I felt like I couldn’t support this just to be a selling-point for a band.
It is very important to me to be the same person on stage that I am in my own head. This really helps musicians to be better respected for their choices, and personally I found myself in a much better environment and working with lovely and amazing people/musicians that share the enjoyment of making music based on equality (both musically and personally) – I find it inspiring to see the way that musicians like Ingrid Laubrock, Nikki Illes and Alice Grant (to name just a few) have done just that.