To celebrate International Women’s Week we’ve put together a series of interviews with inspirational female creatives. This time we spoke with Cæcilie Trier – singer, cellist and keyboard-player from Chimes & Bells, Choir Of Young Believers and Le Fiasko.
As an added bonus, Cæcilie curated a Spotify playlist inspired by strong female musicians especially for you! You can listen right here.
When did you start out as a musician?
I started playing the violin when I was three years old. It was not so serious. In childhood photographs I’m often decked-out in roller skates with a bare ass and my violin.
When I was twelve I learned the cello, clarinet and conga drums, and sang in a choir. I had a small band with three of my girlfriends and we practiced in the basement. My parents had a small rehearsal space made for us and my mom got us playing drums, bass and all of that. I wrote rap.
Ten years passed before I started playing with others again. Writing music and all that. All the years in between had been important, but it was a private thing for me back then—playing music – it was something I kept all to myself.
Has music always been your dream career or was there a point in your life where you thought “I’ve just got to try this”?
It wasn’t a decision I made. I just spent more and more time making music without really noticing that it suddenly took over everything. I then started at the Conservatory and I’ve never really thought about it since. It’s hard to imagine doing anything else. My parents are musicians too. So I’m no pattern breaker!
What are your thoughts on gender equality in the music industry?
A report has just been published that shows that in almost all areas of my field the distribution is 80:20 men:women, and in comparison to other art forms that are slowly creeping towards gender equality, the music business is at a standstill.
The distribution of KODA is completely misguided and as far as I know 98 percent goes to male composers. So there’s a gigantic difference. We have a music patriarchy. In all music support groups, unions, art councils and prize committees it’s men dominating the seats. On stage it’s mostly men as well and at the Conservatory there are significantly more male students and teachers. I don’t mean this as a criticism – rather we must all, men an women alike, open our eyes and see that this is how it is in Denmark and decide whether or not it’s acceptable.
Personally I thrive as a female in the music industry. In my near environment there is not much of an outnumbering for which I am very thankful. In a broader sense I think the inequality is a great shame. Music is such a fulfilling path and so few women follow it.
I’ve noticed that girls are often shy in school music classes. It’s the boys who play the lead solo. In Sweden they have Popkollo; summer schools for girls and women of all ages where they are taught to play instruments, write songs and play in a bands by female teachers from a range of musical genres. The project was founded by the government to encourage otherwise suppressed potential. If the genders are mixed before girls develop confidence and a sense of self, they’ll just withdraw.
And this thing with women always being the singer – that’s some provoking stuff. Girls don’t show up fifth grade music class to merely sing, but they end up doing so when it’s the boys playing drums, bass and guitar. More care is required here, along with a different educational approach. It’s kind of like the quiet students in math class. They need to be handled differently to the kid who always sits with his hand in the air. I never saw anyone take this into account through all my time as a music student in elementary, high school or college. It was always just five girls standing there playing the maracas and singing in the choir.
It supports the age-old perception that women are completely untamed and subject to nature and a hysterical state of mind, and completely incapable of handling equipment – whereas the men are the ones that tame and control. That’s how it was earlier on. The men were running around writing the history while the women made the wheels turn behind them. A serious female instrumentalist contradicts the idea of women being incapable of handling equipment. She becomes the one that controls, tames and manages technology. It’s important to give your song-happy daughter the opportunity to learn to accompany herself on an instrument or else she’ll be reliant on others backing her up while she sings. And they will probably be men as things look right now.
Who are your biggest female inspirations and why?
I had some very strong female role models in my early childhood who were incredibly serious about their artistic projects and never let their gender get in the way. They weren’t women with deep cleavages and long black eyelashes. It’s quite okay to dabble in that sort of thing, but my role models never put much energy into their physical appearance or using their sexual magnetism. And it’s still that kind of women that interests me—the unpretentious and calm. In saying that, I love it when there is lots of magnetism, sexuality, aggressiveness and sensitivity in art.
Do you have any advice for young women following in your footsteps?
If you want to do something – do it. You have to get started even though you don’t think you’re good enough. Nobody is perfect at the start of something. Learn as much as possible. Try to compose, write lyrics, write for other people, play all sorts of instruments, produce, understand the various techniques and the computer programs, deal with all the practical stuff, all of the logistics and all the promo stuff.
Women shouldn’t let themselves get too far behind, but instead strive to obtain all the knowledge and know-how that men have had monopoly on for so many years. Get independent. It’s not the men taking the knowledge away from us; women must learn to take themselves.
And it would be nice if some authority from above would do a little something as well. We need to be more conscious about women in music journalism and in booking departments etc., and projects like Popkollo. We also need to be more conscious about the responsibility of teachers to encourage both genders in all aspects of life. Not just music.