RYA Interview: “Music is so male dominated it’s hard for womxn to rise up the career ladder”

Debut singles are hard to get right – but London newcomer RYA seems to have nailed it.

Produced by Jack Gourlay, ‘Karma’ blends RYA’s distinctive English accent with quintessential Britpop production for what she describes as “an ode to the millennial generation.”

We chat with the emerging singer about why she chose ‘Karma’ as her debut as well as future plans.

SheBOPS: What’s in your Recently Played list on Spotify?

RYA: Mathematics by Mos Def, California by Lana Del Ray, Why Is It So Hard by Charles Bradley, and Second Guessing by Arlo Parks.

What are your favorite sounds to incorporate into your music?

I’m really into electric guitar at the moment and there are so many plug-ins available you literally have endless possibilities with regards to the sound. I’m trying to incorporate that into the music I’m working on currently.

Where do your musical inspirations come from?

My dad! He’s super cool and has a great taste in music. He’s always on the search for new music and loves sharing what he finds with me and my brother.

What emotions do you hope your music conveys to the listener?

When people listen to ‘Karma’ I want them to feel confident and empowered to act their true self, to not feel pressured to dampen their emotions. This song is designed to make the listener feel sassy af.

Generally speaking, what is your creative process like?

Disorganized like everything else I do! I’ll have a little melody going round in my head all day until I can grab the nearest instrument and set down some chords. Then I write the rest of the song around that. Lots of times I half write a song and end up finishing it in the studio, there’s something about pressure that makes me work better.

What is the toughest part of creating new music?

Sometimes you can get stuck on a part of a song where you just can’t find the right lyrics. You end up going round and round and it can get pretty frustrating but it’s always best to take a break and go back to it with a fresh mindset.

What is the message behind your debut single?

The message is to basically be yourself, like own your emotions and have fun with it. It’s a break-up song that should leave you feeling like a queen.

Why did this single feel like the right one to debut with?

It’s pretty obnoxious and out there so it felt perfect for my debut single – I’m here and you best believe I’m gonna make a f*cking scene.

Was there ever a moment where you felt like giving up on music and doing something else?

This is industry is full of setbacks, so yeah all the time! I study medicine so being a doctor is my plan B.

Have you ever felt pressured to fit a certain ‘mould’ as an artist?

To be honest – no. I feel so pressured to fit a mould as a medical professional that when I’ve got my artist “hat” on I feel incredibly freed. No one cares if you have home-made tattoos, multiple piercings, a glass of red wine in hand… I’m doing perfectly normal things but at the same time feeling like I’m totally breaking the rules.

Have you noticed any double standards when it comes to gender in the music industry?

Absolutely.

How do you feel about the representation and portrayal of women in music? Is there anything that you’d like to change?

There is gender inequality in all industries but especially in the music industry. A study done at the start of the year showed out of 700 top songs on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart between 2012 and 2018, women make up 21.7 percent of artists, 12.3 percent of songwriters and 2.1 percent of producers. However, the issue is starting to come to light and initiatives for womxn are popping up all over the place, which is pretty promising.

From a woman’s perspective, is there anything about the music industry that frustrates you?

When you’re working in the studio hours on end with sometimes just one other person it can be tiring trying to maintain professional boundaries. Obviously you have to get on well with someone you’re spending that much time with but I have found that people blur those lines in their minds and can act inappropriately. Unfortunately this does tend to affect womxn more and not all of us have the luxury of ending the session there and then and finding new people to work with. If a member of staff was acting inappropriately with me on the ward I could report them, but when you’re working with freelancers or doing collaborations there’s nothing like that to fall back on.

What challenges do you think women in music are facing today?

Music, amongst other industries, is so male dominated it’s hard for womxn to rise up the career ladder. There are so few female-identifying people in areas like sound engineering and producing. There’s also the issue of the gender pay-gap, I could go on!

Are there any up and coming female musicians you have your eye on?

So many! Arlo Parks is sick check her out!

What advice would you give to young girls and women looking to work in music?

Don’t give up! Work in the creative industry is full of set-backs but you just have to keep trying again. Also help a girl out – as there are so few womxn at the top it can feel like we have to compete against each other, but we’d be so much happier helping each other to success.

Is there anything in your career that you feel like you are still learning?

Literally everything. Life is a constant lesson and I’m still in the very early stages of my musical development.

What’s planned for 2020?

Single number two!

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