“What we’re trying to present to everybody is that girls don’t just have to be sexy on stage,” said composer, musician, producer and activist Linda Perry from the Troubadour stage in West Hollywood, kicking off a fundraising event Sunday (Oct. 9) for EqualizeHer. “They can be very, very powerful behind the scenes.”
Launched in April at South By Southwest with philanthropist Alisha Ballard, wife of composer and producer Dan Ballard, the event featured performances by Paris Jackson, Aimee Mann and Tinashe, and was the latest effort to raise awareness of the initiative. Like nonprofits She Is The Music and Women’s Audio Mission, EqualizeHer seeks to create more opportunities for women throughout all ranks of the music industry.
Perry, co-writer and producer of such hits as Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” and Pink’s “Get the Party Started” and former lead singer of ‘90s rock band Four Non Blondes, told the audience, “I was in a band that was very popular and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like being on the stage and having that kind of focus so I went behind it and I’m way more powerful now than I ever was on that stage.”
She and Ballard, who were only introduced to each other shortly before the SXSW launch, say they quickly bonded over the creating more opportunities for women in all corners of the music industry. Ballard tells Variety that as she observed her husband’s career, “I was very aware of the fact that there aren’t a lot of women in this industry. We have two daughters and for him, that’s not acceptable. He and I talked about that. Half the population are women; the music they might create is missing from the world.”
“We’re still dealing with it,” adds Perry, “where women are very underrated in this business from tour managers to live sound engineers to designers of microphones, plugins, all that stuff, so we started this organization to help bring awareness, and more so, just to be supportive.
“Even when Four Non Blondes were making that record, I had such a hard time being heard because the producer didn’t want to hear my ideas, didn’t think I had good ideas. It was hard navigating because I’m someone who’s very opinionated. Even after that, it was difficult getting information, like what does this do? What does that do?
“I wanted to know what a compressor was, EQ, all that stuff, so when I got my first big paycheck, I went and bought a bunch of gear. I had no idea what it did, but I bought it and hooked it all up and then just started figuring it out because I said I will never be in a position again where I don’t know what I’m doing.”
While the second half of the Troubadour event featured performances by Jackson, Mann and Tinashe, the first half was a showcase for young talent, most in their teens.
“We have Paris Jackson, Aimee Mann and Tinashe, three people who are making it in the business, and then we have five kids opening up the show, who have never been on a stage before,” Perry told the audience. “They’re going to go up there, they’re going to sweat it and we’re going to get them comfortable, to see what it’s like to play for people, to get instant reactions.”
The teen-packed lineup included Whesli, an alternative R&B artist from Tulsa, folk-influenced Ashley del Cid and Tish Melton, powerful guitarist and singer Jasmine Star, and rapper Audley. Whesli, Star and Melton each have songs available on streaming services. Melton, daughter of author Glennon Doyle, also wrote and performed the Brandi Carlile-produced theme to her mother’s podcast, “We Can Do Hard Things.”
Perry also took a brief turn on stage, performing a solo rendition of the Non Blondes’ “What’s Up?” and played piano to accompany the only male performer of the evening, her 7-year-old son Rhodes Emilio Gilbert Perry, who, dressed in a Halloween costume, sang a song of the season.
Last on the bill was the folk-inspired Jackson, who battled a cold to preview songs from a soon-to-be-released EP, a follow up to the 2020 set “Wilted.” Speaking with Variety, Jackson namechecks the likes of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.
“I’ve always had a passion for music but I think I needed to get comfortable with being in the public eye with fashion and acting first,” she says. “After I had those experiences, I was ready to take on music. I love the fashion stuff, but for me that’s more of a job and music is more of a life path. … All of my songs at their root are folk but I’m trying on different production styles, so as of lately I’ve been trying more of a ‘90s thing, so a little bit of Nirvana, a little bit of the Cranberries, a little bit of Weezer, late ‘90s, early 2000s.”
As for the EqualizeHer cause, Jackson was more than eager to accept Perry’s invitation to participate. “Whatever I can do to get involved, whether it’s feminism or the environment,” she says. “Last night I was presenting at the EMA Awards (Environmental Media Awards). I just want to stay involved.”