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#IWD2021: Being Female Is Not My Brand

Our second blog for The Ivors Academy’s celebration of International Women's Day is written by the Songwriter, Producer and Performer Hannah V.

Hannah V is a pioneering new generation of entrepreneurial female producer/songwriter, who has worked with some of the most in-demand major label artists including Stomzy, JP Cooper and TOBi. Alongside her undeniable skills as a songwriter and producer, Hannah V has also balanced a stunning performance career with tours and stadium gigs with artists including Rihanna, Jessie J, Eminem, Lalah Hathaway, Jason Derulo, Taio Cruz and Anastasia.

Hannah V is regularly commissioned by top global brands for her tracks and has also been involved in brand campaigns for companies as diverse as the BBC, Max Factor, and Adidas.

Hannah is also a member of The Ivors Academy Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Steering Group, a member of The Ivors Academy Songwriter Committee and a member of The Ivors Academy’s Women in Music Working Group.

We are grateful for Hannah V’s contribution to our celebrations today –

Being Female Is Not My Brand

This is not an article about being female, nor is it an article about the prejudice and hardships that women face in the music industry. This is an article about art.

‘art’ – noun

“The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

My name is Hannah V, I am a record producer, songwriter and pianist – and God, I love my job. I often feel more like a magician than a musician – creating something from nothing. We grasp for a feeling, an emotion, the unknown, and suddenly the bare bones of a song appear.

As producers, we work in service to the song, making adjustments here and there, constantly nipping, tucking and choreographing sounds. As you shape the song, the song shapes you. The struggle is real – one second it slips through your fingers – the next you’re grasping it firmly. You fight with it, you make peace with it, you love it, you hate it. Tension – Release. A final crescendo and there it is – the song, the finished product.

What does this have to do with International Woman’s Day?

Not a lot, and that precisely is my point.

When I walk into the room as a producer, people react to me being a woman; and with that, the pressure of having to prove myself to people that I do not know grows. More importantly, though, they do not know me, nor my dedication to music, my training, my accolades, my talent, my technique or my instinct. At that moment, I am unthinkingly forced to prove that I can do the job that I have trained my whole life for – I cannot let myself slip.

So, what am I asking for? 

Let me answer this by giving an example of a recent session.

Last year, I produced an EP in Abbey Road’s iconic Studio 2. Naturally, I was nervous – this was arguably the most famous studio in the world – yet, from the first phone call with the head engineer through to the recording sessions, I was treated with total respect. No eye raises, no trivial mentions of it being “great to have a female producer here”, just “what do you need and how can we support you?”.

My voice was heard, the team were listening – I was seen. And what happens when you are truly seen? You relax. And so, I immersed myself into the session, with nothing in the way of my instinct and the music.

I was in a room with extraordinary musicians, beautiful songs and a phenomenal artist, all whilst feeling unapologetically free to direct the art at hand.

The legacy of the studio did not weigh me down, it uplifted me. The outcome was powerful – I will be proud of these recordings for the rest of my life. Not only in terms of the music but knowing that I have added to the fabric of the building and left some of my authentic self behind.

So, let’s repeat my question – what am I asking for? 

It’s pretty simple. Be a considerate and respectful human being.

If I am in the room, assume that I am qualified to be there. See me as the producer that I am and check your unconscious bias at the door – don’t react to my gender or the colour of my skin.

As artists, musicians, engineers and creatives, we are trying to create something bigger than ourselves and give way to a higher calling. My job is to capture life in all its beauty and pain. This takes a microscopic level of attention to detail – every fibre, atom, and molecule of myself is physically and mentally engaged. I simply do not have the time or energy to justify my presence.

Let’s stop magnifying something that just, isn’t – being a woman is not my brand.

The Ivors Academy would like to thank Hannah V for giving her time to write this blog and sharing her thoughts and personal insights. 

Discover more about Hannah V

Discover more about International Women’s Day

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