What we've learned from interviews with female musicians on Woman’s Hour

Time after time, the presenters on Radio 4's Woman's Hour - Jenni Murray, Jane Garvey, and others - get superb interviews out of the fabulously wide range of musicians they invite onto the programme, many of whom use the opportunity to speak more frankly than they do to the music press. Here's some wisdom gleaned from just seven, and there are plenty of others to enjoy on Woman's Hour's Women in Music page.

1. Take credit where credit is due

We were a force of nature
Steve Nicks on working with Christine McVie

In 2013, Stevie Nicks explained how there was no way that the two women in the 1970s' incarnation of Fleetwood Mac - herself and Christine McVie - weren't going to get proper recognition for being the songwriting nucleus of the band (along with Lindsey Buckingham).

"It was very important for us [to get credit] in a man's world," Nicks said. "In the very beginning, we made a pact that we would be a force of nature together and we were... We decided we were never going to stand in a room full of Eric Claptons, and Jimmy Pages, and Robert Plants, and Stevie Winwoods, and Peter Townshends, and feel like we were less than they, because we're not."

We were a force of nature
Steve Nicks on working with Christine McVie

2. Success means nothing if you hate yourself

No one's going to take care of you like you
Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige also visited the Woman's Hour studio in 2013 and spoke about how, as a kid growing up in the New York City housing projects, she "saw women suffer at the hands of men, and then suffer at the hands of their own insecurities, then that trickled down to the children".

Blige goes on to explain that, as an adult, she was in an abusive relationship herself - after she'd broken through as an RnB artist. "Success means nothing if you hate yourself," she says, adding: "Success means nothing until you learn how to really, really love yourself and understand that no one's going to take care of you like you."

No one's going to take care of you like you
Mary J. Blige

3. Make a lot of mistakes

We learn from our mistakes, right?
Debbie Harry

Asked how she - and many others from the 1970s - have managed to enjoy such long careers in the music business, Debbie Harry (from 9:50) simply replies: "We love what we do." And there's much else to learn from this wonderful interview. Talking about how she developed her style for Blondie, Harry says: "I think by making a lot of mistakes. We learn from our mistakes, right?"

Harry also discusses growing older as a woman so celebrated for her looks, not becoming a mother and embarking on lengthy, global tours.

We learn from our mistakes, right?
Debbie Harry

4. Keep control of your art

Write down your intentions, then you follow those intentions
Gemma Thompson

Post-punk band Savages were shortlisted for the 2013 Mercury Music Prize and, in the run up to the event, guitarist Gemma Thompson revealed how the group stay true to themselves by writing manifestos: "We wanted to keep real control over what we are doing - how we put ourselves out there and who we work with. It's Jehn [singer] who writes all these little manifestos. We didn't want someone to write a press release for us; we wanted to write something for ourselves - words to kind of say what we were about. Once we wrote those down, they also became really important for us when we would go into a rehearsal studio or perform. It's almost like you write down your intentions, then you follow those intentions."

Write down your intentions, then you follow those intentions
Gemma Thompson

5. Come in peace, but mean business

Women are definitely the matriarchs of this community
Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe's Electric Lady album from 2013 was both musically and thematically complicated, raising questions about many issues, including social alienation. Asked whether she sees herself as an outsider, Monáe says, yes, she does at times, adding:

"I don't think of myself as a victim, but I do think it's my job to create music, or tell stories, that send out messages that educate people on how we look at one another - how we're judging, how we're treating, how we are not accepting - to draw awareness to the fact that women are definitely the matriarchs of this community and we deserve to be respected. We come in peace, but we mean business."

Women are definitely the matriarchs of this community
Janelle Monáe

6. Playing safe is being untrue to yourself if you've got big dreams

If you don't believe in yourself, no one is going to believe in you
Jessie J

What a fascinating interview with Jessie J this is. In it, she discusses suffering from a stroke when she was younger, taking six trains a day to get to the BRIT School in Croydon, where she took her A-levels (and got four As), and how a woman having self-belief can be frowned upon. Regarding the latter, and whether she fears coming across as arrogant, Jessie says the following:

"I think I do sometimes [seem arrogant] and I've had to accept that. Being nice and being safe is unfair to yourself when you've got big dreams - as a woman. You have to prepare yourself for not every single person in this world having the same personality as you. If you don't believe in yourself, no one is going to believe in you."

If you don't believe in yourself, no one is going to believe in you
Jessie J

7. The music industry eats its young

Fragility gets exploited by the music industry
Shirley Manson

Here's the great Shirley Manson speaking (from 12:55) about how, before Garbage reformed in 2011, her record company "blocked" her releasing a solo album, claiming it wasn't to their tastes. Manson says they were trying to "corrupt" her and she has these words to say about the music business in general:

"They [major labels] think that if they throw the opportunity at any woman to be famous and get lots of attention, then somehow they will crumble at their feet. I just wasn't that girl and I've never been that girl. The music industry eats its young - it's brutal and it's unforgiving. Only the strongest survive. Any fragility gets exploited and/or destroyed."

Fragility gets exploited by the music industry
Shirley Manson

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