Manifesto, SMHAF’s opening event at CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow on 4 October, includes an evening showcase by music collective Hen Hoose, featuring live sets by SHEARS, Ray Aggs (Sacred Paws, Trash Kit) and Sarah Hayes (Admiral Fallow).
Hen Hoose has become a revolutionary force in a music industry still dominated by men. The collective consists entirely of female and non-binary musicians and is dedicated to amplifying women’s creative voices through mentoring, education, recording, and showcase events.
We caught up with Leith-based singer-songwriter SHEARS, also known as Becca, ahead of the show.
Hello Becca. What has being in the Hen Hoose collective meant to you?
It’s incredibly motivating. Because, as you know, the music industry, especially the technical side, is still very much a boys’ club. It seems that female artists get paired up with male producers and male mixing engineers, and that’s just the way it’s been for a long time.
But through Hen Hoose we’re trusted, without question, with ‘Can you mix this? Can you produce this?’ And suddenly we’ve got no excuse not to grow as producers and mixing engineers and mastering engineers.
So it’s definitely a different sort of environment. I’ve never worked with so many women at once. Normally, you have to seek out these kinds of relationships, but just being brought together has been incredibly motivating. They’re all very inspiring women, because they’re all very talented in different ways, different genres, different technical aspects.
Reading about your background – how you built up such a huge online following when you were still in your teens – you come across as very confident and motivated, deciding on their own creative path. And yet you yourself started out working with male producers….
I guess this was at a point where I found the process intimidating and there wasn’t the encouragement there for me to kind of dive in. I learned so much from working with them and I didn’t have any bad experiences, but it got to the point where I just sort of went ‘I want to try this’.
You were very musical from an early age. I’ve read that you were singing opera when you were five years old?
I was thrown into music when I was very young. It’s the only thing I’ve been good at my entire life, so it’s going to be something I have to keep doing forever. I think I started singing as a toddler, and my mum just kind of thought, it’s going to get really annoying if she doesn’t get good at this, because she’s just going to get louder. So she started me with singing lessons that were on the classical side. When I was a teenager I preferred the more commercial side and started doing that instead, but that set me up to know how to use my voice, to use my body, and just kind of look after myself properly, so it was a good background to have.
Your achievements on YouTube in particular – over 160,000 subscribers and millions of page views – are very impressive. How much planning went into that?
I just thought it would be fun, and it was before people started doing it properly so there were no expectations whatsoever. I was bored one day and posted a cover version. And then it got a few people being like, ‘Oh, could you try this song? Could you try this song?’ And then it snowballed. I didn’t know what an algorithm was, and I don’t think I would have had the patience to care. And to be honest, I think that’s the only way to get longevity out of these things. You have to really enjoy it. If you’re just looking at algorithms, you’re going to drive yourself insane.
When did you start writing songs?
I was a teenager when I started, and they weren’t great. I mean, they were okay but I can’t listen to them now. But yeah, I wrote songs all the way through from my teens to when I started production, maybe three years ago. I feel like I’ve learned a lot quite quickly through the production side. I took a course and I mixed a chunk of the Hen Hoose album. So I want to learn more and grow. It’s annoying that I felt so intimidated by it when I was younger. I’d encourage younger women to just dive in and see what they can make. Because it’s a fun thing to do.
Why do you think you felt intimidated by it? Was it a lack of role models?
Yeah, definitely a lack of female role models. I think, growing up, women aren’t kind of thrown into technical things and are told to stay away from cables. Whenever I went into a studio, there’d be a man sitting at a desk, and I just never kind of saw myself there. There’s a lot more role models now for sure. I just read Sound on Sound magazine last week, and it had a whole load of female audio engineers on the front. It’s a bit sad that they can all fit on one cover, but even that was really inspiring.
You’ve been very positive about individual men you’ve worked with, but, without asking you to divulge bad experiences, how has it been for you as a young woman in an industry still mostly run by men?
The experiences I’ve had have been generally positive, but I do get the overwhelming feeling that I’m going to need to be better, I’m going to need to do a lot more to prove myself than, you know, bands with men in them or male artists. I don’t want to generalise, because I know not all male solo artists have it easy and they’ve got their own things to overcome, but I do feel like I have to prove myself, like I have to meet a certain standard before getting an opportunity rather than somebody taking a chance.
Book your Hen Hoose – Power Up tickets
Join us for our celebratory headline gig at Manifesto, from 7pm – 9:30pm on Wednesday 4 October at CCA, Glasgow. Tickets are available for £5 / £10 / £15 on a ‘pay what you can’ basis.