Karyn oliver

Karyn Oliver with Jan at FAI 2024

When singer-songwriter Karyn Oliver prepared to record her latest album, Cherchez La Femme, she wanted to counteract a serious imbalance in the music industry. "I realized every time I go to make an album, I hire a dude who hires a bunch of dudes to play on it. Why am I doing that when women weren't getting nearly as much work as the guys before the pandemic? And then when that hit they weren't getting any work at all."

So Karyn took on the challenge of having a female producer, musicians, photographer and album designer. “It wasn't easy but almost everyone who touched this project was a woman.” The producer was Katherine Etzel of the band Bobtown. While Katherine had done some production work with her Brooklyn-based quartet, this was the first project she'd done on her own. "And she's brilliant! Plus we had to do the whole thing remotely because we were in the pandemic."

Given those circumstances, there was also a need to find musicians who could record their parts on their own. With a large number of songs to choose from Karyn picked out the ones which belonged together. What made the final cut were eleven songs which fit together in a woman-centric manner, and was more political than she has been before. "But without trying to go so 'doom and gloom' you want to slit your wrists at the end of the record. There's definitely glimmers of hope on the album."

Karyn Oliver has been attracted to music all of her life. But it was the murder of John Lennon which changed things. "He died on my best friend's mother's thirtieth birthday. She was an original Beatles fan from when she was a kid. The next day she gave her daughter all of her Beatles albums."

That was when Karyn found out you could write and sing your own songs. "Once I figured that out, I found Carole King, Joni Mitchell and a whole host of others who were writing and performing their own material. I became obsessed with those songs and wanting to write my own."

I talked with Karyn at this year's Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City, Missouri which she finds empowering and inspiring. “It's one of the few times of the year where lots and lots of people who do what I do are in the same place at the same time. It's amazing to see what other people having been working on.” The sense of comradery and community, with little competition, is what's important to her. "There's nothing here to compete for, so we may as well support each other. Everybody does better that way."

For more on Karyn Oliver and Cherchez La Femme, go to https://karynoliver.com.