At First Resonator Awards, It’s Not Just About Female Music Stars, but the Women Behind Them, as Producers and Engineers Get the Spotlight

Rexa Vella

At First Resonator Awards, It’s Not Just About Female Music Stars, but the Women Behind Them, as Producers and Engineers Get the Spotlight

“If you’re here, you already ‘get it,’” SiriusXM host Jenny Eliscu declared at the Resonator Awards, held Tuesday to honor six trailblazing women — recording artists Alanis Morissette, Caroline Polachek, and Corinne Bailey Rae, and behind-the-scenes innovators Catherine Marks, Laura Sisk, and Jennifer Decilveo — for their work as producers, engineers and mixers. The inaugural Grammy week event at Hollywood hotspot Beauty & Essex was presented by We Are Moving the Needle, a non-profit founded in 2021 by Emily Lazar (the first female mastering engineer to win the Grammy for best engineered album, for Beck’s “Colors”) to advance gender equity in the audio industry.

Eliscu then rattled off some discouraging statistics uncovered by the organization’s recent Fix the Mix Report about representation in recording studios (for instance, that cis men outnumber women and non-binary audio professionals 49-to-1, and that all of YouTube’s 10 most-streamed tracks of 2022 were produced solely by men), indicating that many industry gatekeepers unfortunately still don’t get it. But there was still a lot of hope in the room.

“This truly is an incredible honor, not just because of the award itself, but because of what this will mean for our industry as a whole,” gushed Marks, who received the Powerhouse Award for her work on Boygenius’s album of the year Grammy contender, “The Record.” “When I first started out in studios nearly 20 years ago, this sort of [honor] would not have been receivable. I didn’t really know of anyone else like me doing what I wanted to do. Back then, the culture in studios was very competitive, no matter your gender, but women also tended to be subconsciously pitted against other women. … Many years later, Emily and I would form what could only be described as a long-distance love affair: emails, late-night phone calls, texts, plotting world domination, figuring out ways how we could mentor and lift other women up, give us more visibility and change the culture in studios. Fast-forward to 2024, and I’ve witnessed so much change for the better.”

“This is going to be the Grammy party of the Grammys, for all the years to come!” record producer Jennifer Decilveo also optimistically declared, as she accepted her All-Star Award.

The night’s top honor, the Luminary Award, went to Morissette, introduced by her ‘90s peer Shirley Manson, who told Variety, “Alanis is very dear to me for a lot of different reasons; I admire her very much, not only for what she’s achieved, but what she tries to facilitate for other people. She’s a rare beast!” The Garbage frontwoman, who’d first presented Morissette with an award 25 years ago at the 1999 Grammys, chucklingly recalled Morissette gifting her with a witch’s broomstick when they toured together in 2021 (“I’m sure many of you in the room will get the symbolism behind such a gift”), and more seriously praised her friend for navigating “what essentially remains a patriarchal, male-dominated entertainment industry” with “astounding grace, vigor and good humor, whilst always pushing for better solutions and situations for all.”

Addressing what she sweetly called her “favorite room,” Morissette then joked about her and Manson “white-knuckling” their way through the ‘90s; undergoing “copious amounts of therapy” for “complex PTSD — complex patriarchy stress disorder”; and feeling like a sensitive “poodle inside a black stallion body” for much of her career. She also spoke about the power and magic of femininity, explaining, “Just the honoring of the feminine is everything to me, whether it’s in a man body or a woman body or a gender-non-conforming body. … Bless the continuum of masculine and feminine. What I love about working with women, there’s billions of things, but one of them is how quickly we have access to the masculine and the feminine qualities at any given moment. There can be the receptivity of listening and honoring each other, holy space, those silences, the hours and hours of silences and just quietly supporting each other, and then the actionability and the masculine quality. So, for me, feminism is about the feminine in all bodies, all sexual proclivities, all of it. Honoring the feminine tonight is a really big deal, and it’s why I showed up. Thank you, Emily, for creating spaces like this, because as I get older, I just have less patience for hatred of the feminine. And that’s a very good thing — it makes it so we walk out of rooms that are not interacting with us in a way that honors what we’re providing.”

Morissette, whose speech was roaringly received, was understandably the belle of the Resonator ball. Bedroom-pop artist Remi Wolf (one of the ceremony’s three performers, along with former Cherry Glazerr keyboardist-turned-solo star Sasami and electropop singer-songwriter Empress Of) bravely covered the “Jagged Little Pill” hit “Hand in My Pocket” while Morissette looked on, and indie-rock darling Polachek interrupted her own acceptance speech to fangirlishly gasp, “Alanis, are you here with us tonight? ‘Jagged Little Pill’ was the first album I ever owned, and it’s because I begged for it feverishly at age 10. Your music woke up some big, big feelings in me that would later come out through my music. So, thank you. It’s a thrill to get to tell you that in person tonight.”

But there was a lot of love for everyone Tuesday, starting when Polachek was presented with the Golden Trifecta Award, which goes to “an innovator who breaks down traditional barriers and makes magic happen on both sides of the glass,” by three-time Grammy-winning producer Ariel Rechtshaid. Rechtshaid flat-out told Polachek, “You’re the shit,” and admitted that working with her mostly entailed “watching her do everything herself.” The audience, which included Lisa Loeb, Bethany Cosentino, Robert Glasper, Christina Perri, Thundercat, Shailene Woodley and Princess Superstar, then erupted in applause when Polachek stated, “When [my former band Chairlift] finally got our first chance to be in the studio, that thing would happen — it’s that thing that maybe some of the girls in the room tonight have experienced, where you ask for someone to turn something up, and the guy’s hand on the fader doesn’t do anything. Sooner or later, I learned that music production was a lot easier than backseat driving. … As much as [taking on all] that responsibility sucks, sometimes it does come with a limitless potential to bring all these different components into one vision. And once you get a taste of that, your hand’s not coming off that fader.”

Sisk’s Exceptional Ears Award, which “recognizes a leading engineer whose technical artistry has made a noteworthy mark on the field,” was presented by a similarly fawning Jack Antonoff, who described working with “sonic partner” Sisk as “one of the greatest relationships in my life” and said, “Her opinion means more to me than anything. She’s my favorite engineer and mixer of all time.” Sisk then thanked Taylor Swift, with whom she has worked since ‘1989’ (“The album, not the year!”), for “the endless inspiration,” saying Swift’s “re-records specifically have been an incredible engineering challenge and an intellectual and technical and creative pursuit.” Sisk also shouted out another longtime collaborator, Lana Del Rey, for “her endless experimentation in the studio, her excitement, and her creativity. She’s always pushing for a new sound, and it’s just an incredible and inspiring process to be a part of. The way she’s believed in me and supported me has always been something I’ve held close.”

Phoebe Bridgers of Boygenius, Catherine Marks, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker of Boygenius at the Resonator Awards held at Beauty & Essex on January 30, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Penske) Billboard via Getty Images

Other ceremony highlights included Corinne Bailey Rae, who won the Harmonizer Award for being “a creator who uses music to leverage social change,” proudly revealing that a male colleague had once called her the “most controlling person” he’d ever met, and Marks, who received her award from Boygenius themselves, taking a moment to marvel at all the “fucking powerful, badass, ridiculously talented, successful women” gathered in the room. Music executive Christine Thomas of Dolby Labs received the Equalizer Award, and Transformer Award winner Michael Goldstone of Mom+Pop Music, the night’s lone male honoree, credited Mom+Pop act Tegan and Sara for inspiring him to “approach things differently musically, culturally, and to always strive for diversity in the music that we released.” He also warned other men in the business to not be “part of the problem.”

The ceremony additionally announced the first inductees in the Resonator Hall of Fame, including Linda Perry, who told Variety that she was disappointed that her 2019 Grammy nomination for Producer of the Year – the first time a woman had been up for that award since 2004 – hadn’t changed the Recording Academy’s “archaic process.” (No woman has been nominated in that category since.) Onstage at Beauty & Essex, Perry said in her typically blunt manner, “Having acknowledgement for the impact you’re making in the music business is fucking awesome. It feels good to be acknowledged for shit that you do.”

“Looking out at this room filled with such a diverse collection of awe-inspiring creators and leaders, it’s hitting me right now exactly how historic this night is,” said We Are the Needle’s Lazar, after she was surprised by producer Claudia Brant with her own Hall of Fame induction. “I find myself here on the other side of the microphone, and I’ve been searching for the right way to talk about the current moment we face in our industry, because I do feel that we are on the precipice of great change. I think this moment brings us to an honest turning point for the culture of our industry, and it affords us some great promise and opportunity. And it’s a moment that requires participation from all of us.

“We’re not a ‘women’s organization.’ We’re an organization that is fighting for the equity of all of us.”

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