Molly Tuttle on sexism in bluegrass: “Some of the old ballads are really misogynist. So I flipped the perspective to a woman’s”

The bluegrass musician opened up about her love-hate relationship with the genre, and her experience of anxiety, alopecia and sexism in the music industry.

In a recent interview, bluegrass and pop musician Molly Tuttle spoke honestly about her time in the music industry and opened up about her ongoing struggles with anxiety, sexism and her battle with alopecia.

Widely known across the Americana community and already becoming the first female winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s guitar player of the year award (two years in a row at that), Molly Tuttle has already succeeded in establishing herself as one of the most noteworthy musicians to emerge over the past five years.

Yet, with three releases under her belt, aged just 29, the singer and guitarist has recently spoken out about the battles she has already faced during her time in the music industry.

Speaking to The New York Times earlier this week, the musician discussed her experience of misogyny in the industry – implying that female musicians are still facing sexist attitudes on a regular basis when following this career path.

“When you’re the only woman, [industry experts will write] the song in a guy key and you can’t sing on it. Stuff like that happens a lot.” She continues, elaborating on how she first experienced these attitudes during an impromptu jam at a local festival. Tuttle describes how, during the jam, each musician was given an opportunity to improvise yet when it came to her turn, she was dismissed by another musician: “he leaned right in front of me and pointed to the guy next to me, like, ‘You solo.’ He just completely skipped over me.’”

This isn’t the first time that the guitarist was left feeling like an outcast whilst trying to make it as a musician. Battling with alopecia areata since she was three years old, Tuttle’s struggle with the incurable autoimmune disease made her susceptible to stage-freight and anxiety from the moment of her emergence.

“Growing up with [alopecia], and getting comfortable talking about it, has helped me overcome a lot of social anxiety — I’m naturally shy; everyone in my family is,” she states. “People who don’t have alopecia think, ‘Well, it’s just hair,’ or ‘You can wear a wig,’” “It is a traumatic thing. It’s like losing a part of your body.”

Now, in light of her most recent album Crooked Tree, set to be released this Friday [1 April], the vocalist claims to have channelled her experiences into the release and aims to rewrite the narrative surrounding bluegrass music. “Some of the old ballads are really misogynist. There’s a lot of violence towards women. So I flipped the perspective to a woman’s.”

Initially set to be a pop album, the political uncertainty of the past two years allowed Tuttle to focus her creative efforts back into the comfort zone of the bluegrass realm, but now in a way that allowed her voice to be heard more prominently than ever before.

“I’d always felt a block writing bluegrass songs, I just don’t relate to a lot of the old themes. But something clicked where I was able to write songs that felt true to who I am but still fit into bluegrass” she proclaims. “It’s helped me realise that it doesn’t matter what other people think, you can be yourself.”

Crooked Tree is set to be released on 1 April. The full interview with Molly Tuttle is available in The New York Times.

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