The country music space is a tight-knit community, but female songwriters and performers have long faced challenges in their rise to Western stardom. Despite obstacles like the gender gap in country music radio, the likes of Sara Carter, Patsy Montana and Wanda Jackson paved the way for Dolly Parton, Rosanne Cash, Shania Twain and Taylor Swift.
Another hit is Grammy-winning singer-songwriter LeAnn Rimes, who is set to make a special public appearance on May 31 to celebrate the Grammy Museum’s new exhibit, “The Power of Women in Country Music.” According to the Recording Academy, the exhibit has been touring the country since 2018. A localized and expanded version will be open to the public from May 27 through October 2 to offer a chronological account of country music icons, from the Carter Sisters during the 1920s at last year’s Grammy Awards.
Marissa R. Moss, author of “Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be,” will host the public program. And Rimes plans to share stories and sing along to some of his popular hits as well as new songs from his upcoming studio album, the work of godfalling on September 16. As the show progresses, it becomes apparent that more women in country music are coming together to break the glass ceiling and evolve the sounds of the genre.
“The museum’s creative team and I asked passionate music writer Marissa Moss to join the program with me so we could have an uninhibited conversation about women’s past, present and future. in country music. Well, really for all types of music,” says Rimes. “Through this program, I really hope to highlight the importance of women in country music and the massive impact they have on industry.”
Kelsey Goelz, associate curator of the Grammy Museum and curator of the exhibit, says a growing number of women in country music are banding together. One example is Nashville-based Song Suffragettes, a group of country singer-songwriters who oppose systemic gender disparity in the music industry and help new female talent find a stage.
Another changemaker is singer-songwriter Nicolle Galyon, who is featured in the exhibit and founded Songs and Daughters, an all-female music brand and imprint of Nashville label Big Loud. Aspiring contemporary country artists Mickey Guyton, Rissi Palmer, Leah Turner and Carly Pearce will also be featured in the exhibit.
“I’m really excited to show how some of these artists have crossed different genres, also expanding the country genre into Americana, bluegrass, folk and rock ‘n’ roll,” says Goelz. “I think we’re starting to see a lot more diversity in the genre. There are some amazing black women in country music who are releasing albums and writing extremely fearless lyrics and providing a fresh perspective on the genre.
Rimes explains that country music is a largely male-dominated space. Although women play a key role, she says they are often overlooked for the huge commercial successes they have brought to labels and radio. Women are also “quietly shunned”, adds the artist, for the creative trailblazing they have brought and continue to bring to the industry.
Many female country music artists make brave moves, writing and singing about seemingly uncomfortable themes and topics, Rimes says. But while this raw music exposes the heart and soul of country, revealing a broader, more honest view of humanity, she says many label gatekeepers immediately try to hide the rawness from the listener.
“Really go listen to the music of these women in the exhibit again and witness their bravery once again,” says Rimes. “Absolutely inspiring. The industry must continue to listen to and nurture more female artists, songwriters, producers, and engineers to truly deliver the reform the genre truly deserves.
Rimes recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of their album Blue. His music career and contributions, Goelz says, serve both as the inspiration behind the exhibit and as a model for the future of country.