New podcast series uplifts Ottawa’s emerging female artists

ABOVE: Ottawas Sophie DOrleans

Ottawa-based singer-songwriter Sophie D’Orleans is “constantly inspired by the talented, brilliant, resilient women in [her] life—and a lot of them are emerging artists, here in Ottawa.”

This inspiration is the foundation for her new podcast series, “Ottawa’s Emerging Female Artists,” where D’Orleans sits down with a different new female musician. It is also the idea behind her first single and its soon-to-be-released music video.

Seeking a collaboration project during the COVID-19 pandemic, D’Orleans created and recorded a podcast that uplifts the work of four emerging female artists as a way to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021. One podcast will be released every Wednesday in February, culminating with the release of D’Orlean’s first music video on March 8th. Each podcast is a short conversation with a different artist about their work, their art, and their lives.

D’Orleans, as a rising musician herself, understands and still struggles with the blocked-off nature of the music industry. “You really don’t know where to start,” she says. “It’s hard to break into this industry.” With the knowledge and technical barriers that exist, the music industry is already incredibly competitive— and that competition is even greater for women.

According to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s most recent report on gender in the recording industry, only 21.7 per cent of recording artists are women. Female songwriters—which D’Orleans and the guests on her podcast also are— fare even worse, and account for just 14.4 per cent of the whole.

Despite this disparity, D’Orleans does not think that competing with other women is the way to move forwards in the music industry.

“It’s easy to be put into competition, because that’s how the industry gears it,” she says. There is a lot of competition for the few spots available in that 21.7 per cent. But she sees no reason that portion cannot be larger. “We need to work together,” she says. “That’s my big vision.”

The podcast project is part of that vision. It is a collaboration inspired both by the powerful, creative women D’Orleans knows around her in the music world and her own determination to lift them up. The project is, first and foremost, a way to shine a light on the artists themselves— on their music, their careers, and how they’ve adapted to the pandemic.

The four guests on the podcast are artists D’Orleans either previously knew or got in contact with a few months ago to record the podcast. The guests will be Marie-Clo, Jessica Pearson from Jessica Pearson and the East Wind, Niha Sin, and Cicaeda.

The podcast also stems from D’Orlean’s own love for collaboration. “I love getting to know people and talking to people and working with other women and lifting each other up.” She says. “It’s a huge part of my personality and my convictions.” Collaborating on music together—writing together and recording together—is difficult at the best of times. Cowriting like this is complicated even further by the pandemic. D’Orleans found that interviewing other emerging artists was the next best thing, though she certainly does not rule out cowriting (and hopes to do so) in the future.

The podcasts themselves are short, informal bursts of conversation: D’Orleans calls them “bite-sized.” Each runs about ten minutes in length, and serves as a very thorough introduction to each artist, including conversation with them and clips of their music.

The topic of conversation in each podcast centres on the art and music of each woman. But the one question that D’Orleans asks each guest at the end of the interview has a personal, intentional connection. She asks: “What advice would you give to your younger self?”

This is also the question that sparked D’Orlean’s first single, “From Me.” The song and the video that will accompany it celebrate inspirational, powerful women in a different but complementary way to the podcasts. Instead of focusing on four women in the same difficult, competitive industry to inspire solidarity and collaboration, it explores the way resilience is passed down through generations of women: namely, from D’Orlean’s grandmother, to her mother, to her.

“The song tells the story of three generations of women in my family. Each verse is dedicated to my grandmother and then my mother and then myself.” D’Orleans explains. The video is shot and produced by an all-women team in a short-film style that is less traditional for music videos, and provides depth and meaning to the narrative style of the song. It is directed by Veronique Eshaya and filmed by Hingman Leung.

“It was me, wondering what advice I would give to my younger self, and then figuring out that I couldn’t time travel.” D’Orleans says. “The second best thing to that would be to ask older women in my life what they would tell their younger selves.”

By asking this question, D’Orleans recognizes the importance of passing on resilience, advice, and inspiration to the next generation of female innovators, artists, and barrier-breakers—because it was passed on to her. Asking what advice her podcast guests would give to their younger selves at the end of each episode continues this tradition, and passes on four different answers to that question for any young women who dream of breaking into the music industry. 

Click to listen to the first episode below or find it on Spotify via this link: