Throughout the year, Atwood Magazine invites artists to participate in a series of essays reflecting on identity, music, culture, inclusion, and more.
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Today, Atlanta singer/songwriter and producer Bantug shares her essay, “Harmonizing Against the Odds,” exploring her journey as a non-male music producer, navigating the challenges of a male-dominated industry while emphasizing the importance of staying true to oneself and embracing unique contributions.
Genre is not a word that comes to mind when describing a Bantug song. Her captivating production coupled with enchanting lyrics take familiar themes of love, heartbreak, and tenderness to new sonic heights. Born and raised in Atlanta, Bantug’s affinity for music started in her childhood guitar lessons with her dad, and by middle school, she had developed a keen interest in songwriting and music production after downloading GarageBand on her first computer. Just a few years later, she was playing local coffee shop gigs in high school before heading off to college.
After dropping out of Georgia State, Bantug moved to Nashville in 2012, where she would spend some of her most formative years in the music industry, crafting what would eventually become Bantug three years later in 2015. She continued to hone her skills, establishing herself as both a singer songwriter and a producer working alongside a slew of indie acts. Collaborations include production for Trace, Bel, world wide web, Ellie Schmidly, and Lake Girlfriend. Bantug has opened for groups like Men I Trust, HalfNoise, and Soccer Mommy – and in 2022 played the main stage for Nashville Pride.
There’s an infectious quality to Bantug’s music that allows it to hold permanent residence in the hearts of those who listen and grow alongside her (including Sheryl Crow!) In 2021, she released ’12 Songs About Loneliness,’ an entirely self-produced album which took four years to complete. ’12 Songs’ served as a portal into the new era of Bantug – one in which her ability to build worlds within her music had become more apparent. Bantug moved to LA the following year, and in late 2022 released ‘my jazz jams,’ a dizzying, contemplative four track EP that fuses ethereal harmonies with a more improvisational production technique. Her brand new single, “Altar,” from her forthcoming EP, is out now.
“HARMONIZING AGAINST THE ODDS ”
I’ve been obsessed with music ever since I was a toddler.
Growing up, I found this baby journal my mom kept and she wrote that I was such a musical baby because I was always watching some musical (West Side Story forever). Before I started making music, there was this feeling in my body I couldn’t put words to when I would hear something I liked. The first song that made it click for me was “Daydream Believer” by The Monkees. I found myself so connected to it and I would always grab some sort of stick-like object to pretend that I was the composer.
In middle school, my parents got me the first Mac Mini, and I dove straight into GarageBand. I was producing music for years before I knew that I was doing so. I thought making a song in a DAW was just songwriting, but it took a friend who mixed my second EP Red to tell me that I was the producer on it. All those years I wasn’t giving myself the credit I deserved and it had to take a friend to point out what I was doing. You know when you come to a realization and that opens up so many other doors? That’s what happened. I felt so empowered to explore and take production to another level.
Before I was producing for myself, I had worked with some guys, but unfortunately some of the experiences weren’t great. This was all when I was 17-20 years old, and you’re spending a lot of alone time with these men and either some drama comes up, or they want to take things past a professional level. I would walk away either feeling like I had wasted time and money, or the songs weren’t sounding how I had envisioned. So that’s when I decided that I really have to do things for myself and find my own sound.
All of my music that is out has been produced by me, with a few songs with some co-producers. So many times people have asked who played what on my songs or who produced it, and (for the exception of hiring some players) and I would say this is all my work. And I found that people sometimes get “too impressed” by that. Whereas you see a lot of male artists and producers and everyone kind of assumes that they did all the work. It’s a tough feeling to sit with.
I think perspective is definitely changing within the last couple years on non-male producers. There are so many out there, but the real question is are artists giving them the same trust as male producers? I don’t think that’s a black and white answer, but for as many non-male producers I know of, not a lot of us are getting the same amount of work. I try not to let those frustrations take my attention, but that is something that can be on my mind. (However, I don’t want to minimize that we are in a time where women are more involved in places that we weren’t before.)
Sure, it’s exhausting, the gripes of being in an industry that’s male dominated, but I also like to reframe that and look at it as an advantage.
I’ve been keeping my head down and focusing on who I am and what I bring to the table, and that’s what’s going to make an experience with me a lot different than most men out there. And I hope that all non-male and female producers can focus on their own purpose and goals without getting discouraged. We bring much more than good production to the table, and that’s what I will continue to keep doing. – Bantug
:: connect with Bantug here ::
Stream: “Altar” – Bantug
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