“Bridging Music’s Gender Gap”: An Essay by JEMS for Women’s History Month

JEMS © Jayden Becker
JEMS © Jayden Becker
Throughout the year, Atwood Magazine invites members of the music industry to participate in a series of essays reflecting on identity, music, culture, inclusion, and more.
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Today, Los Angeles trio JEMS share their essay, “Bridging Music’s Gender Gap,” as a part of Atwood Magazine’s Women’s History Month series. Amidst navigating the challenges of the pandemic, the band share their journey of learning music production, shedding light on the underrepresentation of women and non-binary individuals in the industry while emphasizing the empowering and creative aspects of taking control of their own sound.
Comprised of singer/songwriters Emily Colombier, Jessica Rotter, and Sarah Margaret Huff, JEMS gained notable attention in the Los Angeles music scene following the release of their 2019 self-titled debut album and captivating live shows. They have showcased their talents in the documentary series “Music Diaries” and performed on NPR/World Cafe Live. The trio also toured with She & Him in the summer of 2022, marking a significant milestone in their burgeoning career.
The upcoming sophomore album, ‘Back Around’, promises an expansive landscape of enchanting harmonies, adventurous instrumentals, and compelling storytelling. JEMS are set to release ‘Back Around’ in June 2024, accompanied by exciting videos and live performances. The trio look forward to a year filled with new releases, building anticipation for their highly anticipated album.
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“BRIDGING MUSIC’S GENDER GAP”

JEMS © Jayden Becker

by JEMS

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There are plenty of things we don’t know in our 20s.

Like how bad it is to sleep with your mascara on, or open a TJ Maxx credit card with a 32% APR… When you’re making music for the first time, you don’t always know the ins and outs of the production process. We all started making music in the dark. Sure, we wrote our own songs and arranged instruments, and played and sang on the recordings, but we didn’t know the complexities of mixing or how to produce a song. We all learned gradually, figuring out what questions to ask to grasp the art of music production and recording. Sometimes it takes a big upset to come out the other side shining. Thanks to the pandemic, the three of us finally learned our craft.

When we formed JEMS in 2017, we approached the recording process in the traditional way – hiring a producer to translate our living, breathing songs into cemented recordings, hoping to add ambient elements to translate the ideas and emotions that only danced in our bodies.  It took time to settle into our collective voice, and through this process of trial and error, falling down and getting back up again, the detours and minor crashes all allowed us to grow and root and gain confidence beyond just writing and performing.  Navigating the music industry as independent artists, we eventually learned how to pick up and put on all the hats that had initially made us want to run in the other direction.

JEMS © Gille Klabin
JEMS © Gille Klabin

2019 was a big year for us. We released our first album, played some dream venues, had just been featured on our own episode of Spectrum’s “Music Diaries” docuseries, and culminated our climb with a live performance on NPR’s World Cafe Live in March of 2020. We all know what came next. The weekend before California required us to lockdown, we went on a writing retreat in Palm Springs.  Not quite realizing the scope of what was to come, we returned home to what became months of not being able to be together in the same ways we once were.  We realized if we were going to keep making music, that meant we would have to find a way to make it from home.

Each of us got microphones, interfaces, and gear. We worked in Garageband, then Logic, then Pro Tools. We decided to bet on ourselves and produced multiple songs on our upcoming album “Back Around.” We wrote the musical charts, arrangements, and cues. We ran the rehearsals and then recording sessions to find the sound. We hired an engineer who captured the full band all together, just the way we heard the songs in our heads – experimenting our way to our final destination. We took home the sessions and comped, arranged, and edited everything until we had put every final touch on the songs. There was a steep learning curve and many technology tears were shed, but we had lots of help from generous friends along the way.

JEMS © Gille Klabin
JEMS © Gille Klabin

Learning how to produce was not only an empowering decision for us as a band, but it’s an essential skill set to create balance in the music industry. A study published in April of 2023 titled “Lost in the Mix” shows just how low the rate is of women and non-binary producers and engineers working in the industry today. The study has many staggering statistics like only 11.4% of the producers and 2.3% of the engineers nominated for the 65th Grammy awards were women or non-binary, or that in the Spotify billions club, only 2.1% of the producers and 1.9% of the engineers were women or non-binary. We are thrilled to be adding our names to the list of capable music creators.  We learned so much during this process and there will continue to be so much to learn, but we are happily stepping into the technical side of making music… which actually happens to be way more fun and creative than we ever realized. JEMS

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