PT 1: LYNDSEY HIGHLANDER STOMPS FOR FEMALE COUNTRY ARTISTS
Let’s say you’re an up-and-coming Country star. You’ve got talent, ambition and a strong sense for what’s right and wrong. You’re feisty and opinionated and not afraid to look a problem squarely in the eye and do something about it.
In other words, you’re Lyndsey Highlander.
Ever since she started singing at age 6, this New Kent, Virginia, native has found inspiration in classic Country animated by the high-voltage soul of Pat Benatar, Aretha Franklin and Bonnie Raitt. She’s had no shortage of strong female role models, in music and in life. Which is why she’s not exactly content with the options facing women who sing Country Music today.
And so, on Sept. 11, Highlander will launch a monthly concert series at Nashville’s Soulshine Pizza, with the goal of featuring young female Country artists in a format that celebrates their individuality and diversity, while also showing audiences and industry executives that they have the viability and talent to claim a higher profile on today’s charts and radio playlists.
The initial steps in establishing this series, called The Stomp, follow below in this first installment of our interview with Highlander. But first, how did she come up with that particular name?
Simple: She pretended to be a guy.
“You can’t call it ‘Women of Country Music’ because we’ve heard that before,” she explained. “And no guy is going to say, ‘Hey, man, you want to go hear ‘The Women of Country Music’ show tonight? So one day, we were pretending to be guys, and I was like, ‘Yo, man, you want to go to The Stomp?’ And I was like, ‘OK! I’ll go to The Stomp!’ As long as you’ve got the picture of going there and stomping your boots and having a good time, and it’s Country Music and it sounds like a party, everybody will want to be there.”
So what made you decide to put this series of shows together?
There were lots of situations where I felt knocked down, even though I knew that I believed in myself and my team believed in me. Just from the experience I’ve had growing up as a performer, I knew that this was what I was supposed to do. But no matter how many meetings or people I spoke to, they just didn’t want to deal with girls: It was risky. The girls weren’t easy to work with. The guys were easier to get on the charts. People were afraid to sign a new girl and take chances.
It definitely made me wonder why I was doing this. But then I realized I needed to stop being so scared. It’s just kind of what’s going on in the industry right now. So I decided that I’m not the only one who misses the women on Country radio.
I would be at concerts and girls would come up to me at my merch table and they’d say, “I’ve been listening to your lyrics, and I love the story you’re telling. I can connect with you. We don’t hear that on the radio anymore. We really miss the stories that we can reach out to.” So I was like, “OK, I’m not crazy. I guess I am good at this and this is what I want to do!”
I realized a lot of women felt that way – and not just women, boys too who loved the women of Country Music. So I just wanted to step out and do something about it and not worry about what people think.
Why do you think women have lost some of their share of the spotlight in Country Music?
Everything changes. There are cycles in every type of industry. I guess this is just what’s happening right now in Country Music. I don’t have anything against the guys. I sing their songs at the top of my lungs every day. I just miss the women because I feel that Country Music is a family and that’s the way it’s always been. Right now, it’s kind of one-sided, so I feel like in order to bring back the roots and to keep Country Music as strong as it’s always been, you’ve got to have the stories of the women and the men, so everybody’s happy.
How did the idea of The Stomp come out of all that?
I decided that I would love to be a pioneer as one of the ladies that steps out and brings women back to the forefront. So I had a lunch meeting with my booking agent Jeff Howard. He loved the idea. We needed more help with it, so (publicists) Chelsea Dartez and Carly Caramanna got in on it, and they have ideas. Then I brought in sponsors from Tarter Farm and Ranch Equipment and Boot Daddy. I look up to (Executive VP) Ann Tarter: She’s a very strong businesswoman with super creative ideas. She just blows my mind as a female role model, and she had some awesome ideas as well. Together we put something together that will hopefully be life-changing.
Is there a particular type of artist you want to be involved with The Stomp?
I’m thinking about the women who are involved in this series. It takes different kinds to make Country Music. If we have Sarah Darling, she’s very sweet and kind and has a down-to-earth, softer sound because that’s who she is. And we wouldn’t want her to change. Then there’s me – I’m a little more in-your-face and aggressive. And I don’t want to change either. Without both of us, we wouldn’t have those dynamics to make the females of Country Music. You just want to be true to yourself.
Are men welcome at The Stomp? What about male artists? And what exactly is in that drink Highlander and friends have introduced at Soulshine Pizza, called … wait for it … The Stomp? Find out when Part 2 of this interview posts in the next few days.
And if you want to attend the first show in The Stomp series, featuring Highlander, Angie Johnson and Hailie Steele, visit www.TheStompNashville.com. Remember – each show is free!
Group Shot: Confirmed artists for The Stomp (l-r): McKenna Medley, Samantha Landrum, Lyndsey Highlander, Angie Johnson, Sonia Leigh and Gwen Sebastian.
Photo credit: Pam Stadel