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The importance of embracing failure

Jamilla is a self-produced nu-soul/RnB artist from Western Australia. Her latest single “Bloom” has just been released. It’s inspired by the Nina Simone interview that preludes it.

The word ‘shredder’ for me has become more of an attitude than an instrument-specific skill. It’s being fearless and comfortable with your abilities, sharing them with confidence and pride. I’m of the belief that you can ‘shred’ in many different ways, from guitar, to production, to drums, to classical instruments like violins and cellos. And this word has become a fun way for us, as a music community, to acknowledge hard work and show women that they’re amazing at what they do.

Self-consciousness and shame are both universally felt by everyone, but I do think they’re heavier and more deeply ingrained in women as a result of the society we’ve been raised in. That immediate inclination to shy away from giving something a shot because of the risk of failing is so strong. It’s a defence mechanism. I have memories of this throughout my young life. I remember watching the boys play footy in school and pretending I didn’t want to play, seizing up if the ball ever went anywhere near me in the fear that they might ask me to kick it back to them. I would quite literally walk away from the ball, exclaiming something along the lines of not wanting to touch it because it was dirty. But deep down, I did want to play.

This carried on into my late teens, when I decided to study a music diploma at TAFE. There was a whole afternoon each week that was allocated for ‘jamming’, which I dreaded. In my personal experience, the word ‘jam’ has always made me feel extremely uneasy. The thought of making songs on the spot and improvising provoked fear for me. And I often found myself sitting silently with a guitar on my lap, feeling uncomfortable and ashamed of my abilities, whilst the boys played loudly and confidently. This freedom to play, this freedom to kick a ball, to risk failing publicly (that seemingly came naturally to boys) was something I was fascinated by and extremely envious of.

I’ve been involved in the Perth music industry for about two years now and over that time, I’ve learnt a lot about women in music. I’ve been involved in panel discussions about women in music, been to creative talks, played many gigs that specifically supported women and non-binary artists and I’m part of an Ableton user group called WOMPP (Women Of Music Production Perth). In my experience, there has been a huge positive change within the industry over the last few years. Not only are women fiercely supporting each other but the men around us have been incredibly supportive too. And women are becoming less self-conscious and more fearless because of it.

Personally, the fear and self-consciousness that I carried with me throughout my life has started to dissipate over the last year. This new-found confidence has seeped into every part of my life and has become part of my identity. And I owe that to the amazing journey the music industry and the people I’ve met through it have taken me on so far.

I’ve only been producing for a couple years but my skills and understanding have changed and grown substantially. When I first started producing, my focus was finishing tracks and believing that I could be a music producer – letting go of the fear that I couldn’t do it. Then after a few months, my focus changed to making something that sounded close to what I was listening to, trying to make my beats sound like proper tracks. I’m now at a point where I’m more experimental, which makes my process exciting for me and much more true to who I am. It’s been a big year of improving my craft and I think in my latest release “Bloom” I’ve been able to express that with confidence – using the shreddy skills I’ve learnt about production!

Embracing failure as a vital part of my journey rather than something to be ashamed of has been extremely liberating and it’s genuinely been one of the main reasons I’ve been able to take myself seriously as a producer. I have wonderful friends of all genders that are excited and invest their time in my journey, let me experiment with their gear and create comfortable environments for me to do co-writing production sessions in. I have the WOMPP community who keep me inspired and teach me new techniques at every meeting. I have amazing women in Perth such as Elise and Rosie from Feels (founders of WOMPP and percussion/malletkat and production shredders) and Jennifer Aslett (bass shredder in San Cisco and Stella Donnelly’s band) leading as examples that women can be and are incredible producers/instrumentalists.

Visibility is vital and I feel as though we’re coming into a time where women who shred are finally being seen. I think this will have a positive effect on women trying out those things that are historically dominated by men and hopefully this will mean that over time there’ll be more and more people other than men acknowledged for their innovation and talents as instrumentalists and producers. I think we bring something so special and unique to music and the world deserves to experience what we can create when we explore our crafts deeply, confidently and without fear.