The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Sound Engineer and Co-Founder of SoundGirls, Karrie Keyes
By Myki Angeline
Sound engineer Karrie Keyes has spent over two decades monitoring sound for some of the biggest names in rock, including Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers – and she accomplished this as a mother of twin daughters. A true inspiration to women in a field where women make up only 5% of audio engineers, Keyes co-founded SoundGirls to give women (and those who identify as women) a platform to support working in professional audio and music production by highlighting their success and providing a place for them to connect, network, and share advice.
We are thrilled to present Karrie Keyes with a 2017 She Rocks Award at the upcoming NAMM Show in January. In honor of the occasion, she recently spoke with us about her life on the road, how she overcame the struggles of being a woman in the sound engineer industry, and what SoundGirls has in store for 2017.
Visit SoundGirls website here.
WiMN: Congratulations on being a She Rocks Awards honoree! What are you looking forward to most at the ceremony, and what does it mean to you to receive this award?
KK: I attended the awards for the first time in 2015, and loved hearing the stories and achievements from the honorees. The sense of community that this awards show creates is very important and empowering. I am humbled to be honored. The hard work I do on a day to day basis for the SoundGirls community is important for women and girls. To be recognized for that work is very rewarding.
WiMN: Give us your professional title and what you do as a part of SoundGirls. How long have you been a part of this organization?
KK: I am the co-founder and executive director of SoundGirls. I run the organization on a day to day basis. That includes: editorial, finances, website management, social media, organizing workshops and seminars, answering email, speaking engagements, community outreach, fundraising, and developing our Live Sound Camp for Girls. Basically everything.
WiMN: What was your introduction to music in your youth?
KK: I would just fall in love with songs I heard on the radio. I think differently than some, to the point I would be so emotionally excited when they came on the radio. Back then, I took music lessons from about 3rd grade through middle school. Options to work in music were not presented to me in high school, but it was something that called to me. I tried to remain content by being a fan and attending as many concerts and shows as I could.
That is one thing SoundGirls works to change. We feature monthly profiles on Women Audio Engineers, so now when young girls are searching online for female audio engineers they have a face; a role model. You can’t be something you can’t see.
WiMN: You aspired to be a writer when you were younger, and travel the world. Do you still write now? Have you traveled the world?
KK: I love to write and I write a lot of content for SoundGirls, so that is nice. I have been able to travel to a lot of places by touring with bands.
WiMN: What attracted you to audio/monitor engineering?
KK: I had the desire to be around music and that creativity. So, when I had the chance to hang out at shows and help a local sound company, I just jumped at it. You can take a lot of chances when you are 17. From there I learned on the job and eventually was running the stage and able to mix monitors for the support bands and eventually the headliners.
WiMN: Describe one of your most memorable sessions.
KK: Oh geez! There are too many. When I was working one-offs on a regular basis, everyday had the potential to be a magical and memorable experience. The power of live performance to transform, elevate, empower…to transport to another a place is – well, there is nothing else like it.
WiMN: Do you play any instruments?
KK: Not now.
WiMN: Can you tell us about some of the projects you are working on currently?
KK: SoundGirls! We are just gearing up for our annual fundraising, which provides scholarships to any girl that wants to attend our Live Sound Camp for Girls during the summer. Last year we provided four camps across the U.S. with over 100 girls attending and providing 70% of the girls attending scholarships. (The camps and SoundGirls is open to all genders and non-conforming genders. Our membership base is about 35% male and 65% female). We are close to launching a directory for Women in Music Production, where women and those that identify as women can upload their resumes, experience, job discipline. The directory is free and can be utilized by anyone that is looking to hire women for their production team. Now, when people say they want to hire women but can’t find them, there will be a directory full of them.
WiMN: Have you ever faced adversity in the music industry simply for being a woman? If so, how did you overcome it? Do you feel it made you a stronger, tougher person?
KK: Once, the road manager for Pearl Jam posted a picture of the women on the crew (which we have several from Production Manager, Production Coordinator, Lighting Designer, Monitor Engineer, Management, Photography and Fan Club, Lighting Crew) with the caption, ‘The Tougher Side of the Pearl Jam Crew.’
Women must work harder, smarter, and be tougher, and by being those things is how you overcome adversity. Since starting SoundGirls I have learned that the issues women face are not limited to women; it affects all marginalized people. The industry needs diversity.
WiMN: Do you have advice for young women who might be considering a career as an audio engineer?
KK: My advice is the same for all. Follow your passion and do what you love to do. It may be a hard path to walk, but one that will be incredibly rewarding. SoundGirls is a wonderful and supportive community where you can ask questions, find resources and mentors and start on this amazing career path.