Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carla Black, the founder of MEOW Con. It went a little something like this...
DELI: What's your background in terms of music?
CARLA: I was a professional, full time musician in the early '80s. Played bass in an all-female band. My mom taught piano (still does) and my dad did publicity for local bands. Before playing in bands, I was the entertainment editor of my college paper so I reviewed music in that capacity. It seems like I have never been very far from it my entire life.
DELI: What is MEOW Con?
CARLA: MEOW Con is a conference for women in music - imagine SXSW as a conference for women that included many issues women face as artists. We talk about trends - like the recent Miley Cyrus and Michelle Shocked dustups - and more practical issues: how do you tour if you are a mom? how do you deal with hostility, put-downs, patronizing behavior - and take control of your career on your own level.
DELI: How did MEOW Con come to be?
CARLA: I founded, edited and published a magazine called ROCKRGRL for 10 years. When it folded in 2005 the archive was acquired by Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe (part of Harvard University) as part of its collection on American Women's History. Since then I have been researching a way to bring back the feel of the magazine in a different way. So when I moved to Austin at the end of 2010, MEOW was born (it stands for Musicians for Equal Opportunities for Women).
DELI: Who is MEOW Con for?
CARLA: I want to reach women who are starting out in music before they see that sexism exists and support the women who have already been through it. It is a place to tell our stories and work together across all musical genres to make sure that women have a chance to do whatever they want. I recently met a young college student whose dream is to be a classical composer. But when she entered a classroom of 30 students and found she was the only female she changed her mind. When women's perspectives are not included in the conversation, it's bad for culture in general. We need to make sure that everyone has a chance to be as creative as they want to be - on their own terms.
DELI: What is the best part of MEOW Con?
CARLA: The upcoming conference - Oct 24-26. We will be honoring Suzi Quatro - the queen of rock. Suzi is originally from Detroit, has sold 55 MILLION records and in the US is probably best known as Leather Tuscadero on the hit TV show "Happy Days," which brought us Henry Winkler and Ron Howard. Suzi has been living in England since the '70s and people don't realize what a major influence she was on people like Kathy Valentine formerly of The Go-Gos (one of our keynote speakers!) and Joan Jett. If you like those artists, you will be blown away by Suzi - who is still a powerhouse.
DELI: Why should someone go to MEOW Con?
CARLA: All are invited to attend, but anyone who cares about women in music getting a fair shake should definitely attend. If you are a musician, care about a musician or ever wondered what it was like, this is a great place to go. Our panels are not just about how to make it in the music business, but an examination of why we still see so few successful all-female bands, why white male rappers are fully accepted but Miley Cyrus is "appropriating black culture" for twerking in that awkward Video Music Awards performance, etc. We will talk about areas where women are doing well, and where there are few. We'll also strategize ways to make sure women like my friend who dropped out of the classical composition program find support and stay in the game.
DELI: Any exciting sponsors and partners lined up for this years MEOW Con?
CARLA: As a first year event the stakes are very high and we would appreciate any and all support. But some of the people coming are: Jennifer Batten (played guitar with Michael Jackson), Kathy Valentine (formerly of the Go-Gos), Patricia Kennealy-Morrison (one of the first female music journalists) and nearly 100 bands from as far away as Brazil and Singapore!
DELI: Anything else you want us to know?
CARLA: Tickets are available at www.meowcon.eventbrite.com. The official site schedule can be found here. Suzi Quatro's dinner, which will also be honoring Margaret Moser of the Austin Chronicle, is $125 per person. Suzi will be performing 5 songs at the event with a full band, including her sister Patti, and a horn section. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of this historic moment!
-- Interview by Charise Sowells