Interview: #MeTooMPLS artists on the power of community

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Local Show host Andrea Swensson interviewed a selection of artists contributing to the compilation. (Jesse Wiza, Andrea Swensson, and Luke Taylor/MPR)

#MeTooMPLS is a forthcoming compilation of original songs by Minnesota artists, "lovingly crafted in the pursuits of agency and equality," according to a press release.

The project was born late this summer, explains the release: "After seeing sexual assault and discrimination stories, shared by Women/ Femmes/ Trans/ Non-Binary Folk artists in the Minneapolis music scene, this project was created as a way to support victims, raise voices and awareness, and to help fund the profoundly important work that Planned Parenthood does."

The project will launch on Sept. 24 with a livestreamed release show hosted by The Current's Andrea Swensson — who will also dedicate tonight's episode of the Local Show (6-8 p.m. CDT on The Current) to the project. Album preorders are now available via Bandcamp.

Above, watch Andrea Swensson's Sept. 15 interview with a selection of artists contributing to the compilation: Averil Bach, Mary Bue, Elska, Annie Fitzgerald, JØUR, Annie Mack, Mayda, Linnea Mohn, Sarah Morris, r0, Tina Schlieske, Ashleigh Still, and Katy Vernon. (You'll also see producer Jesse Wiza on the call.) Below are excerpts from the participants' comments.

Averil Bach

"I had been in a writer's block for several months and just was kind of feeling not as inspired. So then I just kind of decided to dive into a pool of cement. I was like, I'm going to just do this and it'll work out and...so yeah. I...my song is called 'Radiation Blues.' It has a lot of references to my outrage with the political system and the way that goes and has been going for a long time. And it was...you know, it kind of took me some time to figure out where I was going with what I did want to say, but I had had a conversation with a completely random person on the street one day and it was very brief but I had thought back to this and my overall questions that I have for people that are just so screwed up and just treating us like we're not equal. I just...I don't understand how this important person in your life, what would this person say? Like, what would your mother actually think of your actions or your lack thereof, and it just totally baffles me still."

Mary Bue

"My song is called 'How to Forgive Your Rapist' and it's very much not about how to forgive your rapist. The twist is trying to forgive yourself. It's really about, like, the victim-blaming and shaming that happens, that...you know, well, you were drinking, you were dancing in the club, you were being nice to a man etc. etc. So it must have been your fault! And that happens...that happens. So I've felt and noticed and witnessed that an individual healing has deep rippling healing effects to the collective."

Elska

"The beauty of all of these faces on this screen and voices on this call is what the greater community in this conversation is about. It reminded me of something my grandmother used to say to my mother and my mother would say to my siblings and me is, you don't have to hurt alone. There's still so much grief and processing that has to happen internally and only you can do it, but the hurting, you can have people around you. And so I just, something that I hope to see come out of this is just the holding of each other and not allowing us to be alone in the pain of it all."

Annie Fitzgerald

"Within our industry, there's no HR. That just doesn't exist, and I think that it would be lovely to start having broader conversations with venues and all the different facets of our industry around best practices and what people should expect and what artists should expect and have some kind of code of ethics that transpires around all of the things that have been happening. I think that that would be a lovely and important thing to come out of all this."

JØUR

"All of a sudden I feel so excited, and for the first time I actually believe it can happen. I'm always like, yeah, it'd be great to feel safe as a woman in music but, like, when pigs fly. Right? I don't know. It just felt like that was not a thing that was going to happen in my lifetime and in my career, but right now, in our community specifically, in Minneapolis and St. Paul area, I see it being possible that, for whatever reason because this world is shut down, that we have a chance here like we've never had before to rebuild something new that's amazing and it is what we want it to be. Like, we've had this crazy reset, and I think there's opportunity at venues...well, primarily at venues, but it's possible for musicians to build these spaces that are safe for women, like, physically safe, and also a community of people who believe each other, who stand with each other, who are ready to put together bills that are safe for women and bills that are not going to be full of jerks."

Annie Mack

"I feel very honored to be with so many amazing artists and women to help give voice to this. I just was really lucky enough to write a song with Sarah Morris. My song is called 'Judge and Jury.' It's basically like an eff you, you know, you're not the judge and jury of me...When we talk about needing help and we give voice to the things that have transpired we need healing and we need support and so, I kind of wrote from that perspective of addressing the judgment that comes versus just helping and being an advocate."

Linnea Mohn

"As powerful as the initial emergence of the #MeToo movement was, that there's always that risk of things cresting and then people kind of backing off from it. This feels like something participatory in a way, where it's like, no, there's more to this, like, let's keep pushing, let's keep showing up."

Sarah Morris

"I took a song that I had written a few summers ago and inspired by our current president and how I feel like he sometimes has tantrums that remind me of when my son would have tantrums and how crazy-making that is. The song is called 'Like It's Gospel,' and so the idea [is] that I refuse to buy into this. I refuse to buy into this mindset, I refuse to buy into the awful things that he says."

r0

"There have been moments where I personally felt like, I was made to feel in those moments not woman enough to deserve to feel like I was right in feeling I had been assaulted or like I had felt the feelings I was feeling or deserved to feel those feelings that I was feeling. And so the song, 'Sides to Lonely,' it kind of encompasses this feeling of not feeling like you're enough in...in many different ways, but I'm hoping that someone will take into...I mean, it really speaks to an experience of kind of persevering through dissociation that can happen when you're in your own thoughts and someone just tells you, why don't you just get over it or be happy or, like, take the high road and there's better things on the other side and wondering, is there a better side? Is there another side? Is there more hardship on the other side? And kind of the ways that internalizing those things can kind of burn you from the inside if you don't take the time that you need as an individual to heal, to feel what you need to feel in order to be able to come above it and to be able to see something beyond what you're feeling right now."

Tina Schlieske

"I know that I personally have some amazing male friends who are very sympathetic and want to be educated and want to listen and they want to know and my hope going forward as we keep these conversations going is that there's more of a platform for them to feel brave enough to stand amongst people that have been abused. You know, being a gay woman, I know the one thing that changed...being more acceptable for homosexuality, being queer, is allies. Is straight people standing up and going no, enough. Because we can only scream so much, and I feel like it would be great to see this compilation encourage more allies to the whole project, because I think that's when change is going to happen."

Ashleigh Still

"I've spent most of my life stepping aside, apologizing, bowing down, bowing out, shutting up, keeping my mouth shut, deferring to the man in the room, abiding by B.S. rules that certainly don't serve me and really don't serve anyone. And the song is just about waking up and saying, enough! I'm not effing around anymore."

Katy Vernon

"Why do people think that women are making it up? Why do they think that we have some kind of agenda? There's a lot of ways that women's voices can be silenced, and so I just hope that people listen. I think there's strength in numbers. Hopefully people will listen to this CD and realize that being a woman is not a genre in music. We're just musicians, and we all have very varied things to say. There needs to be, really, a reckoning. And every time it seems to get going, it can run out of steam. So I'm just happy to throw a log on the fire and just try to keep it going."


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