VMP Rising is our series where we partner with up-and-coming artists to press their music to vinyl and highlight artists we think are going to be the Next Big Thing. Today we’re featuring a compilation from Project Traction, Project Traction Vol. 1.
According to Project Traction’s website, numerous studies have shown that the representation of women in the producing and engineering fields in music in the U.S. is less than 10%, with other studies indicating it could be lower than 5%. When he found out about these statistics, Jim Eno, Spoon’s drummer, decided to take action.
“This is ridiculous,” Eno told the Austin Chronicle in early 2022, referring to those statistics. “I have this great studio. I love mentoring. I love teaching. Maybe I can help improve that … I’ve worked with so many great women musicians and I’m like, ‘Man, she could produce, easily. Why isn’t she producing?”
Eno continued, “So I came up with the idea of inviting a bunch of women and working on tracks together. We pick the bands and work on demos all the way to mixing, laying the foundation and gaining traction into the producer and recording fields.”
That idea of “gaining traction” is key, and is the namesake for the mentorship program — created to close the gender gap by helping women and non-binary musicians become lifelong producers, with the support of Eno and his Public Hi-Fi studio in Austin.
VMP caught up with the artists and producers behind the compilation Project Traction Vol. 1 via email, and one thing shone through in all of their responses: Project Traction created a supportive environment for them to learn new skills in a truly collaborative way.
As Megz Kelli, the producer for Torre Blake’s “Back To You,” put it, “Being in the studio, in a dedicated space to create, is magical. There was always a good energy and good flow in our sessions. I was learning a lot about different instruments and tools — things I don’t ordinarily have access to. So to be able to grow not just as a musician and producer, but to expand my palate and tool box was a really cool experience.”
Explaining how she got involved with the project, Emilie Basez — the producer who worked with Nnedi Agbaroji on “How High” — said of Eno’s involvement: “Jim is such a special person who doesn’t just talk the talk but really wants to create change ... I’m so honored to be included amongst so many other incredible and diverse artists that are featured on this album.”
The music of Project Traction Vol. 1, like its participants, is diverse, with rock, electronic, modern funk, indie and more represented.
The most funk-leaning track comes from The Vapor Caves and Kam Franklin, who worked closely with the duo to execute their vision for “Sacrifice,” which takes cues from Teddy Pendergrass’ “You Can’t Hide From Yourself.”
“Instead of sampling the original, we opted for an interpolation of the song,” Franklin explained. “We brought in Jon Durbin (trumpet) and Michael Razo (trombone) from The Suffers to play the iconic horn line from this classic track. They knocked it out at Jim’s studio in one afternoon, and the rest is history. The blending of classic and modern tones is something that I feel can be a perfect pairing when handled with care.”
“Elsa” is undeniably the most rock ’n’ roll release from Project Traction, and, according to producer Lucille Garner and The Ghost Wolves’ Jonny Wolf, experimentation was essential to finding the right sound. “[Recording ‘Elsa’ was] a lot of trying out different instruments and experimenting with sounds and textures in a new way,” Garner said. “I think that made me realize the importance of experimenting and keeping an open mind. You can go into something with a preconceived notion of what you think it should sound like, but then be able to try something completely different.”
About the experience in the studio, The Ghost Wolves’ Carley Wolf added, “I loved how efficient everything was so we could all stay in the creative zone and get the track sounding like we wanted it to. We would have loved to squeeze in a few more tracks while we were there! It just felt like time didn’t exist and there was a lot of love and respect in the room.”
For Nolina’s Stef Atkinson, working this closely with others on music was relatively brand-new (“My experience collaborating with others has been pretty limited — in fact, this is the first time I wrote a song with someone who isn’t a member of my family,” she said). However, working with her friend and producer Mariclaire Glaser — trying something new as well, with her first producer credit on “(Woke Up) Loving You” — left her feeling “supported and freshly inspired.”
Lizzy Lehman’s Project Traction track, “Sweet Relief,” was created with producer Sara Houser. Speaking about how they got involved with the project, Lehman said, “I have admired Sara's music and songwriting for a long time and was excited to get the chance to collaborate with her. I had a feeling that we would be able to work together to create something powerful, and I really think we did.”
“I am so grateful to be a part of Project Traction Vol. 1,” Lehman added, “which uplifts emerging female and non-binary musicians and producers in a time when our voices and stories are so often overshadowed by our cis male counterparts.”
Asked what advice they would pass along to other women and non-binary people who hope to become artists and producers, many responses contained a common thread: The participants in Project Traction encouraged prospective artists to believe in themselves, and to follow their intuition and passion.
“Whatever your truth is, stick with it,” Agbaroji said. “It might change, morph, stagnate until it blossoms. Keep making the connections that feel in alignment with who you are as an artist. Whatever you want to do practice, practice, practice.”