Before Amerique joined the Lower East Side Girls Club (LESGC), a nonprofit catering to girls living in the historic Manhattan neighborhood, the only thing she liked about music was listening to it. Now, the 13-year-old says, she’s considering making music production a career when she grows up.
Although she’s got a few years ahead of her until then, Amerique’s already making moves in the male-dominated industry. Through the LESGC’s Sound Studio, a program designed to expose middle and high school girls to the music and broadcasting industries, she and fellow club members collaborated with singer/songwriter and The Voice finalist Jamar Rogers and his team to produce a new song titled “You Can Hold Onto My Hand.” It’s the first track to be released on the club’s new, girl-powered music label, LESGC Records. The video, premiering today on Broadly in honor of International Women’s Day, includes members of LESGC, and serves as a timely reminder of the organization’s mission of giving girls a place to amplify their voices.
Kelly Webb is the director of the Sound Studio. She tells Broadly that this new label, which is intended to provide a platform for young women and girls to make and release their own music, is one step for better representation in the music industry. “Why does it matter that there is a specific platform for girls? Because there’s a specific platform for men, and it’s called the world. What we need to do is even things out,” she says. “There are certainly many labels out there for women that are doing their thing, but this specifically addresses young girls. The talent I’ve seen in these rooms is limitless. For me, it’s really exciting to share that with the world in hopes that some other little girl will know that this is possible.”
Webb recalls growing up and not being encouraged to pursue certain avenues, such as technology. That’s why she’s so focused on helping to open doors for girls and young women. “There were times where people said, ‘That’s not for you. That’s cool but that’s not for you.’ But you know what? Anything that you’re interested in can be for you if you put the work in,” she says. “We just want to be that example. Yes, it’s possible; we have the tools. Go for it. Let’s make great music.”
Over the course of a few months during weekly classes, audio engineer Lauren Vargas, Rogers and his producer Matt Hall (who were both introduced to the organization by Kevin McHugh, LESGC’s board member) helped the girls navigate the music production and recording, focusing on everything from soundchecks to rehearsing vocals. The impact of that extends far beyond creating a powerful song, Webb says. “That whole experience with Jamar really served as a blueprint and got a lot of people excited because we started realizing what was possible.” Not only does the label have an EP ready to go, but they’re also putting the finishing touches on a second song titled “Girls Have the Power,” which was written by an 11-year-old member.
“Why does it matter that there is a specific platform for girls? Because there’s a specific platform for men, and it’s called the world."
Amerique, the budding music producer, says she’s learned a lot from the program, and especially from watching and working with Hall. In addition to helping create some of the percussions heard in “You Can Hold Onto My Hand”—“We were trying to figure out little aspects that we could put into the song, so we took our African drums and we recorded little bits that you can hear on the track,” she explains—she also learned more about the technical side of production, including how to spot and fix errors.
“It’s good to have a place for younger girls to actually get their music out there early so they can get better,” Amerique says, highlighting the importance of their new label. “They can get feedback from other people.”
“You Can Hold Onto My Hand,” a four-minute song filled with fun repetitive beats and the high energy of a gospel choir, offers a message of hope in what feels like dark times. It’s an important message particularly for young people, Webb says, as they deal with the stress of school and life. “Obviously, all you have to do is go online or turn on the TV and you can see we’re living in a very fragmented world, and the only hope that we have is through community, through coming together.”
Brianna is an 18-year-old former member of LESGC (who now works there) who sang in the choir for the song’s melody. It was her first time recording a song professionally, she says. “The most memorable part,” she says, “was watching everybody’s face when we finally heard the song that everybody put blood, sweat, and tears into. When we heard it, everybody was like, ‘Is that my voice, is that our voice? We sound so good.’”
“Even girls that came to choir class and they thought they couldn’t sing, they were still on the track,” she continues. “That’s what was so good about it. Even though they wanted to give up on themselves … the outcome was amazing. And now we’re about to have our own record label—so it’s like, what! This is so amazing.”