Two incredible women in music,Macy Schmidt and Angela Sclafani are redefining what women love with their piece Passion Project: Love Songs From Women To Their Work. In honour of National Nurses Week, earlier in May, they released a brand-new song and visuals dedicated to – and from the perspective of - Katherine Hannan, a nurse from the 1918 flu pandemic, visualised as her singing to the nurses on today's front lines. Made by women for women, the new song and the entire project is a reminder of the amazing things women are capable of doing.
Speaking to both Macy and Angela, we discuss the roots of the Passion Project , what the project means to them, the new normal of remote working in the creative space and what it means, and their plans for the future- both near and far- and much more.
1) What started the idea of the Passion Project?
Angela : Passion Project is a song cycle of love songs from women to their work, and the women I’ve chosen so far have been diverse in terms of geographical location, from what time period they are, what their passions are. I was getting sick of love songs about men, and I wanted to veer away from that. The response has been great because a lot of women wanted to talk about their passion and work that drives them. Macy is arranger, orchestrator and co-producer of the project. We did a live concert version back in September, an eight-piece all-women band. I remember telling Macy that I really wanted to have all women in the band and she said “Oh right now I’m only hiring female musicians right now!” This has been a nice new initiative to get more women involved. I’m also working on Volume 2 of the Passion Project. At the moment we’re feeling so inspired by the healthcare workers, and so we wanted to go into figures in this field. The women we came across aren’t household names but they were trailblazers in their own field. We started researching for unnamed heroes, and found Katherine Hannan, I put something together that night and sent it to Macy.
Macy : When isolation started it was hard to find motivation to keep doing things, so this was about adapting what we were already doing to make it timely and relevant. We wanted to say things that matter!
2) What was it about Katherine Hannan that made you want to write something about her?
Angela : The flu pandemic of 1918 was the last big pandemic we had before this, so I thought it’d be interesting to talk from the point of view of someone who’d already been through it to give strength and commending other healthcare workers of today. Most of the people on this project sing to an object or idea that’s connected with their work, but Katherine was one of the head nurses in a few of the hospitals she was working in at the time so the idea of making it a song from her to actual people; to the nurses in different parts of the country of her time, present times, and of the future.
3) What can you tell me about the music video and the process of making it?
Macy : We were going into it blind because we had to do everything while in isolation. It started with emails – first to the amazing vocalist in the video, Hannah Corneau. Her partner happened to be a videographer so he was able to shoot some gorgeous footage off their balcony. I reached out to the drummer Elena Bonomo and her partner was a recording engineer, so a lot of couplehood collaborations. It was one thing at a time and then our video designer Maya put the video together ; watching and listening back to it is really heart-warming because we realise that none of us ever saw each other in person! It’s weird and scary to think about whether this is our new normal, but we’ve shown that it’s possible so we can be optimistic.
4)What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome in terms of working remotely? Was there a particular obstacle that was unexpected?
Macy : For me it was making the sound come together cohesively. Some of it was recorded into an iPhone, some was recorded digitally. Not being able to get together was challenging .
Angela : As people from the theatre space we’re very used to working with people around us and that feels like the organic process but it was so fun to see it all come together. I wrote the song and then saw each step evolve – it raised my spirits and makes me excited for what could happen next! As artists it’s exciting to dip into a medium that allows us to work with someone who lives really far away.
5)Speaking of working with people living far away, knowing that it's possible now, are there any particular artists who you’d love to reach out to and work with in the future?
Macy : We have a long list! A dream person would be Alicia Keys, because of her connection to women in music! Someday we hope to reach out to these huge names.
Angela : I’m thinking of L.A. There are amazing artists there. But maybe someone in the UK? I’d love to give Adele a call, ask her if she’s interested in the project!
6) What does the Passion Project mean to you?
Angela : What can and should women be writing about. I grew up receiving a lot of romantic information – the chick flicks, the fairy-tale vibes, the musicians I grew up listening to – which I was influenced by. It was all about romance and love songs, and I thought that’s what everyone writes about. I think if I’d heard songs that weren’t about that, my perception would have been different. So I’d love to give other women the opportunity to sing about something else other than men and romantic partner.
Macy : For me, I remember a moment at the end of our first concert. Angela was singing this anthemic , finale song called ‘Best Kept Secret’ and I was looking at all these women working on the concert – the band, the producers, everyone – it was incredible to see, and felt so meta! I hope that people who listen to these songs will realise the new way to sing about “love interests”, and I’d also love to let women know that they can be part of different sides of the creative process in music, not only an actress or singer. You can be an actress/singer but still be involved in other sides, there are no limits to any of it! Another thing that really means a lot to me , is the diversity and amount of women of colour involved in this project.
7) What’s the best part of being in an all-women ensemble or team?
Angela : Not being talked down to about things like knowing how to use sound gear! There’s no ego that you have to dance over , you get to be yourself. That’s not to say there aren’t lovely male collaborators but sometimes it takes only one comment to put you down.
Macy : There was a gig where I was the only woman and everyone else was male. I was trying to set up and plug in the sound gear, and I got a lot of “ you’re going to plug that in there?” comments. I love walking into a room full of women and feel like there’s nothing to prove or be anxious about.
8) Who’s the strongest, most inspirational woman you personally know? And who inspires you on a professional level?
Angela : I’m really inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez , a political representative who has represented people in a way that’s inspiring. She’s taken on a lot of heat from people who don’t want things to change. They’ve attacked the way she looks, her background, her experience. But she’s so strong and isn’t afraid to ask the difficult questions while also protecting the people. She’s out there in the Bronx delivering meals, she’s directly helping her community with the simple principle of “practice what you preach”. Another woman I think is the strongest person I know is my grandmother, whom I’m really close with. She’s very kind and strong and I’m lucky to have her in my life.
Macy: In terms of someone I don’t know personally it’d be Tina Turner, she’s an iconic woman of colour who went through endless struggles and triumphs to pave the way for everyone who came after her. Personally, it’d be my mom, I’d be nothing without her.
9) What’s next from the Passion Project? You mentioned Volume 2, how has it evolved from the first volume of the Passion Project?
Angela : We’ll be recording the Volume 1 album soon and I’m halfway through the writing of Volume 2, hopefully we can piece together the songs. Eventually, maybe in two or three years there’ll be a live concert. I’m excited for this “new normal” we’re living in. Something that’s cool after the first volume, a lot of people let me know about some cool women they know of. It’s made me want to research more women from different backgrounds. I’m also thinking of new ideas ; writing about younger women, older women, duets. It’s made me want to challenge and expand the project!
Macy : I want to put this into the universe ; the dream I’ve stumbled upon is that I’d love to see us find a way to take this project into international, cultural diplomacy. In the first volume, in just 12 songs we were able to highlight obscure women in history from India, Japan, Afghanistan. There are a lot of countries where women’s rights are very limited and I’d love to find a way to physically go to different countries and bring about a cultural diplomacy tour!
10) Is there a message you’d love to put out there with this interview?
Angela : We’d love to put out the message into the mind of young girls that they do and be whatever you want to be! Also, we have sheet music out and we’ll continue to put it out so I’d love for more people to sing the songs and feature them on our social media!
Written by Malvika Padin
Malvika is an award-winning music journalist and publicist who aims to shine a light on women and POC in the music industry. Of Indian-origin and based in the UK, she has over 500 articles to her name and has been part of the BRIT Awards Voting Panel in 2020. Her aim is to diversify music and music journalism, and she's always working hard to accomplish the same. Currently, she is the Online Editor of Discovered Magazine. Find her on @malvika_padin26 on Twitter and Instagram. Alternatively, you can check out her website : https://malvikapadin.pb.online
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