When Dua Lipa accepted the trophy for Best New Artist at the Grammys Sunday night, she included a not-so-thinly-veiled jab at outgoing Recording Academy President Neil Portnow when she said it was an honor to be nominated along a number of female artists. “I guess this year we really stepped up,” she said. Last year, Portnow had said that women needed to “step up” to become part of the industry. It wasn’t too long after Lipa made her remark that the strings kicked in for her to finish her speech.
“I think it was awesome that she said that,” says Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent), who had performed a mash-up of hits with Lipa earlier in the broadcast. “People in any marginalized position have long been told the myth that if they only worked a little harder then they too could inherit the earth. And I’m glad she referenced the ignorance and arrogance of his particular statement. It’s absolutely idiotic.”
For her part, Clark has been working toward leveling the playing field between women and men behind the scenes of the music industry for years. And she’d like to see the rest of the music business follow suit. “I’m in a position where I get to hire people,” she says. “In the past couple years of this album campaign, it’s been really female-centric. From the directors of show to content to the people I employ on tour, I feel that I’m very lucky to be able to employ women, because I am a woman. And I’m not threatened by other powerful women. I encourage them and I also enjoy being surrounded by them.”
When Clark won the Best Rock Song Grammy Sunday for “Masseduction,” one of the people she called out was Laura Sisk, who engineered the song. “She’s a badass,” Clark says tells Rolling Stone post-Grammys. A glance at the credits for the Masseduction album show that she also featured female guests and employed a female mixer for a few songs.
“As all systems of power go, you need a seat at the table,” she says. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. So it’s a question of having more women in positions of power to give people a chance who, for reasons of unfortunate systemic sexism in this case, have not had the opportunity. I’m on a coalition with Alicia Keys to encourage female songwriters and engineers.”
Clark is optimistic about the future. “I see the tide turning,” she says. “Equality for all doesn’t mean ‘at the detriment of this person or that person,’ it means equality. I didn’t get to see all the awards, but I was so impressed by H.E.R. She could really fucking sing and play guitar, and she’s so young. It was so exciting to see the ration of men and women playing guitar seem pretty equal, between H.E.R., Brandi [Carlile] and me.”
Beyond her own music, Clark is happy to be producing others’ and working in different facets of the industry. She’s working on a new film and already working on her own next record, but she’s also producing Sleater-Kinney’s follow-up to 2015’s No Cities to Love and “another record, but I don’t think I can talk about that yet.” What she can say, though, is that she “couldn’t be more thrilled” about working with Sleater-Kinney. “I love the record we made,” she says. “It’s fucking vicious.”