MAKING NOISE 015: Founder and Editor of VOCAL GIRLS + Islington Radio presenter, Megan Graye
Hey Megan! Thanks so much for taking the time out to answer my questions, how are you?
I’m well thank you, albeit ridiculously busy! I’m very excited for the world to open up again so there can be a little more balance back between work and play!
For those who don’t know you, can you give them a little introduction?
I’m Megan, a 24-year-old music fanatic! I’m the Founder and Editor of VOCAL GIRLS, which is a music content platform dedicated to championing emerging talent - with a focus on female and LGBTQ+ artists. I’m also a Music Journalist, Content Producer and Radio and Podcast Host.
Did you always want to work in music? How did you start?
Yes! I’d always dreamed of being a radio host or music journalist because I was obsessed with radio and discovering new bands on YouTube when I was a teenager. I volunteered hosting a local music show at 16 for my station back home and started doing gig photography whenever I could. I went on to study journalism at the University of Sheffield, which was AMAZING and the best city and course, but out of Uni - due to lots of different reasons I lost my confidence and focus. I was overwhelmed by how competitive everything was and felt like focusing on music was a lost cause. I was put forward for an Internship at Hearst Magazines which was so great and then I worked at Beano as a video producer, making kids content which, again, was brilliant - but nothing felt like the perfect fit. At the start of 2020, (after a lot of personal changes in my life), I had a bit of an epiphany moment where I realised I was the only one standing in the way of everything I wanted to do! I realised my lack of confidence had just been procrastination and blocked me doing anything for so long, so I just thought f*ck it - life is way too short for that. And that’s when VOCAL GIRLS was born!
How and why did you start Vocal Girls Club? What was the inspiration behind it?
As well as obsessing over music, I’ve also always been an active feminist and when I read an article about the lack of gender diversity in the music industry I was completely astounded. It really opened my eyes to something I hadn’t noticed before and I felt really strongly about wanting to change it. Merging these two passions just felt like a really authentic and natural fit. Also, part of starting VOCAL GIRLS was wanting to take control over an aspect of my life and prove myself in the music industry; I was tired of not being given a chance because I didn’t have a specific type of experience - but then not being able to get any experience because no one would give me a chance! So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and thought “if no one is going to give me an opportunity, I’ll do it myself.”
There are so many platforms being created now for so many incredible reasons now in music and other things, how do you go about making yours different and not trying to follow what other platforms are doing?
I used to have a music blog when I was at Uni, but I lost motivation with it because I didn’t truly believe it was adding anything to the world. I’m very much the kind of person that quickly loses interest in something if I don’t believe in what I’m doing. With VGC I have such a clear focus with our mission that I am really motivated (sometimes too motivated - I work way too much atm!). I also don’t really look at other spaces in the industry that are doing similar things, as competitors - I think it’s great that there are other people who are pushing for gender equality too! Women have been conditioned to see each other as a threat, but actually there’s plenty of room for all of us to thrive. As a general rule I also just keep my head down and try not to compare what we’re doing to anyone else - comparison is the thief of joy! We also have a clear distinction from everything I’ve seen through our genre focus, style, tone and the fact that we’re a content site first and foremost; I’ve always been set on offering a variety of mediums of content to access so there’s something for everyone (i.e we have written, radio, podcast, playlists, social and now video - and we’ll soon be doing events).
Besides running Vocal Girls Club, you are also on Islington Radio and have a podcast with TMRW Magazine, how did those jobs come about? What’s been your favorite thing about doing radio and a podcast?
I got the Islington op after releasing my podcast and it’s been an absolute joy and privilege to have a radio show again! Before, I would harass my friends with music they needed to listen to so it’s nice to have a legitimate space and time to talk passionately about the music I love! Sharing music is really the ultimate goal and Tom (the editor of Islington Radio) is so organised, supportive and encouraging and that really makes all the difference! The best part about doing the podcast is simply being able to have in-depth and lengthy conversations with strangers (who also just happen to be super inspiring people too). I’ve particularly appreciated that in the last year when we’ve been without any normal ad-hoc interactions. I love chatting to people and always try and ditch my notes and just have a conversation with them as you get more natural questions and answers that way. I always come out of the interviews on such a high.
I believe as human beings we aren’t meant to just do one thing in our lives when it comes to our career. You’ve done so much in music, do you believe that it’s important to deep your toes in different aspects in music, before finding out what you like?
I think it’s just the ‘nature of the beast’ these days. It’s so common to have patchwork careers - it’s like a hustle! It’s not as safe and secure as I might like it to be but I have such varied interests in so many different areas of the creative world that I would probably feel unsatisfied just sticking to one thing. I am also generally terrible at making decisions and have never been able to commit to just one aspect of content, so I guess this is reflected in my work. I do think there’s a balance to be struck though; learning to slow down and say “no” to things sometimes is self care. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do every single idea I have right now! Creativity is a blessing and a curse (for me anyway) because it's either there or it's not; when it’s there I work so hard I almost burnout and when it’s not there I just feel guilty about not being creative!
What would you say inspires you the most?
Listening to music, creating positive change and the people I do both of those things with!
What would you consider to be the highlight of your career so far?
Being interviewed by the amazing Lauren Laverne on 6Music was pretty great (although I was so terrified that I didn’t tell anyone when it was out until afterwards)! But just generally getting people’s lovely feedback on the platform, radio show and podcasts - that’s what makes it all worthwhile!
What advice would you give someone who wants to work with Vocal Girls Club? (and other platforms) How would you think is the best way to approach that?
Passion is the most important thing for me. Sometimes I hear from people that they haven’t gotten in touch because they weren’t sure how their skills would fit, but I think there’s always ways you can be involved, and passion and interest is the thing you can’t learn. As long as I can see someone genuinely believes in our values and loves music, I try to find a way for them to be involved. I can’t speak for other platforms, but I generally think just showing you’re doing things off your own back because you just love doing it is always a great place to start - that shows your interest is genuine. But time (and money) is always the biggest enemy which is why it’s always easier for privileged people to break into the creative industries!
What are your current favorite publications/platforms?
Islington Radio, Sister Magazine, The Grief Network, Head Above the Clouds are all doing really cool stuff. And ALWAYS The Guardian and BBC Sounds/Radio 6!
How do you keep yourself motivated when it comes to running Vocal Girls Club, being on Islington radio, and TMRW Mag podcast?
As I mentioned earlier, the biggest motivation for me is a genuine belief in what I’m doing and the purpose of it inspiring someone / achieving something. Everyone has days where you question what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and it all feels pointless, but I believe it’s important to accept those days, and start again tomorrow. Resting is key - but I really, really need to practice what I preach here!
What advice would you give someone who wants to do exactly what you are doing?
I'm still working on it all so I’m not in the best place to give advice but KEEP GOING! Also if no one wants to give you the opportunity to prove yourself, then create that opportunity for yourself.
What’s one thing you’ve learned so far that’s really helped you along the way?
You have to allow yourself the space to be bad at things for a while. None of your heroes were always that good! You have to be brave enough to be new at things in order to learn and get better. Also if ever you’re really struggling with imposter syndrome, think what a straight, white man would say about all the things you’ve achieved and then say that!
It’s unfortunate women are still underrepresented in such a diverse industry like music - what’s it like for you to be in such a prolific position, do you think we’ll be seeing more changes soon?
Yes definitely. I think there’s lots of positive stuff happening and lots of great work being done to raise more awareness - a lot of it is just about opening people’s eyes to the situation. I do think that in order to ensure the industry accurately reflects the scene, we must see changes from both the leaders and the grassroot influencers; labels need to be filled with more female/LGBTQ+ influencers so that decisions can be made from that perspective, (e.g. supporting the authenticity of female/LGBTQ+ artists) and more girls need to be encouraged to learn instruments at schools/ clubs etc. They are both dependent on one another and a little like a catch 22 because without young women/ LGBTQ+ people having those role models who’re breaking down boundaries (and making it cool to say ‘play base’) visible to them, the confidence just won’t be there. It’s about taking the intimidation away from getting into those areas. We also need brands with the financial means to get behind the causes to enable them to continue - to which end we’re currently looking for a sponsor for our podcast so we can continue to platform those voices!
Since music is a male dominated industry, do you believe that it was harder for you to break into the music industry? How were you able to stand your ground?
When I was really young I used to buy the NME every week. I absolutely loved all the content and knowing everything I could possibly know about the bands, but always felt like it was speaking to boys and men (even though it never outright said that). I was only about 12 so never thought about this too much in a conscious way but it made me feel like I was left out of some kind of music club because I was a girl. I wanted something that spoke to me - the music obsessed young woman - and that just wasn't out there. I dreamed of starting something that filled that void one day. I never remembered those young frustrations until just the other day- and here we are. I guess that means it’s something that I’ve always been aware of on some level. It's like having bought a ticket to an event, but then refused entry; you have everything you should need to get there - all the passion, knowledge and skill, but you’re just not welcome. For me it’s a confidence issue, like feeling intimidated in certain spaces, or not feeling like my opinion was as valid. What this means is that women then feel like they have to prove themselves in these spaces, always feeling on the backfoot. I think particularly in the indie/ rock scene and genre it’s very male dominated and it can feel overwhelming, like you don’t have a place there or people make instant assumptions. A lot of the time it's the ingrained and subconscious (but this can be the worst of all because it's harder to call out) but it really aggravates the imposter syndrome. Again, the way to get through it is a solid belief in what you’re doing - but it’s an ongoing battle. If you genuinely believe in what you're creating, then that becomes bigger than your own lack of confidence or ego. Like with the industry, personally I think real time inspirational figures that we can all look upto are really powerful for enabling that confidence to grow. I’ve always idolised Annie Mac, or bands like Haim who are always about being authentically themselves.
If you could recommend me to someone to interview next for Making Noise, who would it be?
Jess Iszatt is an amazing and hardworking presenter who (amongst hosting the BBC London Introducing show and a variety of other things) has been arranging Lockdown Lounges every week to keep the gig community alive in isolation. It’s been a really amazing thing to join every week and has really kept spirits up.
A huge thank you to Megan for being a part of Making Noise! We're big fans of VOCAL GIRLS and the work they're doing. You can find VOCAL GIRLS on their website, Twitter, and Instagram, and you can find Megan herself on Instagram, as well! Stream the podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, and find Megan's radio show, Vocal Girls Club, here!