We had the pleasure of sitting down with band leader Angie Hilts to talk about music, the industry, performing and body image. Our very own Lizzy Clarke took some photos with this Toronto talent and we got to hear all about the city's thriving Western Swing scene.
Angie is an accomplished musician, song writer and band leader. She runs the well established group The Rucksack Willies who have been playing regularly in Toronto at The Cameron House, The Dakota Tavern and other venues and festivals since 2007. She is also a member of the group The Double Cuts, one of Toronto's most genial Western Swing bands.
"There is a huge following in the western swing scene in Toronto! Our gigs are always packed with dancers and fans dressed to the nines in their best rockabilly outfits. It's amazing!" Says Angie.
We've noticed she has been running The Rucksack Willies with a level of class and professionalism not often seen in the music industry.
Angie on running a band:
"There's only so many hours in a day to get everything done, I thrive on creativity and a lot of the things I do to keep my projects moving forward are not creative and are more business oriented, it can be draining but ultimately, it's worth it."
"[Angie] has always been great at creating relationships with venue owners and clients that are long-lasting, she has created many opportunities for the band" Says long time friend and Rucksack Willies band member Megan Thomas.
We know the struggle of balancing your creativity with taking care of business well. As any woman running a business knows, there can be subtle gender biases that are normalized and considered acceptable. For female musicians sometimes it's being called 'sweetheart' by a venue owner. Sometimes it's being talked down to, and other times it's simply being ignored or talked over during a meet and greet.
We spoke with Angie about how it feels to be a hard working woman in the music industry.
"It is difficult to assert yourself into a male dominated world and represent this group of people. I represent each member of the band when I'm booking a gig or applying for a grant or doing anything to create momentum for all of us. This is a big responsibility."
This struggle can at times be compounded by adding body image issues in the mix. The juxtaposition of wanting to be assertive to be respected in a industry where women are expected to be lovely and sweet makes learning to accept ourselves properly and dispel the idea that we have to look a certain way to be successful very difficult to do.
Angie spoke to us about her photo session with Lizzy and feeling insecure.
"I'm always fighting against my own insecurities. It's hard to put myself first sometimes. Sitting down and talking about these issues and taking these empowering photos was the first time I felt that was possible in a while. It made me realize it's ok to be who I am and be comfortable with that. I'm working up the courage to start my own solo project and I'm really scared shitless about that!
I've always felt a little on the spot and I'm very aware of the pressure to perform and present myself in a certain way. It's a blessing and a curse because the feeling of getting on stage is exhilarating. When I'm performing I love the feeling of sharing something authentic and honest."
Her work ethic, her tenacity and her talent make Angie an inspiration in our books. We are so moved by her honest approach to performance and her positive outlook. For us she represents all the strong and hard working woman in this beautiful city. You can learn more about Angie by visiting her bands' websites: www.therucksackwillies.com and www.thedoublecuts.com. follow her @angiehilts for updates about her solo project and upcoming gigs!