Each episode takes the form of a conversation between Marling and her guests, who include female engineers, producers, performers, and guitar-shop owners. In one episode, Marling talked with the American music pioneers Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton about the improvements they’ve witnessed when it comes to female inclusion in studios. In another episode, the California pop-rockers HAIM discussed the assumptions they’ve face when guitar shopping (including that they’d be interested in pink instruments). Marling started Reversal of the Muse after realizing she had only come into contact with two female engineers throughout her 10-year career. “I wonder what joys await us when we understand more about feminine creativity,” she says in the second episode. By offering a dedicated space for women to talk about their industry experiences in a more intimate setting, the series is a valuable addition to the current spate of women-centered podcasts, including Another Round, 2 Dope Queens, and Call Your Girlfriend.
Reversal of the Muse’s focus on the structural limitations of the industry comes at a time when women are still a rarity on the technical side of music. It’s estimated that less than 5 percent of music engineers and producers are female, and only six female producers have ever been nominated for the prestigious Producer of the Year, Non-Classical award at the Grammys. The ways in which women’s contributions in general are often overlooked in the music industry come up frequently in the podcast, including in one episode featuring the British musician Marika Hackman. She talked about feeling frustrated when the coverage surrounding her 2015 debut full-length album focused more on her model looks, clothing, and friendship with Cara Delevingne, than on the merits of her music. Elsewhere on Reversal of the Muse, guests dissect the “boy’s club” that is life on the road, which ultimately leads to a discussion of how women are expected to behave, and more specifically challenges the notion that a woman must always be “sweet.”
With five albums and a decade on the tour circuit under her belt, Marling anchors the podcast as its host, providing her own valuable insights into the nuances of the music industry. Each episode of Reversal of the Muse revolves around a different question of Marling’s choosing, beginning with, do women learn better from other women? Outlining what she calls her self-imposed fear of coming off as silly, Marling posits that her music may have turned out differently had she recorded with female engineers and producers. The biggest reason? She says she would have felt freer to make mistakes. Which eventually leads to another question: What would working in an all-female studio be like?
Most of the podcast is meditative and conversational, so in order to gain practical insight, Marling recently orchestrated an all-female takeover of Urchin Studios in London, with women musicians, engineers, and producers working together. In an ideal world, Marling said on the DICE podcast, there would be more of a gender balance in studios. But until that time comes, this set-up uniquely explored creativity from the feminine approach that is rare today. It’s a project reminiscent of initiatives like Girls Rock Camps or a Brooklyn-based residency called the Hum. Marling is also looking to start a database of people dedicated to teaching young women engineering or instrument-making.