May speaker profile: Chiara Grassia

This month, we’re hosting a special event in partnership with Ainslie and Gorman Arts CentresMyth-busting women in music. We’ll be hearing from three amazing Canberra musicians, who will be sharing their experiences as women in music, and chatting about some of the gender barriers that mean that women remain underrepresented in areas of of the music industry.

To help you get to know our speakers, we’re featuring profiles with them over the next week. Meet Chiara Grassia, a writer, musician and arts producer. She is the founder and director of Girls Rock! Canberra, a mentorship program that encourages self-confidence, creativity and teamwork through music education. She was a producer for Noted writers festival in 2015, and is a co-founder of the Canberra Zine Emporium, a collective of zine-makers and self-publishers. Her writing has been published in Bitch, She Shreds, Feminartsy, Music Feeds, The Brag and BMA. She plays in the band Passive Smoke.

When did you first start playing music?

I started playing guitar when I was 13 years old, motivated by wanting to learn ‘Cannonball’ by The Breeders. I borrowed my dad’s guitar, and trawled the internet for tabs and chord charts – every time I could mimic part of a song I loved or wrote a new riff I felt a connection to a wider world outside my bedroom. I didn’t listen to my music teacher in high school who wanted us to play Green Day covers.

What has been a highlight of your time as a musician/in the music industry? 

Finding people I enjoy playing music with, and writing music I’m super proud of as part of Passive Smoke. Getting involved with the girls rock camp movement, from volunteering at camps in the US as soon as I hit 21 to starting Girls Rock! Canberra last year and running the first program in January this year. Seeing girls find each other, form bands and write incredible songs in a week was surreal and inspiring.

Who is your favourite female musician, and why? 

There’s many, but my all-time faves and guitar heroes are Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses) and Mary Timony (Helium, Wild Flag, Ex Hex). Both have distinct guitar styles that have shaped the way I approach music, introducing me to off kilter melodies, strange chord shapes and odd tunings.

Name one barrier you see to women’s participation in music? 

Confidence barriers. Male egos.

What have you got planned music-wise this year/what are you looking forward to?

I’m currently planning the next session Girls Rock! Canberra, which will run next year, and working on some other related programming for later in the year. Playing more shows with Passive Smoke – we wanna record our next EP and play more interstate shows!

Where can people hear your stuff or find out more? 

Passive Smoke is on Facebook and Bandcamp – we have a few shows coming up over the next few month in Canberra. Girls Rock! Canberra is on Facebook, twitter and Instagram at @girlsrockcbr

Myth-busting women in music will be held at Gorman Arts Centre Main Hall on Thursday 19 May, at 7pm. For more, head to our Facebook event page

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