I'm thrilled to have the exceptionally talented Jess Keeley featured in Badass Babes today! Jess is a manager of female musicians including Marina and the Diamonds and Lykke Li, and can say that after reading her responses below I think I might just love her. Read on to learn a little more about what Jess's career entails, the challenges she finds, and what is on the horizon.
+ Tell us a little bit about your work and your creative process.
I have to start this by letting you know that I’m writing this with a tiny baby sleeping on my chest. My answers would have been so different two months ago, and even further away a year ago. Life has taken on a whole new dimension with the birth of Jemima Pearl, and the work balance is yet to be determined. So take the below as a snap shot, not the fully framed portrait.
I’m a manager of musicians. These musicians are women, by choice, and incredibly creative, by luck. My role is often seen as being ‘non creative’, which is endlessly irritating. Creativity is present in nearly everything we do; it’s not just the people who are defined by their art who get to wear that description. My creativity comes from the way I choose to communicate and how I help those who make art present it to the outside world. There is artistry in that, as well as crazy amounts of necessary organisation. I’m lucky that I think fast and act quickly, it helps me get rid of the small jobs to put my creative focus on the “big ideas”. (And to avoid rhetoric…)
+ Do you have daily habits, rituals or schedules to keep you on track and productive?
I don’t procrastinate. Well I do, considering how long it took me to write this, but I just had a baby! I really do try to finish the shittier work first, to give me space to think creatively. The clarity of mind you have when you’ve done all the admin is so necessary. It’s not always possible, with busy schedules and way too many emails, but just getting on with it (and yoga) has meant I feel productive most days. I have also regressed from technology and now will always choose to call someone rather than email. Gives a personal touch. (I also hate the politics of the “X” to sign off a business email. Who is X’ing someone you owe money to?)
+ What are the greatest strengths and challenges in your career?
I’m going to poke the trolls and say my biggest challenge is seeing a distinct lack of women in power positions. The music business is a very male dominated industry, while commercial music itself (the art of it) is dominated by women. This means the majority of decisions and impact on the actual business of music is made by men, which then affects female artists dramatically. I try to be a different voice in a space where I know of only a handful of other full time female managers. That, in turn, becomes my strength.
+ What are you working on now - and what is next?
We’re currently working on the absolutely amazing Marina And The Diamonds Neon Nature tour. It’s an incredible production, with so many beautifully designed elements. We’ve collaborated with fashion designers, milliners, lighting designers and illustrators. I’m so proud of how it’s turned out. I’m also working on keeping a small human alive.
+ And how do you attract the type work you want? Or how did you attract it in the beginning?
I attract the people I work with by being consistent. I only manage women, and I manage a particular kind of artist. I want to find women who are making their art themselves, without compromise, and need that direction to also carry through in their representation and outside communication. It’s hard to trust your vision to another person, and I’m lucky that some incredible artists have chosen to do that with me. (Shout out to Lykke Li for being the first).
+ Who and/or what are you most inspired and influenced by?
I’m always inspired by my artists, they’re my reason for working! I also seek out personal stories from great female writers, because it’s encouraging to hear about other women in the media. I love the journalists Caitlin Moran and Eva Wiseman, and can’t stop googling photos of Amy Poehler doing incredible things. Her website, http://amysmartgirls.com/ is one of the great online movements for young women.
+ What would be a dream project or collaboration?
Is it too sycophantic to say I have done it? Truly, each project I work on feels exciting and defining, I’m endlessly thankful that the people who chose to work with me offer that. Ah, I’m totally lying. I want to perform in a three-woman show with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.
+ What advice would you give to other established or aspiring creative bad ass boss gals?
Just fucking get amongst it. Listen to Bjork when she says that you’ll need to say everything five more times than a man. Realise you’re smarter than most people in the room and your opinion is probably worth far more. Still be a good listener. Channel your energy in to things that feel instinctive and natural for you. Do that and you’ll find your confidence. Once you have that, no one will say no to you again.
+ Have you found there is a strong creative community to engage with where you live?
Being honest, no. I live in London and travel between here, the US and Europe often. There are pockets of people in each place who I could not do this job without, but it’s not a centralised community. Instead I try to maintain my online contact with the people who are important. The music industry is a lonely and competitive place sometimes.
+ What are you currently reading and/or listening to?
I have a tiny baby! Do you think I have time to READ? (I’ll admit I just lost 45 minutes on a hilarious Facebook thread about the 90s…). If I did have the time I would round out my industry cliché by reading Girl In A Band, the Kim Gordon memoir, and listening to, wait for it because he’s a man, Leon Bridges “Coming Home”. It’s Jemima’s favourite record and puts her to sleep by song three. Thank you Leon!
+ Where can we find you?