As women in bluegrass ourselves, Bethany and I have been very fortunate to be impacted by so many indomitable and influential women in the industry.
There are so many artists who have inspired us, so it was very hard to choose. We tried to narrow it down to three who have helped form Paper Dolls!
This is music you should definitely be listening to, if you aren't already.
I remember being thirteen years old at my first IBMA in Raleigh, North Carolina. The room was filled with girls in glittering ball gowns, gliding across marble floors, men dressed in suits, the steady drone of mumbling crowds, and the roar of stringed instruments flooding through the open theater doors.
Up until 2016, a woman had never won Mandolin Player of the Year, in all thirty years IBMA had been operating. I held my breath in anticipation, as they announced Sierra Hull as the first woman to win. Her painfully and beautifully honest lyrics, brilliancy, and lustrous tone on mandolin always seems to create such a smooth sonic landscape. She has changed the acoustic scene and mandolin players for the past decade. A day or two before the awards show, Sierra was kind enough to take a couple hours out of her busy IBMA schedule to talk to me about mandolin, show me her technique, and spend some time with a very excited and humbled thirteen year old little girl with a mandolin. Watching other kind and powerful women create brilliant art, and shatter the glass ceiling like she has certainly done, motivated me to keep creating my own music as a kid.
Sharon Gilchrist was my favorite mandolin teacher of all time, and will always be one of my favorite mandolin players in the world.
She started teaching me mandolin at 10 years old, and kept on doing so for many years. Her attention to detail and deep knowledge of how to smoothly navigate the mandolin's fretboard is absolutely astounding. I couldn't have asked for a better role model in music to look up to as a child. I once had a mandolin teacher who made me cry out of frustration when I was first starting out, but Sharon was always patient and kind. She would explain materiel however many times she needed to, until I understood the formula. Sharon is a woman who puts her entire heart and soul into her art, and creates ingenious music that has impacted me and so many others for a lifetime. If I could become even half the beautiful heart and musical giant she is someday, I will be more than satisfied with my efforts.
Few others have impacted the music scene like Alison Krauss. Her sweet and searing music played around our Georgia home on Pandora almost year round.
Our windows open, heavy summer air, and the sound of her albums remains one of my most vivid childhood memories. The originality of her whispery and haunting tone is something hardly any singer has been able to replicate. Alison Krauss and Union Station was a pivotal hierarchy for many bluegrass bands, including us.
About the Author:
Victoria Grace is the lead singer for Paper Dolls, mandolin player, SEO Specialist, writer, and an IBMA Nominee. She has won competitions for singing and mandolin, and is currently attending Berklee College of Music.