Text republished from Ara Lee Nasty Woman Get Sh*t Done webpage.
“It all started with an ear worm, a women’s writing retreat, and and a bottle of whiskey.”
A collaboration with nasty woman Beth Wood, the song brought together over 50 Portland musicians and citizens with the goal of resisting, persisting, and raising money for Planned Parenthood along the way. Read more about the Nasty Woman Project HERE.
100% of download profits benefit Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette.
“This past January, I was at a writing retreat with my dear friend Beth Wood and a mansplainer. If you don’t know what a mansplainer is, this is good news. For the rest of us, it can bring up a particular kind of lady fury fueled by a general frustration at the gender roles still so prevalent in our world. This coupled with the current political situation had filled us with some fire, so we sat down to hash out the song, asked our friend Jen Hajj to join us, and wrote so many verses that we could barely whittle them down.
What came from that was an acoustic version of Nasty Woman. A few months later on the Cayamo singer songwriter cruise, we rehearsed it in our teeny tiny ship room (above). Beth and I sang it for the first time in front of a large audience, an aid of Hilary Clinton’s heard it, and asked if it was recorded so she could share it with Hilary. This question lit a new fire. What if we could record it and make as a lady power anthem in these crazy days? And what if we could raise money for our local chapter of Planned Parenthood with it? It seemed like a good idea in the middle of the ocean. With more whiskey.
Enter Steven Tracy. One of my very favorite producers who heard the song, and offered to produce it pro-bono for the cause, along with his lady love, producer Celeste Amadee. They would be in Portland for 24 hours. Could we book studio space and get it done in a day? Could we feature some bad ass women players? Horn section? Sure seemed like a good idea, even without the whiskey.
And then all my favorite players said yes: Jamie Stillway on telecaster, Nicolle Black on drums, Mary Sue Tobin on tenor sax, Michele Medler on alto sax, Paul Brainard on trumpet (who also arranged the horns), and Allen Hunter on bass. And then to icing that cake some a bunch of my favorite singers came down to sing back up: Redray Frazier, Marilyn Keller, Bre Gregg, Sarah Clarke, Rob Stroup, Naomi Hooley, Nathan Earle, Juliet Howard, Shelly Rudolph, Katie Regan, Genna McAllister, and Michelle Martinez. And then, yeah, we needed vibraslap and djembe, so Steven Skolnik did his thing.
What we liked to call the “Nastional Anthem” was born.
So then there was the challenge of getting folks to download the darned thing so we could actually raise some money. Who even paid for music anymore? Perhaps a video would help people hear the song, and get inspired to pay that iTunes dollar so we could support PPCW.
Enter Josh Sales. A documentary videographer we heard about through a friend who was traveling the world telling stories of what it is like to be woman in different cultures today. Clearly, he was our feminist. He took on the project, and then he ran. Ericka Heidrick produced the video, and Jeff Stuart at Nia donated his space for us to film it in. A gaggle of incredible ladies of all ages, races, and walks of life showed up – danced, sang, and told their stories, most without ever having met one another. The energy and inspiration in the room that day was palpable, and it was one of the most inspiring times in my recent memory.
Josh then went down the internet rabbit hole and found so many powerful women across this world that we could scarcely fit a small percentage in. It blew my mind learning the stores of so many women I had never heard of, and revisiting the stories of women who have changed history. I’m so proud to add another voice to this massive sea of unapologetic nasty women – visionaries, leaders, glass ceiling breakers, mothers, healers, heroes. And if you have read all the way to the end of this, go download the single, won’t you? Pay what you want on Bandcamp. Defend our human rights by supporting Planned Parenthod. Resist. Persist. Nanaste!”
Ara Lee, when pressed, calls herself a singer-songwriter. But the image of a wispy, soft-voiced, guitar strummer that might come to mind couldn’t be farther from what she does. Call it soul, call it folk, call it gospel, Ara sings like a woman with something to say, in a voice that makes you stop and listen, with lyrics that make you remember why you decided to be human once upon a time. Crediting Nina Simone and Rumi among her influences, Ara is equally comfortable with stripped down acoustic-driven folk and her signature soulful, tribal grooves. Known for her commanding stage presence, Ara Lee’s shows, often called “musical church,” cut straight to the gut. Backed by her band they’re nothing short of a full tilt revival.