She Made The Sound: A NC Women's History Playlist by Laura Ballance

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

When I was first asked to come up with a playlist of North Carolina women artists, I was concerned that I would not have enough to choose from. Silly me.

With a little help from my friends, I had more artists than I knew what to do with, so I had to set my parameters:

  • What qualifies the artist as being from North Carolina? If they had ever lived in the state, they qualified, and to my joy and delight, that meant I could include Missy Elliott, who lived in Jacksonville, N.C., in her youth, and Roberta Flack, who was born in Black Mountain.
  • What makes someone an artist? The women in question did not need to be the lead singer in a band to be considered for inclusion. In my opinion as a bass player, there is entirely too much focus placed on lead singers, and thus I was able to include one of my favorite bass players, Jennifer Barwick (née Walker) in her band the Ashley Stove, and fabulous drummer Laura King in her band Bat Fangs.
  • Who qualifies as a woman artist? To be truly inclusive, this list should be open to trans women, thus the powerful Asa.

My playlist is all over the place, ranging from 1969 to today, and is not intended to be complete! I have included a few Merge Records artists: H.C. McEntire, also a member of Mount Moriah; the Angels of Epistemology, whose music was some of the earliest we released on Merge; the aforementioned Ashley Stove; and Wye Oak, whose shimmering Jenn Wasner has another project called Flock of Dimes.

North Carolina is or has been home to an incredibly talented and diverse bunch of artists who identify as female.

Happy Women’s History Month.


Laura Ballance is the co-founder of Merge Records and Superchunk. Merge is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and has been home to bands like Arcade Fire, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Magnetic Fields, Spoon, Waxahatchee, Lambchop, Versus, King Khan & the Shrines, and the Mountain Goats to name a few. Superchunk has released eleven studio albums, most recently the critically acclaimed What a Time to Be Alive. Laura plays bass guitar in Superchunk but no longer performs live with the band due to hearing problems arising from overexposure to sound at high volumes. This has given her more time to pursue other interests such as political activism, making art, sewing, exploring the racial history of North Carolina, and being a parent. She advises everyone to use earplugs at rock shows.