Kelleigh Bannen Says the State of Women in Country Music Is 'Really Wild'

Kelleigh Bannen has been a member of the country music industry for some time, having signed her first deal back in 2012. Several years later, she left her label, striking out as an independent artist in 2016 and releasing and handful of singles as well as her 2018 EP, The Joneses.

To connect with her fans in another format besides music, Bannen began hosting a podcast, This Nashville Life, which sees her sit down with various members of the music industry to give fans an inside look at life in Music City and the various challenges artists face, as well as a few trade secrets.

The singer shared with during CMA Fest in Nashville that the project came about as she was "thinking about ways to connect to fans that were within my control and within my power. And trying to make the very, very most of those opportunities."

This Nashville Life finds Bannen talking to everyone from publishers to executives to creators, discussing "everything that is music related in the world of Nashville."

One topic she often touches on is the state of women in country music, which has been a major point of discussion among female artists in recent years. It's been proven that women are given extremely low spin numbers on country radio, a fact Bannen doesn't think most people actually realize.

"I think it's really wild and I think what is so interesting to me is that it's so shocking to people that there could be this level of disparity between men and women's access to radio play, that people think that it's hyperbole or they think that it's sour grapes," she explained.

"I find in this most recent incarnation of the conversation that that is still what's happening and people are like 'What? That can't be true.' And honestly that's encouraging that they think that can't be possible," she continued. "Now we have to actually say 'No, unfortunately it is true. It's actually fact.' I think that's just an interesting part of the education process that we still have to do."

The lack of gender parity at country radio was recently highlighted in Gender Representation on Country Format Radio: A Study of Published Reports from 2000-2018, a report from Dr. Jada Watson of the University of Ottawa in consultation with WOMAN Nashville that examined Mediabase chart data. The Mediabase country airplay chart is used to determine countdown shows and other accolades, and the report found that last year alone, the ratio of men to women on country radio was 9.7:1.


"I think for so many of us I think the other thing that you overcome is this talking point that people will say, 'Well probably women just aren't making as compelling music,'" Bannen said. "And sorry, but all evidence to the contrary."

Photo Credit: Getty / Leah Puttkammer