In the latest edition of Music Week we proudly present this year’s expanded Music Week Women In Music Awards Roll Of Honour. Here we speak to new inductee, songwriter and PRS For Music board writer director Michelle Escoffery…
How do you feel about joining the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour?
“Gosh! I am completely surprised. I had absolutely no idea I was nominated and I am so extremely honoured to be in such esteemed company. It is wonderful to be inducted and to share space with peers and colleagues whom I hold in high regard. This is a prestigious acknowledgment and I am very grateful to be counted amongst these amazing women.”
How do you look back on your early years getting into the industry? What challenges did you have to overcome?
“I look back on my early years fondly. I come from a musical family and grew up singing with my older sisters. My father taught us all to sing and harmonise together in four-part harmony. That was the basis of my journey into creating music. My sister, the late Sandra Escoffery, gave me my first exposure to songwriting when she locked me in her bedroom and got me to co-write a song with her at the age of 16. My challenges were breaking out of the boxes that the industry likes to put you in and working really hard not be defined solely as a gospel or R&B writer/singer. Because I was often the youngest in the room, I had to fight to be heard, seen and taken seriously as well as not being looked over for certain sessions because I didn’t fit the mould. I trained myself to try anything at least once and expose myself to as much music and as many genres as possible. I have the great benefit of being raised in the cosmopolitan city of London, while having the opportunity to travel and soak in other cultures, music and how people interact with music on every level. I got to learn from a very early age that music is a language that far exceeds words.”
Did you have a mentor or role model?
“My sister strongly inspired my love for reading and words. She devoured literature and I practically had to have a degree in language to debate with her! For a long time, I wanted to be Missy Elliott! I loved her originality and experimental style of songwriting. I also spent some time with US songwriters Angela Hunte and Andrea Martin and learned a lot about crafting and developing songs from them. My former manager, Marlene Gaynor, was also very instrumental in building my resilience and sense of integrity in how I approach work. Seeing everyone as valuable and human first and foremost and knowing who I am, what I bring to the party and keeping up a good work ethic. I was also A&R’d by Amber Davis for a while when she was at EMI Music Publishing. She was extremely professional, but also very approachable and empathetic to a writer’s needs. She taught me that you can make boss moves and stay approachable and dare I say it, nice.”
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement so far?
“Maintaining my sense of self and my love for music. My relationship with creativity, like anyone’s, has often been seasonal and stormy. When you go through seasons of being in high demand, it’s sometimes difficult to hear your true voice. It’s challenging to stay clear and remain grounded and not get sucked in to believing any hype, true or otherwise. When life hits you hard, it’s challenging to keep the creative tap flowing. I’ve learned that music can be a great outlet. Having the privilege to write for others has allowed me to translate artists’ feelings and put them into the context of a song, thereby giving power to expression and saying what others are feeling. I still love to dance to music and elevate my mood when things feel too much.”
What advice would you offer young female execs about enjoying a successful career in music?
“Feed your passions. Stay true to and focused on your intention. Be well informed and ask questions when you don’t know. It’s OK to accept help. Build a strong network of people who will tell you the absolute truth and above all else, learn to trust your instincts.” What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received? “Be you, it’s OK not to be OK and to think about what you want to say before you say it. Never throw words away, because you can’t take them back once said.”
What’s been the biggest lesson you’ll take away from 2020?
“The things that mean the most to me are the basics. Spending time with people I love, family meals, long walks and then, being in conversation with others and opening up to really listen, hear and strive to understand both sides of the spectrum and all that’s in between. Remembering how important the practice of self care is, cultivating joy amidst great fear. Honouring time with yourself and others and how much work we still have to do in recognising and implementing social equity and inclusion.”