Women in Pro Audio: Laura Davis Women in Pro Audio: Laura Davis...
“My favorite part of the industry is by far the people.” – Laura Davis
The world could certainly use a lot more voices from women. And at L-Acoustics, we’re proud to provide this platform for the voices and experiences of the talented and adept women working in pro audio and sound. Whether they’re mixing for front-of-house, sound designing a theater show, or working on musical scores for top-grossing films and indie flicks.
Meet Laura Davis
This month we got to interview Laura Davis, a monitor engineer who has most recently worked for Mika, iamiwhoami, M83, and Royksopp and has also mixed FOH for Fever Ray.
Growing up in Liverpool in the UK, Laura always wanted to be a lawyer, but at age 15, the school she attended required work experience before graduating. “I figured I didn’t want to go to a law firm and answer phones, so I decided to look into the music industry because that was something I was passionate about. I came across a company called Adlib, and they accepted me into their work experience program.”
After two weeks of working at Adlib, Laura was offered a job, and because of that offer, she found herself in the predicament of whether she should follow her passion or go for a law degree. “Mum and Dad expected the law degree… Of course, the music and audio world won the debate! Needless to say, they are now happy with my decision,” she says with a wink.
Laura mentions that back in 2007, there weren’t many women in the industry, and she gradually became accustomed to the odd sexist remark. “But my young positive attitude batted off all the usual remarks. I think, today, things would be a little different. I remember once explaining to two guys how to plug in two CDJs while standing there and not doing it myself because women weren’t allowed to touch anything. Oh, how I laugh at that now!”
Laura worked for Adlib for five more years; then, in 2012, she started her freelance career. “My favorite part of the industry is by far the people. I love audio, and even though I am a little bit of a technophobe, I love learning new skills every day. There is a constant flow of new equipment and software that keeps the job interesting. If I ever hit a challenge in the industry, I always try to give it my best, and if my best isn’t good enough, then at least I tried! I give this same advice to everyone else.”
Laura recalls a few memorable shows during her career. “Highlights of my career include headlining the second stage at Coachella with The Knife and closing the Brit awards with Emeli Sande. One summer, we had to fly around on a private jet because we had too much gear for any airline to accept us. That was a very fun summer! One of my biggest highlights, though, was when we (the M83 touring party) got invited to NASA for a guided tour with an astronaut for the day. That was possibly the best day ever! Playing shows in Asia is always a highlight for me too.”
Regarding the artists she likes to work with the most, Laura mentions, “Working with Scandinavian artists! I absolutely love working with them, and I love their work ethic and creativity. They work at a different pace, with love, care, and compassion; I love that.”
Where it’s Lacking
Every industry has its weak points, regardless of how fun, engaging, exciting, or innovative it is. Laura shares her opinion on the “soft spots” of the pro audio industry: “My biggest criticism about this industry is the lack of people being able to ask for advice without being ridiculed. 90% of people are lovely, but I’m so tired of seeing newbies ridiculed by others for asking questions. No question is too daft in my world, and I will happily answer any question, no matter how silly they may be. I’ve been that person on tour, feeling out of my depth and unable to ask questions; it’s just not fun.”
And regarding where the industry is lacking when it comes to women, she elaborates, “I feel the industry has gotten a lot better in the last decade where sexism is concerned, but sadly we are still not quite there. There is still a lack of women in the industry, but sadly I don’t think it will ever balance out completely due to the time away from home we generally spend. For many women, it’s not a problem, but this is now something I have first-hand experience with choosing between my family and my career. A few people I know have recently taken their babies on tour with them, but I know this wouldn’t always be an option, unfortunately.”
Becoming a Mom
Laura has recently become a mom, and as it does for many women, it has presented some new thoughts and challenges. “This has brought a lot of emotions. I think, ‘Have I committed career suicide?’ ‘Should I hide that I have a child?’ ‘Will I ever work again?’ With the pandemic being a financial hindrance, and now, with the cost of a new addition, it’s quite a daunting predicament. Luckily I gave birth during COVID, so my little boy is now a year old. In some ways, yes, I have committed career suicide, but my son is 100% worth it. I can no longer commit to tours over certain periods of time (which rules out quite a few), but I can still be an engineer and mix shows. I have gigs lined up, though, so everything looks positive. Thankfully.”
Laura mentions that when it comes to pro tips and some good advice, “My best tip for mixing monitors is to be in tune with the artist. You can be the best engineer in the world, but if you don’t connect or understand the person you are mixing for, then you may as well mix blindfolded. The best advice I could give another female entering the industry is to forget the label. You are an engineer, creative, tech—whatever you are—go in there like a boss and own it at whatever level you feel comfortable at; just be kind to others and yourself. Don’t be scared to ask questions because people will gladly help, and those who don’t generally don’t have the answers. I feel the best skills women in the industry can learn are not to let sexism get in the way, to focus hard on what they want to do, and to call out the people who may be stuck in an old mindset and change their opinion. People will only change and learn if they are shown their beliefs are wrong.”
“In the future, I would love to see more women and other minority groups in the industry! I hope to see a more inclusive space in pro audio for people to learn and grow in their careers. I feel the industry is miles ahead of others with this, but there is still room for improvement.”