There are sonic attempts to capture the experiences and inequities that inherently come along with being a woman (see: Keith Urban’s “Female,” for better or worse), and then there are the real triumphs; songs that not only touch the issue but push the conversation forward. Country and Americana saw several of these in 2017: namely, Margo Price’s “Pay Gap,” Jason Isbell’s “White Man’s World” and Caroline Spence’s “Softball,” from the Nashville artist’s sophomore LP, Spades and Roses. Anchored by Spence’s crystalline vocals and vivid, insightful lyricism, “Softball” is a rallying cry for a generation of women who don’t want their own set of rules, but instead want to play on the same field as their male counterparts – which Spence vividly illustrates in an emotional new video, premiering exclusively at Rolling Stone Country, featuring over twenty cameos from her friends and colleagues.
Aubrie Sellers, Nora Jane Struthers, Michaela Anne, Kelsey Waldon, Becca Mancari and Lilly Hiatt are among the names chanting along with Spence on the video for “Softball,” which is essentially a snapshot of some of the finest working songwriters today – all of whom happen to be women. The clip also includes Becky Warren, Ali Sperry, Lauren Shera, Logan Brill, Mary Bragg, Annalise Emerick, Elise Davis, Stephanie Lambring,, Rachel Baiman, Emily Hackett, Kristina Murray, Vickie Vaughn, Jesse Lafser, Hailey Whitters and Molly Parden (and some t-shirt props to Erin Rae, Nicole Atkins and Price, too).
Many of these artists (if not all) are no strangers to the double standard at play for female musicians: festival bills that relegate them to the small print and side stages, language that approaches their gender as a genre and radio and streaming services that still treat them like sparsely-used “tomatoes.” And working, as Spence sings, “for 78 cents on the dollar.”
“I tried to write about this subject in a lot of ways,” says Spence. “I figured out the best way to get the point across was to just tell a story. I didn’t want the song to point fingers or be angry; I just wanted it to tell the story of what it’s like to be a woman going through the world. The metaphor of ‘Softball’ solved the problem; it was the right example of an unnecessary division between male and female and a feminine label that has negative connotations.”
Spence wrote “Softball” from her own experience – a baseball fan in her youth, she aspired to be a Baltimore Oriole when she grew up, learning quickly that not only could a woman not play the sport professionally, but they were assigned to a different game altogether, and one with different rules at that. The climate in music, particularly country music, is not dissimilar, where female artists like Spence and her colleagues are pitted against each other for limited spots on their own, smaller playing field. The video for “Softball” shows how not only will these women not settle for softball, but they’re teammates, not competitors.