Daisy Rock Guitars - interview with Tish Ciravolo

Daisy Rock Girls Guitar's Founder and President Tish Ciravolo talks to Alice Monk from MIA (Music Industries Association) about her mission to get more girls playing guitar.

17th October 2017

Alice catches up with Tish Ciravolo of Daisy Rock Guitars!

Combining a lifelong passion for making music with a desire to “level the playing field” for dedicated female guitarists and bassists of all ages, Tish Ciravolo founded Daisy Rock Girl Guitars in 2000, creating guitars and basses specifically comfortable for women to play.

Ciravolo’s dream is that “every girl who wants to play guitar is welcomed and inspired to do so”

Tish played bass in rock and punk bands in the 1970’s and 80’s but felt there was always a disconnection between female performers and the instruments.

With an idea stemming from her daughter’s drawing of a daisy, Tish launched a guitar company with the mission to help girls make music. The Daisy Rock Girl Guitar Company not only designed guitars with shapes and colours that would appeal to females, Tish also ensured music stores who sold the products were educated on the needs of female performers.

Over the years, Daisy Rock have produced a number of signature models by influential female musicians, including The Bangles’ guitarist Vicki Peterson, the ‘Queen of Rockabilly’ Wanda Jackson, and Sugarland bassist Annie Clements.

The brand is now being distributed by one of the biggest and most trusted independent distributors in both the UK and Europe; JHS.

“Daisy Rock is doing whatever it can to help girls play guitar and enjoy music”

So, here’s my chat with the very inspirational and empowering Tish Ciravolo!

A: What are the social implications of statements such as ‘She’s quite good… for a girl’?

T: Wow *laughs* you know, I think we’ve been dealing with this for a veeerrry long time!

When I first started playing in bands (it’s almost been 30 years now, which is sad!) that phrase was there – it’s always been there.

Although things may seem a lot better today, I really do believe that sexism still exists in the guitar industry and I don’t think that we’re going to get rid of it anytime soon.

I mean if you put into the context of NASA’s world, for example; when they have a male astronaut and a female astronaut do they look at her and say “Wow, she’s pretty good… for a girl?”

You wonder, does that really happen in other industries? I think it does; I don’t think it’s something that’s specific to the music industry. But unfortunately it is clearly very prevalent in our industry.

A: Why is it important for female musicians to feel empowered?

T: Well, because we’re late to the game. A lot of men started playing guitars in the 60’s when hardly any females did. 50 years later, we’re still playing catch up and trying to ensure that there’s just as many females playing instruments, all across the board.

I think that music making has always primarily been viewed as a something that guys do. When girl bands finally started coming about, bands like ‘Fanny’ in the late 1960’s/1970’s, bands like ‘The Runaways’, it was a massive eye opener, I think lots of women thought ‘Wow, you know maybe I could do this too?’ because before that, there was hardly ANY female musicians.

There was a brilliant movie released this year called “Hidden Figures” – all those girls were using similar words and phrases to what we use in our industry, such as “We feel empowered because we are incredibly smart girls and we’re a part of something amazing – other women should feel this too”, and in the guitar industry we’re saying “We want to bring all the girls that aren’t making music yet to the forefront and show them that we can empower them to do this!”

A: Historically, advertising and marketing in our industry have been skewed towards a male demographic. The standard rock advert would depict sweating long-haired guys riffing away on a guitar or women in various states of undress to ‘promote’ a product. Have you noticed any improvement on this in recent years?

T: Oh my gosh, absolutely! It’s really changed in the last couple of years. I recently saw an advert by “Guitar Center” – a pivotal company in actively making this change to more equal advertising (whether it’s about time or whether it’s late in the game).

Now you turn on the television, and you see their ads showing a girl having a great time playing a guitar. It might sound simple, but it’s such a leap and a bound from when I started in the 80’s, when it was always about some chick in a bikini coming out of a swimming pool saying “My man plays an (insert brand) guitar, you should get one too”.

We actually have a standing joke that I should promote Daisy Rock Guitars by bringing 4 guys, in G-strings along with me to the NAMM show to work my booth. Not that it would be very appropriate, but that’s the mentality; every guy in the world would think ‘Woah, that’s just so weird’, yet I’m sure they wouldn’t find it so out of the ordinary to see promotion by girls in bikinis… You’ve just got to try and change the system.

A: Some say that that the ‘Men’s locker room’ atmosphere in music shops could play a part in there being less female musicians. How would you encourage music stores to consider the needs of female consumers?

T: When I started my company in 2000, I went to my very first NAMM show. I was selling guitars to dealers on consignment, and I was telling them ‘Listen, if you take this cute little daisy or heart or pink guitar and you put it in the window of your shop, I PROMISE you that the Mom who’s never even considered walking into your shop will come in.’ So that was the first way for me to get the dealers to understand how to market towards the female demographic.

The second part of that, however, is how to make a safe environment. So, a couple of years ago I went and talked to the employees and their managers at “Guitar Center” and expressed to them that girls now want to use their stores as a safe place to hang out and be a part of the social scene and not feel subjected to the ‘Oh what are you doing here, are you waiting for your boyfriend?’ comments and other horrible situations that I heard of in the 1980’s and 1990’s. As I’ve said, it’s still prevalent today and I do still hear some horror stories but by absolutely no means is it as bad as it was.

With every day norms such as non-specific gender bathrooms now, for example, it’s almost as if it doesn’t even matter what gender you are, as long as you’re a feminist. Whether you’re a boy or girl, we’re all just musicians. That’s where I want it to go.

A: It has been pointed out that there are more female guitarists than ever before, suggesting that women feel more involved and welcomed in the music industry. However, this is unfortunately not reflected by the growth of females working in our industry. How do you think we can reach out and appeal to female candidates?

T: I do think its marketing. When you have someone like Beyoncé who makes SURE that she takes an all-female band on tour with her, or like Lady Gaga playing guitar to an incredible standard live. The idea, again, is how society talks to these girls who are aged 6-12 about picking up a guitar to play, making it seem like it’s a cool thing. That’s not historically what’s happened. When I started my company 17 years ago, we determined that about 4% of the guitar population were female. Just 2 years ago we did another survey and it was closer to 30%! Come back and talk to me in 50 years and maybe it will be 50% – that would be a truly amazing accomplishment.

A: There is a danger of products that reinforce gender stereotypes – it may be argued that they encourage pre-conceived notions of who you should be, or what kind of music you should create. What would you say to people who comment that pink coloured guitars or ones with cute animals on may discourage those who don’t necessarily fit in to that box?

T: I think that’s an individual choice. I’ve been dealing with this sort of idea since I came out with a pink guitar; being criticised for trying to perpetuate this Barbie myth that all girls like pink.

I did it because my daughter liked pink, but I also came out with blue and purple and we even make black guitars and professional guitars.

I don’t think you’re going to put someone in a box because they chose to play the guitar that looks like a pink daisy, I think it’s a phase. When you have kids, you see them going through these phases of their lives while they’re developing their individual personalities.

I have no problem with the girls out there who say ‘I’ve never wanted to play a pink daisy, I’ve been attracted to the black design since day one’. My opinion on that is I don’t care, as long as you’re a girl and you play guitar. My mission statement is to do whatever it takes to get more girls to learn how to play guitar, and that doesn’t mean they have to play a pink guitar or even a Daisy Rocks guitar, they just have to play guitar. Whatever is going to get her to want to play is the main thing.

A: Daisy Rock Guitars are now being distributed by JHS; one of the biggest and most trusted independent distributors in both the UK and Europe. What does this mean for the brand?

T: It’s been a really big step for Daisy Rock Guitars. We started the relationship with JHS about 2 months ago but I’ve been talking to them for about 6 months and I couldn’t be happier that they came on board and got involved.

I think they’re really going to inject a lot of energy into the brand and I think they’re going to get Daisy Rocks to places that maybe people don’t really understand or know enough about what a Daisy Rock Guitar is.

I just got a picture this morning actually, of 3 girls in Ukraine enjoying their Daisy Rock guitars!

Some of the best times I’ve had with Daisy Rock Guitars is when I receive random photos of all kinds of girls, young and old, showing off their Daisy Rocks!  It really rocks my world every day and touches my heart

My point is that JHS have got these fingers that can reach out to little places in Europe that may not yet know that Daisy Rock exists, and I’m genuinely so glad to be a part of that; I know that they’ll be able to put our guitars into the hands of girls who have never considered playing, and that’s really exciting for me.

Here’s some thoughts from Dennis Drumm, the MD at JHS

I think Tish and I definitely share a mission, “get more girls playing guitars” and actually anything that does that and getting as many people playing musical instruments of any type, at any age has got to be a good thing.

On the topic of ‘gender stereotypes’ some people really do need to ‘get a life’. With, for example, major UK retailers ‘de-gendering’ their childrens clothing ranges and even official government bodies like The Office for National Statistics announcing that the next UK National Census in 2021 will not have a question in it which establishes the gender of the respondent, it’s just all gone a bit too far with the ‘let’s not offend anyone’ PC brigade and in my humble opinion, we are all in great danger of being reduced to a monotonous grey androgyny.

Whatever happened to personal choice?

Gender ambiguity has been a positive contributor and a feature of music, literature and art since time immemorial, so actually, who cares if a guy plays a pink guitar, or a girl a green one? Is there a natural colour for one or the other, or the LGBT community, or any other nuance of all the natural variations in sexuality and orientation? No of course not!

Daisy Rock is about fun, about making music, about interacting with fellow humans to create art, about living life, making progress and achieving personal fulfilment through the satisfaction of the creative process.

Statistics show that presently, a huge percentage of first time buyers of guitars are young and female, some’ll buy a traditional colour, (what’s that anyway?), and style, that’s great, it works for them, others will be attracted by the ‘pink sparkly one; ‘cos it suits their mood, style, their view of themselves, their aspirations, whatever . Should we actively discriminate against that in pursuit of political correctness? Of course not.

JHS is delighted to be distributing this great brand throughout the UK, and Eire, Benelux, France and Germany where style and femininity are ever present. With terrific quality, great prices and an immense fun factor, Daisy Rock is anti-repressive, supports diversity, has stood head and shoulders above the ‘run of the mill’ since 2000 and gives anyone who plays them a brilliant instrument which in any colour is a clear expression of personal choice.

Here’s some of the wonderful pictures that Tish has received from her Daisy Rockers over the years:

Daisy Rock MIA article