‘Icon For Hire’ Singer Ariel On Her Female Fans, Feminism, & Lyrics That Make A Difference


“Is a level playing field too much to ask for?”

That’s the question Icon For Hire singer Ariel asks in their latest single ‘Now You Know’. The follow up music video has just been released and together with the in-your-face lyrics about the sexist double standards thrust upon female artists today, there is no doubt what the message is.

Hailing from Decatur, Illinois, Icon For Hire are primarily made up of singer Ariel and guitarist Shawn Jump. They have been performing together since 2007 and have released two full length albums. ‘Now You Know’ is one of those songs that will stay in your head for days, not only because of it’s catchy chorus and easily remembered hooks, but because of the driving force behind it.

We had an opportunity to talk to Ariel about this driving force – female empowerment, and the dissection of the politics surrounding female artists. Let’s be honest, we as listeners are ALL familiar with this conundrum. We’ve read about Beyonce being accused of being too political in her music videos. Miley Cyrus has been slammed for portraying her sexuality the way she wants to. Kelly Clarkson is raked over the coals for putting on weight after having a baby (SHE HAD A BABY PEOPLE!!!) and refusing to adhere to conventional celebrity standards which demand a woman snap back to Victoria’s Secret model size immediately post partum. The list goes on and on, and has been going on since women started performing.


Why is is that those women who seek to question the status quo or rebel are labelled as “ugly”, “whore” or “too loud”? Where as the men who do the same are the revolutionaries, visionaries and leaders of a movement. This is what ‘Now you Now’ seeks to answer, with lyrics like:

The scene is so sexist, believe me I get it, we’d probably sell more records if I flaunted my ass and chest but forget it…
I knew I’d regret it if I tried to blend in and pretend
Be something other than I am
Like have you noticed I’m a woman
Didn’t come to downplay it, or to play it up either…
But it feels like everybody’s just a little too interested
In the fact that females can indeed make music
Our interviews, our bios, – they all make it a point
“Female Fronted Band, from Decatur, Illinois”
And just once, I’d like to see some other band’s resume go out of their way to say they’re fronted by a male…
Women don’t all sound the same
Who gave us the idea that “Female Fronted” is a genre anyway?

Whether its the presence of feminism in music, her responsibility as a female artist to ensure her young female fans hear an empowering message, or using her platform to send a message period, Ariel has something to say about it it.


Tell us about how Icon For Hire came together, and the meaning behind the name?

I’d been waiting to meet my band mates my whole life, so I had journals full of songs and my first stage outfit practically picked out for years. Shawn and I met in Decatur, Illinois by accident and started collaborating immediately. We wrote angst-y songs, practiced in his living room, and tried to keep it down so his neighbors wouldn’t call the cops on our late night rehearsals.

After a few months we managed to get on a local show. This was a huge deal! We needed a band name to throw on the flier. “Icon For Hire” was a jab at pop culture, how nearly anyone can be considered an icon with the right body or the right hook-up. We were making fun of the industry we were signing up for.

You have a lot of young female fans who make up your huge fan base and audience, how does that impact the types of songs you write and the messages you want to sing about?

It impacts me in that I write almost all our songs for my 14-year old self. I try to write the music she would’ve wanted, and perhaps needed, to hear. I’ve always thought our listeners would pick up on the target demographic I have in my head and that we’d have a predominantly female fan base, but that actually hasn’t been the case. While we love our male fans, I feel more in sync with our female listeners. I make the music for them and lucky for us the guys come along too.

You’ve just released the music video for your single ‘Now You Know’, can you tell us the story behind the song and visuals?

‘Now You Know’ is me sharing my experience of being female in a male-dominated industry. I’m not chastising anyone, I’m just telling my own story. Honestly, it’s a story I’ve wanted to share for years. I wrote it after a show I’d been to which featured exclusively female-fronted bands. I was trying to process it all. I don’t often have the luxury of being an audience member so I was struck by the prejudices coming from the crowd, and even my own head, throughout the night. The attitude in the room was, “If this show only has chicks, then they’d better bring it.” So wrong! ‘Now You Know’ came out effortlessly and whole-heartedly. I mean every word.

The song is pretty literal, so we wanted to do something more visual for the video. The story line follows a little girl feeling like an outsider at a slumber party. She is friends with the other girls, but she feels differently than they do. We come by and steal her away from the boring sleepover to have her join our rock ‘n’ roll adventures instead. We smash things in the desert and put on a show in the driveway. The idea is that we are trying to show her she doesn’t have to be like other girls, she can just be herself. Then she wakes up from the sleepover to see it was all a dream…or was it?…

Another cool aspect of this video is that it was directed by a woman, Jamie Holt, who is being mentored by ‘Twilight’ director Catherine Hardwicke. Why was it important for you to have a female director? 

Actually we found Jamie completely by accident, after passing on a few other directors (who were male). We wanted to work with Jamie because of her fantastic energy and enthusiasm for the song. The fact she was a woman was awesome but in no way necessary. She killed it. We can’t wait to do it again.

Aside from owning the stage with your band, you are also a TV star (appearing on HGTV and DIY Network) and host your own podcast called The REL show. This week you spoke about feminism. Can you share some of your message here?

In my episode, “Do you think I’m a feminist?” I was responding to a fan question that asked if I considered myself a feminist. I was interested in her question because I actually couldn’t say with certainty if I was. I looked up the definition and it means that you are pro-feminism, which means you support equal treatment for men and women. “Ok, then,” I thought, “I’m a feminist. Check.”


I didn’t tell my viewers they should be feminists, I just read them the definition of feminism and asked if anybody could disagree that men and women should be treated as equals. I mean really, can any sane human being be like, “Nah, women should continue being oppressed or treated as the second-class gender.” I know those dear idiots exist online, but I’ve never knowingly met someone who feels that way, and I doubt a lot of my viewers feel that way, because most of my viewers are kind-hearted and intelligent.

I don’t know if the ultimate battle here is to get everyone on board in saying “Yep, I’m a feminist”. I don’t think that’s super relevant here. What I care about is that we all agree that the genders should be treated equally and contribute to making that happen.

Obviously, the term “feminist” is (unfortunately) very loaded and misunderstood. Hopefully our individual feelings about being associated with feminism won’t deter us from making the important changes that need to happen in our world regarding this issue. Because that’s the point.


On GTHQ we have featured a handful of female artists who are starting to speak up about the sexist ways women are treated within the music industry, and in some cases they are the victims of harassment and abuse by very powerful industry execs. As a female artist, why do you think more women need to start speaking up about this, and how do you think the power dynamics will eventually change?

I love to hear that speaking up is becoming more common. Every time somebody speaks up, it makes it easier for the next woman to do the same. It also, ideally, makes it harder for the mistreatment to continue. It helps all of us when one brave woman calls out the mistreatment for what it is. The rest of us can resonate with that and not allow it to continue in our own lives. We keep raising the standard and in effect say, “If she’s not putting up with that, I don’t have to either. If she has the guts to speak up, I totally can too.”

Do you think artists have a responsibility to use their platform to sing and speak about important social issues? 

I think artists have a responsibility to make intriguing art. If that involves social issues, than it’s all the more intriguing. There are a lot of performers who seemingly don’t have much to say which drives me crazy. It feels like such a waste of influence! But I get it, not everyone feels compelled to jump in and share their personal take on things. I’ve always been kind of obnoxious in that way – wanting to make people listen to what I had to say and make myself heard. That’s why I became a musician.

What makes you a powerful woman?

I am a powerful woman because I am bright and brilliant and capable. You are a powerful woman or man for the same reason.


You can follow everything Icon For Hire is doing on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.


[Images by Graham Fielder, FOCOCreative and VatchePhoto]



  1. Well, I think she is very clever woman, but some feminists are just monsters, who don’t want equality, but female dominance and that is what men hate on feminism.

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