It’s no secret that the Indy music scene is alive and thriving with talented artists. Between the bustling activity near Fountain Square or the rumblings of the Mass Ave Arts District, there’s surely a musical flavor that caters to everyone’s unique taste.
As the city (cautiously) reopens and life returns to almost normal, Indianapolis and its surrounding cities are slowly coming back to life just in time for summer. That means patio season and wine gardens are also returning to their regularly scheduled summer programming, which also equals more opportunities for live music viewing. We did the digging for you and rounded up some of the best and most influential women in the Indianapolis music scene, so here’s some talent you should know about and be listening for:
DJ Gabby Love
If you’ve ever turned on your car radio, the chances are very high that you’ve heard Gabrielle Love mix a tune or two while you’re driving through Indianapolis. More commonly referred to as DJ Gabby Love, she’s an on-air host and mixer for RadioNow 100.9, and is quickly climbing the ranks as one of the Circle City’s most sought-after DJs.
“Over the course of the last two years, I have gone from being just a DJ to now also being an On-Air Talent on Indy’s RadioNow 100.9, currently hosting weekday afternoons,” Love said. “I have truly found and love my voice (in all facets of my life) and with my trajectory, I have never been so sure of my music career and the things I will accomplish.”
Music is just about everything to Hoosier Dome owner, Andrea McPherson. Established in 2010, the Hoosier Dome has since morphed into a must-visit music venue for artists of all kinds and music listeners of all ages. In addition to owning one of the finest venues in Indy, McPherson is also a performer herself, operating under the stage name “Brightly Wild.”
“If you asked me what I wanted to be when I was a kid, my answer was always centered around music,” she said. “I would say I wanted to be a ‘singer,’ and then eventually I also dreamt of owning my own music venue. Now I am doing both of those things, and I couldn’t be happier.”
If alternative music is your jam, look no further than Kristen Bales. This Indianapolis-based performer picked up a guitar and voice lessons when she was 13 and never looked back. She released her first single in 2017, “Therapy,” and is releasing a single every month this year, which will be compiled into a full-length album in December. As for her music style, she draws inspiration from Lake Street Dive, Norah Jones, and Alabama Shakes.
“I always tell my songwriting students to ‘write from who they are—their experience, their lives, what they’ve seen and how they perceive it.’ Oftentimes I feel like I’m repeating it back to myself as a distinct reminder of my ‘why,’” Bales said. “A story is worth sharing, worth giving back to the world—the cost of sharing is little to none when the reward of sharing alongside others is so much more beautiful.”
Also known as Brandi Caruthers, this Indy-based musician, arts administrator, and entrepreneur is using her voice (literally) to make the world a little bit better than she found it. In addition to her music career, BOOKS also hosts a podcast, “Invisible Ink,” and owns Pink Power Mixtape, which is her debut radio show. As if that’s not enough for one person, BOOKS also founded Smart Girl Records, which she uses to share the stories of women of color and marginalized individuals in Indiana.
“Music is truly my love language and how I best communicate with the world,” BOOKS said. “Doing so, and being in the industry in artistic and professional capacities, I have a responsibility to be the best version of myself as I can. So, my mission includes not only amplifying my own voice and sharing my own stories, but amplifying others—especially women and people of color.”
Jody Friend is taking the Indy music scene by storm, to sum it all up. Together with her band, Public Universal Friend, which she’s the lead singer for, she has played at a number of hot-spot venues and made noteworthy appearances in the city, including WFYI’s “Small Studio Sessions” and the Emmy-winning “Music in Transit” series.
“I’m a trans lesbian born in the south, now living in the midwest, who released a coming out album in the middle of a global pandemic,” Friend said. “This new season promptly launched me into my 30s by way of the intrinsically public medium of live music. I am my 12-year-old self’s wildest dream and worst nightmare.”
Indy-based vocalist Okara Imani is using her creative style to create work that “serves as a reflection of self, into self, and the love that resonates between.” Imani believes in creating genuine and resonating connections between us all. In addition to producing music, she’s also the creator and owner of the podcast, “Just Happy To Be Here.”
“Creating is what I was born to do, not just as an artist, but I believe as a human being,” Imani said. “I endeavor to remain tapped into the balanced, feminine Kali-Shakti energy that both gives birth and cleanses with its inner fire. If you listen to one of my earliest works known to the public, those that sprang up from my poems, you can hear how these philosophies and convictions color my text, tone, and teaching styles.”
Annie Skinner wears many hats in the realm of music. For starters, she’s the co-owner of Indy CD & Vinyl. With the help of her storefront, Skinner has booked and promoted hundreds of concerts and DJing events, such as her monthly DJ dance night, “Spellbound at White Rabbit Cabaret.” As the co-creator and DJ of Spellbound Indy, she helps promote Indy’s alternative, goth, and darkwave open format music scene.
“Ever since I moved here, my mission has been to help make Indianapolis a better place to live, and after two decades, I have been able to help fulfill that mission with my record store, Indy CD & Vinyl,” Skinner said.
Mary Kay Huse
When it comes to the music industry, Mary Kay Huse prefers to find value in the experiences she’s been fortunate to have. Huse is the CEO and co-founder of Mandolin, the leading live streaming platform for concerts. She’s a seasoned technology executive who’s also passionate about live music, and during her time in the business, she’s worked at some of the largest software companies in the world.
“We started Mandolin right as the pandemic tore the industry down to its roots—artists making music, but no one making enough to sustain themselves,” Huse said. “Without a proven plan to keep fans and artists connected, we joined the industry to rebuild one. And while it’s definitely not always been easy, doing so made me love and appreciate the people here. It’s been a wild ride so far, and it’s still only the beginning.”
Ali Blaha was quite literally born into music. She was raised by two musicians who fell in love after meeting in a band. Today, Blaha and her parents are bandmates in a local group titled, “StarScape.” Their music is categorized as classic rock and dance music, and they strive to bring their audiences classics from the 70s all the way to modern day.
“Without music, I wouldn’t exist,” Blaha said. “Music has always been a great passion of mine and my formal relationship with music began at a young age. I am now in StarScape with some of the most talented and passionate musicians whom I have ever known, including my parents, which I never imagined being fortunate enough to say. Being able to perform with them is like nothing that I could describe with words. Nothing compares to working with musicians who are as dedicated and as passionate as you.”
In addition to being an instructor of jazz saxophone at Ball State University, Amanda Gardier is also a saxophonist and composer. She’s also been known to whip up a mean tune at the Jazz Kitchen from time to time.
“It is a real joy to be able to dedicate my life to music,” Gardier said. “As a musician, I have the privilege of participating in a variety of creative projects with a diverse array of people. I’ve been fortunate to experience some amazing moments with bandmates and audience members alike, and I look forward to creating many more special memories through music.”
Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor who is counting down the days until it’s free music on the patio with a drink in hand season again.
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