Talking Shop is a series where women, trans and non-binary folks in the music business give you a behind-the-scenes look at their day-to-day lives. Talking Shop was created with the philosophy that representation matters, not only for performers, but for all careers in the music industry. The series demystifies jobs in music with the goal inspiring younger generations to pursue their dream job.
For the first installment of Talking Shop, I visited Rhaelee Gronholz at a studio in IPR College of Creative Arts, where Gronholz studied audio engineering. She has a background in audio, but does much more than sit behind a sound board. Gronholz describes herself as a “Jill of All Trades.” She owns her own company, works as a freelance live sound engineer and studio recording engineer, writes, sings, and releases her own music. She is currently working on her debut album, Music=Language.
Name: Rhaelee Gronholz (she/her/hers)
Job Title: Owner and CEO of Jill of All Trades
What is a “Jill of All Trades?”
The Jill of All Trades, I look at it as a value base, a character base. That means that you’re willing to take on any projects that need to be taken on in any scenario. If you’re the one delegating the roles in a situation, you should be able to own up to personal responsibility if something goes wrong, or if you delegate a role to somebody who isn’t capable of fulfilling it, then you need to step in and take care of it and figure it out because either way the show has to go on. If you think about concerts or theater performances, they don’t just stop for nothing— they go on regardless.
The three main things that I split myself into are my live sound engineering for the Fine Line [Music Café], Crooner’s Lounge & Supper Club, and other places I freelance at; my studio work with clientele and creating music with other people; and my own personal music, which is really important to me. I have one single out and I’m releasing a 10-song album soon.
What does a typical work day look like for the Jill of All Trades?
It would look like me waking up and playing some piano. I don’t like waking up to an alarm clock— most of my gigs happen at night— eating breakfast, hanging out with my Pomeranian Jack Jack, going to a meeting— usually I meet up with multiple different people during the week; we have consistent meetings and band rehearsals, I do arts management. So just multiple different things— I do studio sessions and live sound for venues at night like the Fine Line, First Avenue, and Crooner’s. Those are just a couple places I work, but I freelance all over, so you’ll see me doing that on a day-to-day basis.
How did you get started in the music industry?
I got started in this industry when I was five, I like to say, because when anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said a singer. Me and my mom would sing in the kitchen all the time together to Patsy Cline, “Crazy,” songs like that, classic favorites.
I started being intrigued with this side of it [points to sound board] when we used to do karaoke together. She had a pretty beefy setup: 12 channels, each with EQ. I mean, 12 channels now to me seems like nothing, but back then I was like, “What? All these knobs make it sound weird?” I started messing around with things, and then I realized that I had a knack for what sounded good in a room and what sounded harsh and hurt your hearing; how to create an environment for your listener.
What is one thing you love about your job?
I love multiple things about my job. I’d say that music is something that everybody can relate to, whether you’re in the music industry full-time or if you’re just a listener and a consumer. Music for me has been life changing; ever since I was a kid it was my own escape. There’s not one aspect of the industry that I don’t love, at this point. We all have to do things that we don’t like sometimes to succeed, but that’s part of getting to the other side of success; it doesn’t just come easy, or everybody would be doing it. So for me, I view it as, as long as you know what feels good to you and what feels right, then you’re doing what you should be doing.
What is a challenge that you have faced in your job, and how did you navigate it?
One challenge that I have faced in this industry has to do with nobody else but my own self. That would be just getting down on yourself every once in a while and doubting that you have the capability to do what it takes to make a living in this industry and to keep making a living, to keep staying relevant. There are constant technology changes in this industry, and I have to be at the top of it, otherwise you get left behind. For me, I think that has been the hardest challenge: just maintaining the balance of it. There are people who don’t even know this is a job position, period. There are people who, when they hear that you’re in music, they say, “Oh that’s not a real job, that’s your side-job.” It’s like, no, I do this full-time— that’s my job. I think that’s been the biggest struggle, is just to find my place and find my authenticity; that I’m real and that I’m here and that I’m doing it; that I do what I say I am going to do.
What do you wish you knew when you were first starting out? What advice would you give to someone aspiring to enter your field?
Nothing good comes easy; it doesn’t come quickly. They did this study on kids— very simple. They had a marshmallow and asked them, “Do you want this marshmallow now, or do you want two later, in an hour?” Almost every kid wanted it right away; instant gratification. And we are a generation that’s gotten used to instant gratification with phones, with everything else we’re doing. But the kids who decided to wait, in their adult years as they grew up showed major success. Because they knew the kind of things you can get from waiting, and getting twice as much, just by the way that you are thinking about it.
You can see what Rhaelee Gronholz is up to, learn more about the Jill of All Trades, and listen to her music at her website.