In Jennifer Nettles’ new song “I Can Do Hard Things,” she sheds light on the duality of the human experience, asserting that we are made for circumstances both easy and daunting, noting how daily circumstances are rarely solely one or the other.
“I Can Do Hard Things,” with production from Julian Raymond, highlights the ability to forge light, strength and grit through difficult situations, and provides a voice of solidarity and comfort to women around the world who are, daily, overcoming obstacles and inspiring those around them.
“I saw that we are resilient,” Nettles, the 2019 recipient of the Human Rights Campaign Ally for Equality Award, wrote in an essay on medium.com, “That change is hard, and loss is hard, and being a Mom is hard, and living one’s Truth is hard. That Truth became so loud that I had to sing it.”
Nettles knew the video for the vulnerable song had to be just as hard-hitting. The clip, directed by Katie Kauss, edited by Alex Chaloff and produced by BMLG’s Jake Basden, allows a diverse group of women to tell their stories of hardship, struggle, resilience, grit, failures and successes.
Two leaders in Nashville’s music industry are among the women featured in the video.
Ali Harnell, who has spent years in the live touring industry as part of AEG, was recently named President and Chief Strategy Officer at Live Nation, to spearhead the company’s Women Nation initiative. The video highlights her commitment to leadership in the live music industry, and to opening doors for other females who aspire to become part of the industry.
Holly Gleason, an award-winning journalist and author who has also handled PR for Kenny Chesney, shared her struggle in the aftermath of a sexual assault.
Others featured in the video for “I Can Do Hard Things” include photographer Kate Davis, who is also Chief of Staff for an actress and activist, and is in the process of adopting a baby as a single woman; transgender advocate and former business owner and stylist Jaime Combs; artist and writer Caroline Randall Williams, who uses her work to bring light to the stories of women of color; Morgan Leigh Garner, a singer/songwriter, mother and Army wife; Audrey Ynigez-Gutierrez, a graduate research assistant who is also a caregiver to her disabled mother; and Danielle Randolph, an active firefighter and member of the National Guard working to change perceptions of women in male-dominated industries.
The video, which was filmed on a set south of Nashville, features stark black-and-white footage, with intimate snippets revealing pieces of each woman’s story.
“It was not an excessive production but by using creativity, authenticity and a strong vision, they created something that a $100,000 music video couldn’t,” Gleason tells MusicRow.
“I have been very private about my situation for a lot of reasons. Probably three or four people know I’ve really struggled with it, and Jake is one of them. He told me that Jennifer was working on a project to help empower women to stand in their truth and to create a community of strength,” Gleason said. “The whole video happened quickly, in like 10 days.”
Gleason, who serves as Nashville Editor for Hits Daily Double, has forged ahead with new career accomplishments, including the book Woman Walk The Line: How The Women In Country Music Changed Our Lives, which earned the Belmont Book Award last year. She was also inducted into Nashville’s SOURCE Hall of Fame in 2018.
She takes to heart the struggle each woman featured in the video for “I Can Do Hard Things” has endured as they have made their accomplishments.
“Every woman in the piece…those struggles weigh on their soul. People don’t know how it feels to be this amazing science researcher on the rise, but to also have a parent with a chronic illness. Or a single woman adopting a baby.
“Everybody on the set fell into an instant friendship—‘Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?’ It was like a fellowship. When I filmed my piece, a couple of the women came and sat off-camera, because either they had had a similar experience, or they knew someone who had been through that. So you had that kind of quiet support during the filming, and you knew you weren’t alone. People had a lot of curiosity about each other. You felt like your struggle mattered. But, it was also women eating salads and bagels and laughing. There was a lot of laughter on the set,” Gleason recalls.
The video highlights Harnell’s rise in the touring industry. At AEG, Harnell managed the Southeast region and oversaw national touring activity since 2004. She also programmed and developed AEG Presents’ C2C Festival and served as producer for the All For The Hall benefit concerts. She rose to the role of Sr. VP, AEG Touring Team for AEG Presents, where she oversaw all aspects of bookings and operations, as well as national touring activity for Sugarland, Keith Urban, Little Big Town and others. She has also served as artist co-manager for The Shadowboxers. In 2014, she was named Promoter of the Year by IEBA and made Billboard’s Top 50 Women in Music list. In 2015, she was nominated for CMA Promoter of the Year. Earlier this year, she joined Live Nation’s Women Nation in a new role as President and Chief Strategy Officer.
“Jennifer is a unicorn goddess of a woman and an immense talent,” Harnell tells MusicRow. “We did Sugarland’s first tour when they got back together. We were hanging out in her dressing room, and she played me this song. I was familiar with the book Love Warrior. I knew I had to be part of this—I had a connection to the song and of course to Jennifer.”
When she got a call from director Kauss about the video, she knew it was something she wanted to be part of. Harnell notes that women make up less than 20 percent of top leaders across all industries, and in her new role at Live Nation, she is focused on opening doors for rising female executives.
“Everyone wants to know my blueprint and I’m careful of creating a strategy around it. I acknowledge that I have worked hard and am seen as a leader but we have a long way to go. For me, I try to mentor women, because you can’t be what you don’t see.
“There are a lot of men in control in this space—radio programmers, concert promoters. There is a pipeline issue. How do you create more opportunities, and find ways for men to advance so that it makes room for women? I also think, culturally, women take the lead on family planning and homemaking but the societal norm is on women and that can hinder careers. They want to be doing well from the kitchen table to the boardroom table.”
Harnell commended all of the women who came forward to share their stories with the world through Nettles’ video for “I Can Do Hard Things.”
“That’s how we change things, by telling our stories and changing the narrative.”
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