With Linda Perry’s Grammy nomination for Producer of the Year, it’s the first time in 14 years that a woman has been represented in the category. Perry is preceded by Lauren Christy, formerly of the production trio The Matrix, who has written for Avril Lavigne (“Complicated,” “Sk8er Boi”), and Enrique Iglesias (Tonight I’m Loving You”), among others, and was nominated in 2004, losing out to the Neptunes. A Brit who moved to the United States in her early twenties, she continues to work with hitmakers like Bebe Rexha (“Me, Myself and I”) and Dua Lipa (“Blow Your Mind Mwah”) as well as rock acts like Jonathan Davis of Korn.
“I’m so thrilled for Linda,” says Christy. “From the few shall come the many. First, we crawled; now we walk; soon we run. Change takes time!”
As a female producer who experienced the music industry’s boon years in the 1990s and into the early aughts, Christy is in rarefied territory indeed. Other than artist-producers, like Janet Jackson, who was nominated for Producer of the Year in 1990 on the heels of “Rhythm Nation,” she was in a group by herself. And while she shared some of her biggest successes with her former-husband Graham Edwards, who along with Scott Spock made up the Matrix, her self-sufficiency in the studio was rooted much earlier in her life.
“Alan Jacobs signed me to EMI Music Publishing when I was 19 and the first thing they did was buy me a four-track which I put in my bedroom,” says Christy, who later upgraded to an eight track home studio so she could record her own demos. The hope was that she’d make it as an artist and a songwriter. And while Christy says matter-of-factly, “I only met male producers,” she credits several male mentors with helping her navigate the industry, among them Tom Vickers, formerly of Capitol and Mercury, Ed Eckstine, a veteran of Polygram, and Charlie Midnight, a songwriter and producer best known for the James Brown’s 1985 hit “Living in America.” “These guys changed my life,” says Christy. “It’s because of them that I’m in America.”
But disillusionment with the grind and diminishing returns of bring an artist took its toll on Christy, who, after releasing two albums, surmised “it just wasn’t meant to be — I was 29 and I got on a plane to the U.K. like, ‘Nah, man.'”
It didn’t take long, however, before another music executive recognized her writing talent and asked if she’d be willing to give one of her songs to Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia. Says Christy: “It was weird; I just decided I’m done with being an artist. I’m going behind the scenes.”
Her own segue from writer to producer came as she watched others work. “I was realizing that I’m hearing the finished records — from the groove on — and I decided to focus on the overall sound.”
The Matrix’s big break came at the turn of the millennium when an ambitious 16-year-old with an “unbelievable voice” was paired with the trio. The results would be three massive hit songs for Avril Lavigne and a relationship that would continue for Christy outside of the Matrix until today.
Throughout her career, Christy has been mentored and encouraged by men. She recalls words of support early on from Swedish hitmaker Max Martin that signaled to her, “that we’re on the right track!” She took notes on vocal production from Tony Peluso, who worked with the Carpenters; she watched Matrix-mate Spock work the keyboards and her own multi-instrumentalist husband play pop maestro. So how come there are so few others like Christy and Perry?
“I think women don’t think it’s an option to step into the other side,” she reasons. Christy has had a few negative experiences, too. One in particular, she recalls: “I got locked in a car by a record label head in the UK. And he explained to me how I can really make my career happen as he tried to grope me. And I remember explaining to him real quiet, like, ‘If you don’t let me out of this car right now, I’m going to ruin your career.’ And he let me out of the car. That could have gone a different way.”
But Christy also notes that having her husband as a working partner offered a sort of shield from such advances. “I could have been protected [then], and as an older woman in the industry now, I feel completely respected by the men I’ve worked with.”
Still, there’s more of a natural flow with female songwriters. “Like Bebe, the girl’s incredible and a genius,” says Christy of Rexha. “It’s like, I’m a really good tennis player, and when you get someone who’s on the other side of [the net] who’s also really good, it’s a very fast game. It’s effortless. You feel the electricity. Then it’s, ‘let’s try and get the lightning in the bottle.'” She uses that description to speak of her experience not just with Lavigne or Hilary Duff or Liz Phair in the past, but in working with Korn and frontman Jonathan Davis (Christy has four songs on his latest solo album, “Black Labyrinth”).
However, today, Christy says, she’s no longer “chasing the game.” Rather, “I just wait till artists arrive to me, if someone wants to work with me.” She no longer employs a manager and her publishing is handled by Reservoir. Christy also believes that “not all money is good money” and after working six days a week for 10 years with the Matrix, the remarried mother of two realized “that a hit record wasn’t going to hold me at night.” Although she can at least be comforted in knowing that her songs would serve just that purpose for many others.