• Feature

Women Behind the Music in Cincinnati: Chanell Karr

Brittany Thornton

Chanell Karr is a force to be reckoned with behind the music scene in Cincinnati. She is the Event & Marketing Coordinator at CityBeat, a DJ on Inhailer Radio as well as at special events, manages two local bands (Beloved Youth & Season Ten), and is passionate about every single thing she does.

It was an honor to speak to Chanell. We share the love of the Cincinnati Music Scene, being passionate about what we do and…pizza rolls.

Most may know you from CityBeat, tell us about your role at CityBeat.
I am the Event & Marketing Coordinator at CityBeat. I’ve been fortunate enough to work my way up over the years–from a little college intern to this gig. I work with my team to market & execute our events — everything from the Best of Cincinnati® Celebration to Cincinnati Pizza Week to Margarita Madness to Bourbon & Bacon, to the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards and more!

You also have your hand in many events in Cincinnati. Give us the rundown on how you got your start.
I recently had a friend say something along the lines of “If Chanell wants to do something, even if it’s something that doesn’t exist, she’ll create it & she’ll do it.” And I guess it’s kind of accurate. See, I’ve always had an interest in the arts, events, music, entertainment, etc. Growing up, I was always a part of the gifted & talented program–within this program, I’d get to escape the everyday life of school and embark on adventures and events. When I was in high school, I was a part of the Regional Youth Leadership program through the NKY Chamber. We’d meet once a month and explore different topics, that could help lead to a career path. It was during this time that I dabbled in different ideas for my future. We would go explore Cincinnati, and although it had been in my backyard my entire life (I hail from Northern Kentucky), this was the beginning of my love for this fine city. In college it only grew more. I’d visit the city any chance I could get, this is when I started volunteering for events. I remember a friend wanted me to volunteer for Cincinnati Fashion Week. I was in my second semester at NKU, and had always admired fashion, so of course I was game to volunteer. This is when I met some influential people (ahem Kenneth Wright) who helped open my eyes to the event world. He, along with so many other amazing people allowed me to enter their world of glam and fun, I spent most of my time either working the door or giving my name to people at the door. I’m over-romanticizing a little, but that’s kind of how it all came about. I was a business major at the time and knew that this was a career for me. So, I switched to a double major in Public Relations and Communication Studies. I got involved in as many organizations as possible, helped plan events in these organizations, and tried my hardest to bring good music and events to campus. I loved it. And now, here we are, almost 7 years later, and I still love it.

You also DJ, right? Tell us about how that came about.
We were planning what kind of entertainment we wanted at Bourbon & Bacon, and I joked about how I could do a chill corner at the event and bring my record player and some vinyl. This joke turned into a reality when my mom & brother found a vintage DJ set on Craigslist and gave it to me as an early Christmas present. I’ve always enjoyed collecting music–whether it be cds, cassettes, vinyl, etc. I have so many records, why not use my collection to share my love for music with others?! Since then, I’ve had people reach out for me to DJ wedding receptions, happy hours, parties, and more. It’s all kind of happened pretty quickly.

As an obvious music lover, who are some of your local favorites?
How much time do I have to answer this one? …I’m a little biased here. I manage two amazing local bands these days, and have others reaching out. Beloved Youth, they’re my dudes, I love managing these guys. I’ve known the guys for years, and it took me a while to actually make it to a show (4 years to be exact), but once I did, I was hooked. Their sound and overall personalities are so infectious, I grow prouder of them every day. I recently have teamed up with local band Season Ten to manage them as well, and the first time I saw them I knew I needed to be in on the magic. I have so many friends who are in bands, and I go to as many local shows as possible. I'm lucky to be a radio DJ at INHAILER, where we get to play local music, and showcase blossoming local talent every day! Young Heirlooms continue to amaze me each and every time I see them, they’re all such amazing people, and I’m honored to call them my friends. There’s bands like Automagik whom I’ve loved since college, there’s brand new bands like Washington who just played their first show, a pop-up house show with DJ Coco (me) & Beloved Youth. Bands like Dawg Yawp and Moonbeau are killing it for sure. Siegelord will always have a special spot in my heart too, those guys are the sweetest, don’t let the leather and animal bones fool you. And it’s always such an honor to see Cincinnati bands making it to SXSW.

As a woman supporting and within the Cincinnati music scene, do you feel that your gender has ever hindered your path? Do you feel that you have to work harder to get your voice heard?
I recently was interviewed by MNSTRM Media, and they asked me the same thing. I think that no matter your gender, it can be difficult to have your voice heard. Do I have to work harder? Maybe. I’ve noticed that when I’m negotiating with a band or venue on a show, it seems like some men are taken aback that I am a woman managing a male band. I’ve had show-goers assume that I’m dating someone in the band when I’m helping with load-in, or working merch, or just hanging out with a bunch of dudes in a band. But I don’t think about it as a gender difference. We all geek out about bands and pizza, just like the next person. But I’ve been working with Beloved Youth for almost a year now, and they continue to support me, and I them. We have each other’s backs. More recently I was dealing with a creeper of a promoter who wasn’t being professional and was making me feel uncomfortable via messages. The guys completely backed me up and helped step in to end said creepy situation. I’m just so lucky to be a part of this sensational music community here in Cincinnati and being able to find other women in the music community to relate to. We’ve got some badass ladies here in this city, making waves. Watch out, world! Pizza Rolls, Not Gender Roles!

What women in music (or behind the music) do you admire?
My first thought is Heart. But there are so many influential women in music: Adele, Stevie Nicks, Carole King, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Lesley Gore, The Donnas, Beyonce, The Go-Go’s, Hayley Williams, Lauryn Hill, Dolly Parton, Kim Deal, Missy Elliot, Billie Holiday, Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Joan Jett, Janis Joplin, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, Debbie Harry, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Ella Fitzgerald… the list goes on and on.

What do you want people to take away with them when they think of you?
Genuineness. I always strive to be genuine & original. I’m passionate about what I do–if I’m associating myself with something, it must mean a lot to me. I take pride in what I do, who I am, and where I’m going. I appreciate it when people take note of that. When they see my passion about music or events or moments, and they want to be a part of it too. I respect that, and I hope others respect me as well. I’ve had people tell me that I’m refreshing and unique; I don’t stray away from who I am. I know what I want, what I like and who I am. Now, if only I could figure out my love life (or the lack there- of). ha-ha. In all seriousness, I am so fortunate for the moments, both big & small that make up my life. Something as simple as you reaching out to interview me for CincyMusic is such an honor, and I’m so thankful. There are so many stellar women that could have been asked, and I do not take this lightly. Thank you for all that you do Courtney–you’re a rockstar!