10 Underrated Female Singer-Songwriters

In a heavily male-dominated music industry, female musicians are often left underappreciated and under-recognized for their talents. Even some of the biggest stars in pop music today are overpowered, like Taylor Swift, who was robbed of her independence and ownership of her music by her former producer. Though the women below have fanbases, I have seldom heard them talked about or compared to the ‘big guys’ in music, and unfairly so, because they deserve much more for their work. Here are 10 lovely ladies who have a gift for singing and songwriting, including some of their best lyrics. 

 

1) Orla Gartland 

I originally discovered 25-year-old Orla Gartland from her YouTube singing channel and have watched her talent and production grow from casual covers filmed on a laptop webcam to professionally filmed music videos for original songs. Orla has described herself as a “music-making-ginger-nutcase” and very obviously puts her all into each song. Heavily inspired by Joni Mitchell and Regina Spektor, Orla’s lyrics are clever and raw, which perfectly match her acoustic indie-folk sound. Orla is my personal favorite on this list, which is why I put her as number one. 

 

Excerpt From “Why Am I Like This?” by Orla Gartland: 

“Maybe I’m an old soul trapped in a young body

Maybe you don’t really want me there at your birthday party

I’ll be there in the corner, thinking right over 

Every single word of the conversation we just had” 

 

2) Sidney Gish 

Sidney Gish is a 23-year-old singer-songwriter from Massachusetts. Since self-releasing her first album “Ed Buys Houses” on Bandcamp in 2016, Gish has experienced some major accomplishments, such as winning Album of the Year at the Boston Music Awards and briefly touring with Mitski in 2018. However, she is still relatively underappreciated in mainstream media. Gish’s lyrics are cynical, snarky, and often pick apart her own self-doubt in a humorously self deprecating fashion. Though some of her subject matter pertains to vulnerable topics, almost all of Sidney Gish’s music is upbeat, with playful melodies and comical lyrics. 

 

Excerpt From “Presumably Dead Arm” by Sidney Gish: 

“And all these pretend spouses are a happy storybook

That’ll turn to stark nonfiction in the time it took

For me to notice that I’m old, which means I’ll be 30 and happy

Likely married to personified business casual khakis”

 

3) Annika Bennett

With only two songs formally released, Annika Bennett is already making an influence on listeners. Bennett is only 21-years-old and dropped out of New York University in order to pursue a record deal with Sony Records. After making music with Sony, Bennett realized that her best work came from working independently and writing all of her own lyrics. Her two songs, “Boy Who Has Everything” and “She Smiles,” are beautifully sung in an acoustic style, with personal and hearty lyrics that sound like they came straight out of a diary entry. I am confident that, though small now, Annika Bennett is without a doubt on-the-rise. 

 

Excerpt From “Boy Who Has Everything” by Annika Bennett:

“We both got friends, but I’m no good at keeping mine

He’s got his people when he needs to talk 

And we’ve both got dreams, but I’m no good at reaching mine

So part of me dreams about keeping him small”

 

4) Holly Henry 

You may remember 26-year-old Holly Henry from her viral audition for The Voice in 2013 where she covered “The Scientist” by Coldplay. Though Henry did not make it very far into the competition, she continued writing and producing her own music from her home in Minnesota and now has two EPs out and a full length album. I really admire Henry’s history, as she grew up with severe Agoraphobia (phobia of open spaces/leaving one’s home or room) and used singing and songwriting as an escape. Henry’s mostly melancholy lyrics and hauntingly beautiful tone will have you instantly hooked on her music. 

 

Excerpt From “Coriander/Chamomile” by Holly Henry:

“Dyed by box color, my hue muddied by him painting me a shade I didn't know

Kleptomaniac he took me from my world to see if he could take me at all

Young like tulip bulbs you left me in the cold and told me I should grow on my own”

 

5) Andie Isalie 

23-year-old Andie Isalie has one of the best voices I have ever heard. Just watch one of her videos and you can practically feel the rays of “cool” coming off of her thanks to her seemingly effortless guitar playing and smooth tone. Andie is an independent artist by choice, describing herself as “curious” and “experimental.” Her music combines many different sounds, ranging from jazz, rock, acoustic, and folk. Andie, like many other artists on this list, started off on YouTube filming very casual covers for a small audience and slowly grew her fanbase into one much larger. 

 

Excerpt From “One Foot in the Grave” by Andie Isalie:

“Almost, but not quite a pack a day

And he’s still f***ing terrified of turning grey

He’s danced with the devil more times than I can count on my hands

He’s got one foot in the grave”

 

6) Julien Baker 

Julien Baker is a 24-year-old singer-songwriter who started off as a member of the alternative rock band Forrister, but took sail on her independent music journey in 2015. Her lyrics are emotional, unfiltered, and authentic, which translate well in her acoustic, soft-rock sound. Comparable to artists like Snail Mail and Phoebe Bridgers, Baker’s lyrical expertise deserves more recognition. 

 

Excerpt from “Good News” by Julien Baker:

“In the thin air, my ribs creak

Like wooden dining chairs when you see me

Always scared that every situation ends the same

With a blank stare”

 

7) Sammy Rae 

Samantha “Sammy” Rae Bowers began songwriting at age 12 in her small-town home in Connecticut. Heavily influenced by female jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James, Sammy developed a love and appreciation for creating jazz music. Now, at age 26, she is located in New York City and formed a band called “Sammy Rae & The Friends,” where she sings lead vocals. Sammy Rae has one of the most recognizable voices and styles that I have heard. Her high-energy, quirky, and upbeat arrangements, which incorporate voice overlays and robust brass instruments, make for a memorable experience when listening to her discography. 

 

Excerpt From “Talk It Up” by Sammy Rae: 

“See you get what you put in

So you cannot get upset

If you're just dipping your foot in

Because you don't wanna get wet

And you ain't made it big yet”

 

8) Steady Holiday (Andrea Babinski)

Andrea Babinski, better known as “Steady Holiday,” is a 34-year-old singer, songwriter, actress, and violinist from California. She started as a backup vocalist for Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, then became one half of the music duo “Miracle Days,” and finally started her solo career under the name Steady Holiday in 2015. Holiday is experimental in her writing, constructing each song off her album Nobody’s Watching as being written under a different persona. Her delicate voice creates a sound that is almost dream-like and is simply beautiful to the ears. 

 

Excerpt From “So Long” by Steady Holiday: 

“You deserve a song so long, it plays beyond the hurt

Beyond the tears, beyond the courtesy of elementary melodies

And chord progressions much like these”

 

9) Alice Kristiansen 

24-year-old Alice Kristiansen’s life changed forever when her YouTube cover video of Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” went viral after being shared by Ashton Kutcher. Since then, Kristiansen’s audience has grown greatly, allowing her to reach over 4.7 million views. Despite the increase in attention, Kristiansen’s dedication to singing and songwriting has never declined. She continues to upload both covers and originals to YouTube and Instagram, connecting to her fans through heartfelt and relatable lyrics. 

 

Excerpt From “Marilyn” by Alice Kristiansen: 

“You wear me well at midnight

I hang on your arm and laugh with all your friends

You’re fluorescent under city lights

At your best you're magic even if it's just pretend”

 

10) Soko 

Stéphanie Alexandra Mina Sokolinski, who goes by Soko, is a 34-year-old singer, songwriter, musician, and actress from France. She started as an actress in numerous small French films, but soon found that her passion lay in songwriting. Soko wrote songs for numerous artists and films and has collaborated with many musicians. Like many, I discovered Soko when her song, “We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow” was featured on the popular Netflix original series, The End of the F***ing World.

Excerpt From “We Might Be Dead by Tomorrow” by Soko: 

“So let's love fully and let's love loud

And let's love now

Cause soon enough we'll die”