Hayley Williams Doesn’t Play Guitar in Public Because of Sexism: “I Don’t Even Play Guitar Onstage”

Paramore’s Hayley Williams says that she won’t play guitar onstage because of sexism. “I don’t even play guitar onstage,” she says. “I don’t even dare.”

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Speaking with Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers of Wet Leg on Spotify’s Face to Face podcast, Williams talked about her fears of misogamist comments.

“I think for us one of the hardest or most irritating things about being women is probably just stupid, stupid comments on the internet,” said Teasdale, commiserating. “Like, ‘Oh she’s holding that guitar but she’s not actually playing it.’ When, for example, I am just not using my guitar but then I need to play it in the chorus or something. There will always be a comment like, ‘Girls shouldn’t play guitar, women shouldn’t play guitar,’ and it’s just—it’s so dated but it’s still there. And I just hate it so much and it’s so frustrating.”

“I know those people so well, and I don’t even play guitar onstage,” replied Williams. “I don’t even dare, because I love to play guitar but I don’t know if I could handle—man. I feel you so hard.”

She continued, “I just hate that people even need to point it out. I don’t really think about my gender at all when we play music especially. It’s just not part of the picture. I’m trying to lean into femininity and empower that part of myself more in this era of my career, but do you ever get on stage and feel ‘other’? You feel like this alien thing that’s powerful and beautiful?”

“Yes—oh,” Chambers added. “Before you said ‘powerful and beautiful,’ I was like, ‘I do feel like an alien.”

Williams went on to say, “when I made the second solo record, just kind of by myself, and I had a friend engineer it for me, I played all that stuff and I felt so free to do it ’cause no one was watching. I was just at home and felt really creative and was like, ‘Oh, fuck, I’m kind of nailing it right now.’ But if there had been anyone else in the room—maybe my bandmates would’ve been fine—but if there had been anyone else in the room I would have thought too much about it and I wouldn’t have been able to write those parts and certainly not execute them, because of that thing you’re saying. As soon as you’re aware that someone is perceiving you, and someone’s gonna probably say some shit just because they love to hear their own voice, it kind of scares me back into myself.”

Williams did play guitar on a 2020 Tiny Desk performance but even then, she says, “I was shaking. What little guitar, I played for that, I was like, ‘Oh God. It’s gonna happen. I’m going to see those comments.’ But oh well, fuck it.”

Paramore will release their new album, This Is Why, on February 10.

Photo by Lindsey Byrnes / Atlantic Records

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