Bloomington, Ill.,
10:30 AM

Employee’s passion project allows self-expression and support of women in the music industry

Amplifying Female Voices

Running a side business while working full time is a feat left to brave go-getters. The extra time and expenses add up quickly – marketing, website design and management, recording and producing.

See, Karen Bridges doesn’t have your average side business. She puts her extra efforts – and her heart – into her music. Karen is one half of the duo Stone & Snow, a Bloomington, Ill., based folk/indie band.

“Working at State Farm® full time allows me flexibility. We can’t go on the road for months at a time, but we can do weekend tours. Success is what you make it,” the compliance analyst says.

A classically trained vocalist, Karen also plays piano, keyboard and acoustic guitar. In 2012, she felt the tug to start a new music project and put an ad on Craigslist looking for a partner. Clint Thomson was the first to respond, and after listening to his music, she accepted his offer.

“I was looking for someone to complete my thoughts. I liked his voice and style,” she says. “When you’re looking for someone to collaborate with, you need the right kind of chemistry. The whole thing felt serendipitous.”

Stone & Snow was born. With Karen as primary songwriter, she shares ideas for a verse, chorus or hook with Clint and the collaboration flows from there.

Stone & Snow performing
Karen Bridges and Clint Thomson make up the duo Stone & Snow, a folk/indie band in Bloomington. Karen works full time as a compliance analyst on the anti-fraud team and spends nights and weekends writing, practicing and performing.

“It’s like putting a puzzle together and the pieces can come from many different places.”

Stone & Snow won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest – 2019 NAMM Edition for the song “Love is a Weapon.”

“Songwriting is a conscious, constant effort. For me, I have a journal that’s a stream of thoughts. It’s being conscious about what’s going through your head and analyzing and evaluating that,” she explains.

“‘Love is a Weapon’ is a phrase that popped into my head. That song started as me wrestling with muses in a way, but it became something else to other people, almost an anthem of courage. You have to allow that sort of feedback.”

With this passion project, Karen has a creative avenue and works to amplify more female voices.

“The music industry is a male-dominated industry and that creates some challenges for women, even more so women of color,” she says.

Seeing the low amount of female performers on festival lineups and at local shows pushed Karen to provide a space where she could make a difference.

The Hallowed Hall is a new venue in downtown Bloomington created in collaboration with Stone & Snow and Half Hazard Press, where it is located. It’s a space to sit, listen and enjoy live performances. Although Bloomington has plenty of music venues, most also are bars or restaurants and aren’t focused solely on the music. The Hallowed Hall has hosted eight shows so far, and 50 percent have had women as a main singer/songwriter.

“It also puts me in the position of gatekeeper. I can elevate more women through booking different artists. I want to get different viewpoints on stage,” Karen says.