Challenging The Status Quo – The Mother & Daughter Duo Taking On The Music Industry

By Lindsey and Claire Justice, aka Cliffs and Caves

My daughter Claire and I started writing indie folk music together when she was in the 8th grade, and I never dreamed where it would lead us. The two of us were just enjoying creating art together for fun and posting it on Instagram, but within 3 months we were flying out to LA to record our first EP with a producer who worked with R.E.M. and Willie Nelson. We’ve learned a ton together since then, wading through this crazy music scene.

Its not at all what I imagined it would be and now I know it’s FAR more work than most can stomach. But the one thing I truly cherish is the invaluable time its allowed me to spend with my teen daughter, and the lessons I’ve been able to instill in her about the value of working hard and accomplishing your goals…. even when the odds are stacked against you.

As women stepping into the male-dominated music industry, we often feel like we have to work THAT much harder to make the tiniest gains up the ladder. I was so naïve- in the beginning I actually thought you just make a great record, it comes out, goes straight onto the radio and everyone will hear your songs. It makes me LAUGH to think about now.  It is nothing like that AT ALL. Breaking onto the radio is a feat of monumental impossibilities (especially when only 11% of radio air time goes to playing female artists in certain genres of music) and even something as simple as getting booked at a venue can be too!

Over the past few years, I’ve done so much research and digging to understand this difficult and confusing music business. After watching us trudge along this journey, my business savvy husband has concluded it’s the single worst and most convoluted industry that exists. But, when you feel called to make the music, you do what it takes. Some say in order to “make it overnight” it takes 7 years of consistently putting out new music, playing live at least 4 nights a week, and for sure getting out of your hometown to tour. All of which is a bit challenging when one of our duo is only a teenager and still in high school, playing sports, and trying to make good grades to get into her college of choice. And believe me, nothing about this is made easier as two women in a male-dominated industry.

Regardless of all the challenges we face, Claire and I push onward and make it our goal to create great songs…. and let our talent speak for itself. We choose to keep our eyes focused on working towards making the best songs we can, because the bottom line is that no one gets any traction in this business if the music isn’t GREAT. I learned that early on at a Judy Stakee Songwriting Retreat and I absolutely believe its true, it really is all about the song. It takes a lot of work to develop the skill of songwriting- making consistent time to write and to work on making new music, reading books, going to songwriting retreats, listening to podcasts, dissecting songs you love, finding an expert whose advice you value to bounce songs off of- it’s a long process of trial and error.

Beyond that though, its finding the right producer, having recordings that are well mixed, engineered, getting a website up and running, understanding branding, becoming a pro at every type of social media and posting regularly, building a fan base and engaging with them online, booking shows at the right venues, networking with other artists, locating great musicians when you need help playing shows, TONS of rehearsals, developing the skill of setting up a song, reading an audience and making changes to a set list on the spot, taking every opportunity you’re given to get your name and music out to new people- which means driving for hours and lugging gear around, showing up early for sound checks and being prepared when things don’t go as planned. 

Being female in this industry and constantly being told that “the statistics aren’t in our favor”, always finding new barriers blocking our way, and being seen as “less than” our male counterparts have challenged us to grow beyond our music… and to grow as women.  Empowering women through our music and addressing issues that relate to female oppression has been a powerful creative outlet for us to explore and use to connect with women around the world.

Deciding what we will and won’t do and what kind of influence we want to have- especially with young girls has been a huge part of building our brand and establishing ourselves as artists. Choosing not to take the easy road and flaunt our sexuality or our bodies in order to gain cheap followers or for quick attention was an easy decision for us. But over and over again, we see how SO many female artists succumb to that pressure. Being an indie duo as a mother and daughter is such a different situation than most artists.

As the mother, I am always watching for how I can best help steer Claire to be a good example for young women to look up to, so girls can see someone on stage that is empowered within her mind and her body. Claire is an athlete, she trains year round for playing on her basketball and soccer teams. She’s competitive and strong and conditions her body to perform- to me that is power. She is also an exceptional guitarist. She works at that every single day to improve because she loves the craft enough to devote endless time to her passion- that is power. She is also writing songs about what she experiences in her life and is brave enough to share her art through recording music and performing live- that is power.

One part of this business that’s been so fascinating and disheartening is realizing how few women are represented on stage at music festivals or being played on country radio. There’s even an instagram page that takes upcoming festival posters and removes the male artists to show how few female artists are left on the bill. They also post the percentage of women playing at the event- its frequently around 11%-18% as a norm. Growing up, I had SO many incredible female artists to look up to that were given plenty of air time on the radio and had videos being played on MTV, and who were constantly on stage for huge tours: Shawn Colvin, Tori Amos, Tracy Chapman, Kate Bush, Trisha Yearwood, The Indigo Girls, Patty Griffin, Bonnie Raitt, to name a few of my favorites.

Because of them, it never occurred to me that I COULDN’T become a singer/songwriter. But it has to have a subconscious affect on young girls in today’s generation that are NOT hearing women on the radio or seeing them on stage at their favorite festivals. Fortunately, there’s a beautiful grass roots movement happening to change that- Brandi Carlisle and The Highwomen are putting a face to the charge to make room at the table for women again -as are some wonderful organizations like Change the Conversation, and Nicolle Galyon’s record label Songs & Daughters that focuses on all female artists, and The Listening Room’s weekly all female artist concert Song Suffragettes, and “All Women Day” at Chicago’s LakeShake Festival.

We hope to be part of the change so young women can know in their hearts, “Yes, of course I can become an incredible musician, of course I can become a songwriter, of course I can be played on the radio- if I work really hard and never give up.”  As long as we feel called to make music together, that is exactly what we plan to do. 

Please join us on our journey:
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Cliffs + Caves, the mother-daughter duo of Lindsey and Claire Justice, unabashedly share their deeply personal and relatable stories through songs that resonate with listeners of all generations. Best known in their home state of Texas for their unique blend of indie-folk music, the pair are delivering their best record yet with the release of their sophomore EP, Capsize. Capsize, is a five song exploration and showcase of the musical ingenuity that is created when artistry runs in the family. The original songs are a team effort with Lindsey creating most of the lyrics and melodies while sixteen year old Claire, a multi-instrumentalist, composed the music for the tracks. Capsize reveals the depths of their skills as songwriters and instrumentalists with intimate lyrics lilting intrinsically over smooth musical progressions.

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