San Diego creatives attack sexist, competitive industry head-on
“We’re just creating opportunities for ourselves. It’s not about asking anybody to give us those opportunities, it’s just creating them from scratch for ourselves because we deserve it and we’re awesome.”
These are the words of San Diego singer-songwriter Lindsay White, who begins the story of Lady Brain Presents.
White, a long-time Hillcrest resident, came to San Diego via Los Angeles when she accepted a job as an assistant basketball coach at Mesa Community College. But after one season she knew it wasn’t the right fit, and wasn’t sure where to turn next.
White, who played music and wrote songs growing up, began to perform open mics around San Diego. She soon heard about Cathryn Beeks, a well-known face on the local music scene and founder of Listen Local. White reached out to Beeks about possible bookings and began attending Beeks’ shows with her band Cathryn Beeks Ordeal. Beeks saw talent in White and helped the up-and-coming artist get her footing.
“I remember being in awe of (Beeks) and the people she played with. I wanted to be in that circle, and she let me in!” White said.
With Beeks’ support, White immersed herself into the music sphere and began to pursue it professionally, performing lyric-driven tunes in the folk-indie genre. In addition to songwriting legends Bob Dylan and Carol King, her sound is inspired by ’90s feminist vocalists like Jewel, Alanis Morisette and Fiona Apple.
“I was mesmerized that a women could say these things out loud and not get stoned to death,” White said, referring to the bold lyrics of these female singers which were a stark contrast with her conservative upbringing in Corcoran, a small town in California outside of Fresno. “Especially growing up in a small town, it was incredible to me that women were really saying something.”
She soon formed The Lovebirds, a duo with Veronica May, and the two also started dating. But when Lovebirds disbanded — as both a couple and a music group — White was forced to reestablish herself on the San Diego music scene.
White began to feel isolated as a solo artist in San Diego, as well as defeated in the male-dominated industry. In addition to seeing a pay gap for playing similar shows, men also offered her unsolicited feedback after almost every gig.
To try to keep up with the competition and succeed as a female artist, she began obsessing over her career to secure more opportunities. But then a trail of trauma fell in her path. After the death of her estranged mother in 2017, as well as the loss of a few others in her life, White’s whole perspective shifted.
“It’s cool to have goals and be ambitious and all that, but if you let it eat up your current life, you’re just kind of setting yourself up for never being fulfilled and never feeling joy,” she said.
White began to focus less on the future, devoting time and energy to her present relationships and experiences. And she was able to channel that grief into something special: Lady Brain Presents.
The group started casually at the end of 2018 as a breakfast between a few friends. But through word of mouth and social media, a group of 15 female musicians ended up in her apartment to eat and talk about their feelings. During the gathering, the women shared their stories and struggles as female artists in San Diego, dealing with jealousy, insecurity and lack of opportunity.
“These are women that I’ve only, for the most part, seen on social media for the past 10 years and now (they are) in my living room, crying,” White said.
To continue the momentum, she founded Lady Brain Presents — a network of female creatives with the goal of propelling each other forward and combating the competitive nature of the industry.
In an industry that is especially tough for women, how can collaboration trump competition? Ultimately, it comes down to the intention of the individual. White notes that new members are joining for the wrong reason if they are hoping to get something out of the collective — instead, they need to think about how they can lift up the other women involved.
“In a community that can be very ‘dog eat dog,’ this group challenges that idea by providing a space where everyone can use their expertise to help each other succeed,” indie-pop artist and member Becca Jay said.
Lady Brain Presents is still in its early stages, but they are already up to approximately 75 members. Currently, the organization holds member meet-ups and public community gatherings. They also share an online database listing press and booking contacts to connect one another to new opportunities. Though the network is mostly made up of musicians, other artistic trades have also joined in.
“(This group) means I am a part of something — it validates that I am a creative woman,” jazz/soul musician and member Corina Rose said.
Now Lady Brain Presents embarks on its biggest gig yet — Lady Brain Fest. The one-day music festival on July 7 will showcase the talents of many Lady Brain members, who will perform on one of two stages: “Lady Stage” and “Brain Stage.”
“(I’m looking forward to) sharing the stage with 20 other female-fronted acts... an extremely rare occasion. Can we take it on the road after that?!” said singer-songwriter Astra Kelly, who will play on the Brain Stage alongside Heather Marie of folk/Americana duo Podunk Nowhere.
Lady Brain Fest will be held noon to 7 p.m. at Heritage Ranch in Encinitas, the property where Beeks and her husband reside as caretakers. Tickets are $10 presale, $12 online and $15 at the door. A full music lineup can be found online.
“There’s such diversity in the styles of music that each of us performs — it will be so nice to gather together and enjoy each other’s talents,” Lady Brain Fest performer and piano-pop musician Marie Haddad said.
The festival is a chance for Lady Brain members to get their sound out there and for Lady Brain Presents to share its voice with the world. Just ask member Karina Frost of the folk/soul group The Banduvloons.
“Lady Brain is a howl to the moon. When you feel unseen, unheard, unappreciated, you howl and demand to be heard,” Frost said.
Lady Brain Fest
When: Noon to 7 p.m., July 7
Where: Heritage Ranch, 450 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas