Over the last nine years, Father/Daughter Records owner Jessi Frick has put together one of the most diverse artist rosters of any label around. And in so doing, she’s been quietly building influence with one of the most interesting indies in the business.
“I’ve wanted to create a space here for the kind of world I want to see in the music industry,” Frick says. “Starting from the people that work at the label and then reflecting on the artist.”
For evidence of that, look no further than Father/Daughter’s crop of artists past and present. These include Tasha, a queer black neo-soul singer from Chicago; Bay Area dream-pop outfit Pllush; Philadelphia punk band Remember Sports; and eclectic genre-spanning singer-songwriter Shamir, who released his acclaimed 2017 album Revelations on the label. In an industry obsessed with categories, one would be hard-pressed to pigeonhole any of them. “I feel like some labels have a certain identity as far as genre or sound or whatever,” says Frick, “and we are kind of all over the place.”
That lack of focus on a particular genre or type of music shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of identity; if anything, Father/Daughters’s identity is its embrace of artists who fall outside conventional classifications. And the talent Frick and Father/Daughter A&R representative Tyler Andere has shown for identifying promising artists from all different backgrounds and points of view — most prominently queer artists and artists of color — has allowed the label to stand out during a time when conversations around identity, diversity and inclusion have become increasingly commonplace.
“We didn’t purposely seek out to have this super diverse roster, but are intentionally trying to find music and be in musical spaces that sort of support non-white cis male artists,” Andere says. “And I think through that, naturally lots of really interesting art that is made by non-white males artists comes through.”
He continues, “So there is a bit of intentionality in terms of, yeah, we’re intentionally looking in other types of spaces. And when you do look in those other types of spaces, you kind of realize how easy it is to just be able to work with some of these artists, ’cause they’re right there under your nose. And it’s unfortunate that other labels are kind of overlooking that stuff.”
The Father/Daughter name is quite literal: Frick started the label in 2010 with her father, Ken Hector, who had helped spark her love of music as a child. “My parents were really young when they had me, so they were very much still jamming out to a lot of music, going to a lot of concerts,” she says. After a few years spent bouncing between various industry jobs, including tour-managing a band and handing press for a friend’s label, Frick — who went to school for photography (“I thought I was gonna be this epic live music photographer,” she says) — finally struck out on her own to form Father/Daughter.
“I don’t remember how it came up, but I was like, ‘I want to start a label,’” she says. “And [my dad] was like, ‘Yeah, that’d be cool. Can I help you with it?’”
It was around the same time that Frick connected on Twitter with Austin-based Andere, who was then writing their own Tumblr blog. The two formed a friendship after running into each other at various music-industry events and when Andere began interviewing for label jobs a few years later, he reached out to Frick for advice. “Jessi was like, ‘Why don’t you just come work for us?’” Andere says. “And it kind of just all made sense since we already had a friendship and lots of similar tastes.”
After joining Father/Daughter, Andere took over the majority of A&R duties from Frick, who had been filling that role on her own since the label’s founding. “The thought of giving that job over to somebody scared me a little bit, just because I am so close to the label and the identity of the label,” says Frick, who additionally co-owns the artist management company Citrine. “But Tyler was just the perfect person.”
Though Hector began taking a more limited role in the company starting this year, the company remains a family-oriented operation.
“Labels love to say, ‘We’re a family,’” says Frick. “But we really do… I know what everyone’s birthdays are, they’re in my calendar on my computer. And I make sure that we recognize and cherish one another as humans, not just like people that are in business together. So I think that also speaks to how on a daily basis, how we interact with our artists. It is a very human relationship that we have with everyone.”
Father/Daughter’s string of buzzy releases hasn’t let up. Just this year, the label has put out new albums from non-binary alt-popper Sir Babygirl (Crush On Me), queer stoner-rock duo Partner (Saturday the 14th) and Congolese-American songwriter-guitarist Christelle Bofale (Swim Team). Over the next couple of months, they’ll also be releasing folk singer-songwriter Esther Rose’s sophomore LP,You Made It This Far (Aug. 23), and pop-punk artist Lisa Prank’s new album Perfect Love Song (Oct. 4). It’s a typically diverse lineup for the label, which hopes to set an example for the future of the business — not only in terms of who gets signed, but in who’s doing the signing.
“I think there is an influx of really interesting labels and artists who are not white and male who are starting to get more visibility and attention,” says Andere. “But I do think there’s still an issue with some of the major indie labels at the top still are not: Their staffs do not really reflect the diversity of their rosters. And I really think that desperately needs to change and needs to be called out. Pick any major indie label — not to name any specific ones, but we kinda know the ones — just see how many non-white people are on staff. It’s shocking the lack of racial diversity specifically in this community. So I personally want to see a push for that.”
“I don’t want diversity to be a trend for artists,” adds Frick. “That’s the thing. These artists should be spotlit all the time, because there’s a constant influx of [artists] being queer, being a female musician… You don’t just get like a five-year time period and then you’re not cool anymore. Music should be diversified in general. I don’t want to see it kind of just become this trend thing that comes and goes.”
The great thing about working in the independent music space is that there are zero rules. There is no one telling you how you have to do something. Each artist achieves their goals in unique ways and as their label partner, we are constantly looking for creative methods of getting their music heard. As a label, we aim to create an atmosphere that is inspiring and supportive both for our artists and ourselves. With passion, drive and determination, don’t let any gatekeeper get in your way. — Jessi?
What I’ve learned in almost a decade of music blogging, booking shows and working at a record label is that being a genuinely kind person is extremely important. I want to use whatever platform I have to be a cheerleader for new artists who are trying to break through the noise. I want to open up my living space when a touring band needs a place to stay and a home cooked meal. I want to engage thoughtfully and respectfully with the artists that I am so privileged to work with. And I think more people should practice kindness in an industry that’s historically been crowded with a lot of shady and dishonest people. — Tyler
I remind myself that self care is a valid and important part of the job. Most of my work life is hyper focused on the needs of others but in order to be my best for them, it’s imperative that I nurture myself. Same can be said for the musicians who abandon a “regular” life to spend months traveling to create & promote their art. Mental health has such a stigma attached to it — I was scared to be vulnerable or take a break because I feared the competitive nature of this industry would deem me weak. Took me a long time to realize how badass it is to say “no” in the name of looking out for myself. — Jessi?
Sometimes it’s nice to think back on the times when I could listen to music more passively and I didn’t know anything about PR campaigns, sync deals, label distribution, booking agents, management or any other facet of the industry. It’s good to tap into that sense of naivete every once in awhile and remind yourself why you got into music in the first place. — Tyler
Spotlight is a Billboard Business series that aims to highlight those in the music business making innovative or creative moves, or who are succeeding in behind-the-scenes or under-the-radar roles. For submissions for the series, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.