Angelica Garcia gets personal then political

I had the pleasure of speaking with Angelica Garcia via phone, whose sophomore record is due out this Fall. Things got personal… then political… and then at one point we unearthed a random connection to my old stomping grounds in Connecticut (I left that part out, you’re welcome). She is wise beyond her years, incredibly kind and her new record is going to rule too. Without further ado…

Your first record came out in 2016 – what have you been up to since then?
For that record I was signed to Warner Brothers, so I guess the biggest change was I went from being on a major label to just being completely independent. Within that time, I went back to making music just for myself. I was working at a restaurant meeting a lot of friends here in Richmond, meeting other musicians locally and it was through that that I started working on the bones of my second record. I didn’t actually realize it at the time. The biggest difference between my first record and this new record coming out is that this one was a labour of love between me and some of my closest friends here in Richmond. It’s awesome – everybody that’s playing all throughout the record is a friend or somebody that I’ve played music with, which is really special to me.

I imagine it was probably pretty freeing… Your first record is on this major label and then you go independent. It’s almost like it happened backwards for you.
I think one of the things I realized being on a huge label was that it’s just like a massive machine. For example, I was signed to Warner when Prince had just died. It’s amazing how… like, you are the lowest priority in this massive machine. Well, of course, Prince dies and everyone goes and immediately does all the Prince stuff. And when it’s little me on there, with Madonna and Prince and all the other pop stars, you feel… I know that there were people there that directly worked with me that were really trying but I also know that in general, it’s like low priority, you know what I mean? So yeah, it was freeing. It was scary to be like “oh crap, now what?” But at the same time, it’s like okay, I just do what I was doing before which was making music and trying my best!
It was awesome that I got that experience on a major ahead of time, because I feel like I met a lot of people that way, and that’s in some ways the biggest benefit of a major – them being able to put you wherever and meet whoever. At least having that in my pocket, I still felt personally, it was a journey and a success for me.

Who was the most surreal person you were able to meet throughout your time there?
Probably Len Waronker. He’s just one of the original tastemakers and trendsetters for the label, like he is the one who signed Prince. I’m pretty sure he signed Joni Mitchell too? I’m not completely positive. But, Lenny was just this awesome man who would sneak in and out of the offices and I always just really appreciated him. He was always really kind to me too.

I was listening to your new single, which seems simultaneously like a love letter to your upbringing and a slight middle finger to the elite. Tell me a bit about where you came from and what inspired It Don’t Hinder Me.
So, I moved a lot as a kid and we lived all over the place within Los Angeles. This partially had to do with my stepdad and his job change. He decided to become a priest so he went to seminary even though he used to be in the music business. At the same time, I also have my Dad and my stepmom in Chino and half-siblings and my grandparents’ home – I used to stay there all the time. I was always between these different homes. I’d go to school sometimes in places that weren’t really where my family was from. As a kid, I just remember feeling kind of embarrassed of my culture sometimes. As I got older, my mom and I eventually ended up living at my grandma’s house again right before we moved here to Virginia. I was going to this arts magnet school in downtown LA and I remembered the same feelings I had when I was a kid. I was commuting in from El Monte, east of downtown LA, which is like an immigrant neighbourhood. Even though it was a magnet school, I just felt like I stuck out. In the sense that I didn’t feel really interesting. Which is kind of silly. But I realized that part of that was like… I’m embarrassed of my school lunch because it’s beans. I’m embarrassed when my biological dad shows up to pick me up because he’s blasting Bamba music. And as I got older, I kind of started to dissect that. Like “why don’t I feel cool?” I know what I do when I’m home, I love my family! Why the hell do I feel embarrassed? El Monte’s awesome! It may not be fancy but it’s amazing and I’m proud of my family and I wouldn’t have chosen to grow up any other way. I feel like in a lot of American culture, there tends to be this glamorization of like… everybody wants wealth and fame and all these things and it’s just so unrealistic. Like I don’t really care about what car you drive, how are you as a person?

Photo by Caitlyn Krone

As a singer of Latin heritage, from this immigrant community, do you feel some sort of responsibility to use your platform as an artist to call out and educate your fan base on the shit that’s going on at the border?
Uh… yeah. It’s been a lot. It’s been a crazy past couple months of information intake. One thing that kept coming to my mind when I was working on the album was like “when you turn on music, what is it that you want to listen to? What is it that you look for when you love an artist?” And I just kind of felt like the people that I was connected with the most were saying things that were important to me too.
It’s so stupid – I feel like there’s this strange mentality in some people’s politics where we have to preserve a certain type of America. Like, my America is America. There are so many kids that are first-generation, second generation – our American experience is just as valid as yours. Just because our lineage and our connection to our mother country is a little closer doesn’t mean that we’re any less American.
What I can do on my end is hopefully try and change the mentality. I’m one voice among the many voices that are feeling these things, so I’m not claiming to speak for everyone. I don’t really know what can be done at the border or what we can do to help. The scary thing is that it seems like a lot of people in charge don’t even know. I do know that one thing we can do is we can help our communities locally. There are food pantries that help migrant workers; there are places that need translators. There are communities around us that need our help. So maybe in this time where everybody’s confused and everybody’s hurt, the best thing we can do is to help people that are directly around us.

I’m seeing a couple different approaches from a music standpoint these days. There’s been artists that I love that will pour their hearts into making very politically charged music because that’s what everyone’s feeling right now. And then I see other artists that I love, go the route of “okay, we hear enough about this stuff on a daily basis, so we’re just going to completely avoid singing about it to give you guys a break from it all…”
Yeah, I mean… I don’t sit here thinking that my music is politically charged. It’s for people. I’m not trying to make a fucking political statement. This is how I grew up! And this is how people live. When you call something “political” it seems like you’re standing on a platform… I don’t want to be anything like a politician! I get the “give your ears a break” kind of thing, but I also feel that if it’s important to me, I’m going to keep singing about it until something happens. Right now, we truthfully have people in charge that don’t care. And so it’s our job to care as people, the best we can, and hopefully, our “collective caring” will transfer over and our voices will be heard. If enough people are angry and saying things, you’d hope that eventually, it gets better.

Honestly, what’s most inspiring to me are the young people.
Yeah! I love it! My little sister was like “Stop using straws! The turtles are dying!” She knows so much about what’s going on and I’m amazed.

Alright, one last question for you. It’s no secret that this industry has been historically “unkind” or unfair to female writers, singers, producers, etc. I pride myself on being pretty progressive (for lack of a better word), but at the end of the day, I’m still just a straight, white dude who’s in an industry dominated by straight, white dudes. My question is, how do we do better? How do guys that look like me advance this conversation, help to improve the status quo and set the stage for the next generation of artists?
Woo! Okay. I will say again what I said earlier – I’m one voice, not trying to speak for everybody. I think the biggest thing, really, is to be open to perspectives. Like, I’ve heard people before say things like “I don’t like Rap” or “I don’t like Latino music” but that’s such a broad statement! I feel like just in general as humans, we have to avoid these super broad statements. Because within a genre or a culture, there are subcultures – give everything a fair shot. Don’t just assume you’re not going to like something because of the package. I feel like a lot of people tend to go towards things that they’re used to instead of opening up and really considering different things.
If you’re going to be in a position of power and you’re going to be a ‘tastemaker’, you better do your job of listening to everybody. And that includes people you may not understand or like the first time you listen to them. It’s easy to like the things you grew up with. I think everybody has to do that too, not just white guys. Everybody has to challenge themselves and hear other people out.

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