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Local Musician Angelica Garcia Embraces Her Roots And Advocates For Female Empowerment

Angelica Garcia tunes up on her guitar
Local musician Angelica Garcia tunes up before her set at Gallery 5 in Richmond in September, 2019. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM)

Before her set at Gallery 5 in Richmond, local musician Angelica Garcia is checking her microphones and voice box before she takes the stage. Garcia tries not to be overly prepared before each show. 

“I kinda try to be flow-ee, just so I can always make something new,” she said. 

Garcia’s first album was “Medicine for Birds,” which came out in 2016. It was produced by Warner Bros. She says she relied on the company’s expertise in the making of the album. It’s a moody work with Americana influences, like the track “The Devil Can Get In.” Garcia was 21 years old when she wrote that song and living on the Eastern Shore. She used her isolated surroundings, both culturally and in a 200-year-old house, to write the album.

“That was probably the most time that I’d ever spent alone ever. And for it to be in such a creepy, but also beautiful place, really inspired a lot of my work,” said Garcia.

Garcia recalls moving from L.A to Virginia. She thought Virginia was so cool, with old houses, big trees, and the four seasons. But she said it was really different than her old neighborhood in El Monte and it was hard to find people like her, with Mexican, Salvadoran and American roots.

But after some time, she did find them.  

“I was like, oh, there is a community here, it’s just separated. And that was so weird to me, that’s there’s still a lot of work in like assimilation that has to be done, I guess,” said Garcia.

When Garcia moved to Richmond, she discovered a sense of home at the Cuban restaurant Kuba Kuba, a place she later began working at.

“I tried the Huevos California, and the sauce that they put on, the tomato sauce, the enchiladas sauce, reminded me of a recipe that my Grandmother uses to cook her Thanksgiving turkey in,” said Garcia.

Food is a metaphor in many of her lyrics. On her new song “Jicama,” she uses the symbol of this native Mexican root and turns it into an anthem for people with dual identities. She said that when she was coming up with the lyrics, she felt like she was a piece of fruit who stood out in the fruit basket. 

Garcia filmed the video for “Jicama” at her Grandmother’s house in El Monte as a way to honor her heritage and her family.

“This is where I come from. I love this place. And anybody that makes me feel less than for coming here and, I don’t know, is pretty much a jerk, she said.

When she begins her set at Gallery 5, Garcia layers tracks from an old record in her collection with a Mariachi group singing “Guadalajara.” Beneath the music, Garcia has looped in a voice repeating the phrase “It's time you are you woke.” She says it’s not really a song but rather a message about the treatment of immigrants in the United States. 

One of the lyrics she sings during this opening is “How are you going to say you love me, when you don't think we're equal." And in another line, she says "...send my father to the I.C.E., all human life in the galaxy say how you gonna love me.”

Her new album will be released sometime next year. It’s being produced by local record label Space Bomb, who signed her after Warner Bros. dropped her as an artist. She’s excited about how her sound has developed and about how she has more control over her music. 

“I don’t feel like a number on a spreadsheet anymore. I feel like, you know, I might have the tiniest little dingy of a ship, but this is my fricking ship. And this is great and I love it, you know,” Garcia said. 

Garcia said it’s really important for her to be precise in what she wants to say, not just in her music, but as a way to understand her identity, and as a way to relate to other people and their identity as well.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News. He also produces and hosts the World Music Show for VPM Music — now in its 16th season. You can often find him riding his bike around Chesterfield County or on Virginia's Capital Trail. Stewart has won multiple Regional Edward R. Murrow and Virginia's AP Broadcasters awards for reporting and sound editing. He graduated from San Francisco State University with degrees in journalism and creative writing.