Self-assured and a little spooky, her 2016 record Medicine for Birds won over critics. Garcia opens for Lydia Loveless Feb 2 in Vancouver.
“Garcia’s songs take unexpected swoops. Sometimes it’s the music, which is steeped in country-rock and blues, with flickers of indie-rock desolation; sometimes it’s her voice, which is sure and conspiratorial, bendy and grounded. Most often, though, it’s her words, which come together in surprising patterns, a blend of old-timey formalism and magical storytelling.” – The New York Times
Singer-songwriter Angelica Garcia opens for Lydia Loveless at the Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver Feb. 2. The show is part of a 17-date tour that began Jan. 19 in Nashville.
Raised in Los Angeles and Richmond, Virginia, the 22-year-old released her debut album Medicine for Birds last fall. Besides the New York Times, NPR, Paste, American Songwriter and more also gave kudos to the album; NPR included the song “Orange Flower” in their Top 100 Songs of 2016. Paste Magazine branded her “Best of What’s Next,” praising her “unique hybrid of West Coast bohemia and rural Americana.” I talked to Garcia the morning after she’d played her first show in Los Angeles since moving from the city five years ago.
SC: You played Los Angeles last night, is that right?
AG: Yeah. I haven’t played in L.A. since I was a teenager. Now, looking back, it was either the same day or around the same day (end of January).
SC: Is playing a famous West Los Angeles venue like the Troubadour a rite of passage for all Los Angeles high-school students?
AG: No (laughs), I don’t know! That was pretty wild. I went to this performing arts high school in L.A., the L.A. County High School for the Arts. A few other classmates of mine were in bands. I definitely wasn’t the one with connections. I’m not really sure how that happened. If I’m right, we had to do a pay-to-play that night, just to play there. But it ended up being a really cool night. But yeah, I doubt that it’s a regular rite of passage.
SC: Did you play cover songs back then?
AG: I had this band with my fellow classmates and we all wrote songs together. We threw in a couple of covers. I had this one bandmate named Ivan, and he was pretty adamant, “We should play our own songs if we’re going to play the Troubadour. That’s what got me on the whole songwriting kick. After playing that show, at that age, and seeing the crowd react, I thought, “Hey, maybe i can actually do this.”
SC: Do you think that the move to Virginia hurried you along the path you’re on now?
AG: Oh yeah, completely. Because I’ve always been kind of an introvert. Even when I was younger and doing this kind of stuff, I think I had the personality where I was too shy to get out there and do that all myself. Being in a band really helped me. But when I moved to Virginia forced that alone downtime on me. That ended up being the most constructive period of my life. I was able to sit down at a piano or a guitar and figure out what I like instead of what everybody was doing. I guess it’s pretty easy, when you have a lot of talented friends, to get caught up in every body else’s projects.
SC: The music scenes most be so different, and going from all these friends to having to discover things on your own.
AG: The thing about being on your own like that – it’s definitely lonely and isolating at first. But at the end of it all, it was a pretty momentous thing for me, to really give my work that attention. I figured out a lot about myself both musically and personally.
SC: I hear a little Rickie Lee Jones in your music. Are you a fan?
AG: That’s so funny. I’ve had a few people tell me that. I do like Rickie Lee Jones. We were really lucky, we opened for her once when I was in high school. (laughs) That was really crazy. On this weird list of things that I can’t actually believe happened but happened. But I found out about her a little bit later. I do love her work but it’s funny to hear that, because I’ve had several people say that.
SC: On your Facebook page you’ve posted a Daniel Johnston video (for the song “The Story of an Artist”) and a picture of you and your band in front of a Johnston-drawn mural. Have you been a fan for awhile or recently discovered his stuff?
AG: No, you know what? I’m totally one of the goobers who just found out about him. My tour manager started playing him in the van, I guess we’d just passed Austin, and I heard that song “The Story of an Artist.” I was half-asleep but it almost made me cry. Sometimes when I say “Oh, I just got into something,” half of the people go, “What the hell, how haven’t you heard that before?” and the other half are like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited for you, you get to hear this for the first time.” That was kind of a moment I had listening to Daniel Johnston. I was happy to be that surprised and that moved by something.
SC: Is the show with Lydia going to be your first time in Vancouver?
AG: Yeah! I’ve never been to Canada at all. I haven’t been to a lot of these cities, and some states. It’s a little bit nerve-wracking when the first time you get to experience a place is onstage. There’s this strange pressure to it. But it’s the best way to travel too. Along with each city having its own vibe and everything, it’s been really interesting to see the individual audiences come to each show that represent the different sub-cultures.
SC: On Twitter you recently said, “Does anyone else feel hella uncomfortable promoting their work when the nation is upside down? Yeah. Me too.” Can you talk a little bit about these conflicting feelings?
AG: Yeah. It could be read in the way that I’m going to be here and be sad. It just seems a little strange to me because my music video (for “The Devil Can Get In“) came out that day (of the inauguration). When you’re on the label you kind of have a responsibility to be, “Hey, check out this,” but I wasn’t in a check-this-out kind of a mood. The thing about it is, it’s a pretty frustrating time for all of us. I feel especially weird about it being a young female Latina. But the truth is, that means I have to keep writing and saying something at the shows so people remember we have to talk about this, and we can’t just sweep it under the rug.
Angelica Garcia opens for Lydia Loveless at the Biltmore Cabaret Feb. 2. For tickets, visit ticketweb.ca.