26-year-old singer-songwriter Angelica Garcia explores the hybridity of identity like few others – it’s no coincidence Barack Obama included her song ‘Jícama’ as one of his favourites of 2019. With Mexican and Salvadoran roots, Garcia grew up in the Latinx community of southern California, before recently moving to Richmond, VA, where she has built a new life. Following 2016’s bluesy Medicine for Birds, her new album Cha Cha Life is a richly vibrant and dynamic sophomore effort that’s filled to the brim with colourful vignettes from her upbringing, a celebration of multiculturalism that also showcases her diverse range of musical influences. Spanning both generations and genres, Cha Cha Life draws equally from traditional Mexican culture, modern pop, classic rock, and 90s indie. On the one hand, there’s a rendition of the traditional Mexican folk song, ‘La Lorna’, featuring Garcia’s mother, a Latin pop and mariachi singer, as well a cover of Jose Alfredo Jimenez’s ‘La Enorme Distancia’, sung by her grandmother. On the other, there are cuts like the riot grrrl-inspired ‘It Don’t Hinder Me’, or ‘Guadalupe’, which is most reminiscent of of M.I.A. Amidst all this genre-mixing, Garcia’s belting voice cuts through, displaying more than enough personality and charisma to make you wanna keep coming back to it. Cha Cha Life doesn’t just entertain – it resonates.
We caught up with Angelica Garcia for this edition of our Artist Spotlight series, where we showcase up-and-coming artists and give them a chance to talk a bit about their music.
You grew up in a musical household – are there any strong musical memories you have from your childhood?
I mainly remember guitar being constantly being pulled out at parties. My uncle would play guitar & my mom and aunt would sing with him. I remember learning to sing harmony by singing around whatever my mom was singing.
What are some of your influences, and how have they evolved over time?
Through the years I’ve been inspired by artists ranging from The White Stripes, Timbaland, Chavela Vargas, M.I.A, Donna Summer, Bryan Ferry, and Hiatus Kaiyote. I think influence is always evolving. Sometimes I’m inspired by an artist’s tones, sometimes it’s lyrics, performance, rhythm or concept. Anything goes. I love the surprise of finding something new.
Your latest album features a duet with your mother and a snippet of your grandmother singing – how did you decide to incorporate the theme of family into the sound of the album?
It just kind of happened. So much of the album is about my family and how much I missed the connection with them. I was writing about my childhood home in LA. I was writing about how being across the country was causing me to struggle with my identity. That context of having my family represented in the audio and visuals felt essential. In many ways, it was their voices or the memories of them that kept me going whenever I felt down.
Multiculturalism also plays an important part on the album. What are some of the ideas you wanted to get across?
People should feel comfortable connecting with all sides of their identity. In the US, there are so many people who identify as American, but still have a sacred relationship with their family culture—whatever country that may be from. Many people are dichotomous in their identity & that can often feel like coming from opposing worlds. I often caught myself feeling out of place and I wanted to write about it.
How was the writing and recording process like?
It was very sporadic. Many of these songs were pulled together in spare studio moments or impulsive hang outs. I would go home and write in my bedroom or on napkins at the restaurant. Some songs were first voice memos, others were first recorded in a friend’s studio, others were GarageBand demos. I like to think of the album as a collage of all these moments.
How has the response to the album been?
I’m so excited every day I see new people listening to it for the first time. People have been saying it’s hard to call the album one thing. I love that everyone has a different favorite song. I hope Cha Cha Palace finds more people as a whole body of work.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing and writing and I can’t wait for the next journey. Maybe a new album will be here sooner than I think.