Carrying the Torch of Black Girl Magic | Jess Garland

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Photo Credit Ashley Gongora
       

Guitar Girl Magazine’s Diversity Editor, Gabriella “Guitar Gabby” Logan, sat down with some of her industry sisters to celebrate the cultural influence of Black history in music. This series highlights the amazing womxn that continue carrying the torch while using their platforms and music to spread positivity in a changing world.

What’s your name and pronouns, where are you from, and what instrument do you play?

My name is Jess Garland; my pronouns are she/her. I am a multi-instrumentalist. I play guitar, harp, bass, and other string instruments.

How long have you been playing, and when did you know you wanted to be a musician?

I’ve been a musician since elementary school where I started out playing the clarinet in band. I knew I wanted to be a musician when I first figured out how to play “Lean On Me” on the piano at my grandmother’s house. I also vividly remember being a young girl hearing my parents and grandmother having a discussion about the meaning of James Brown’s song “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.” I was really caught up in the lyrics and really started to understand the importance of being a girl in this world. 

What is the best part about being a musician?

The best part is the growth and healing process. It’s rewarding after putting in the work with investing in yourself and studying your craft and seeing the outcome years later.

What do you think of when you hear “Black History Month”?

It’s a month where we get to be unapologetically Black; however, that’s a daily mood. We shouldn’t be made to feel shameful about being proud. We need to keep that same energy year-round.

Is there a specific Black creative that inspires you? Why?

There are many creatives that inspire me, but if I had to pick one, it would be Missy Elliott. She is the ultimate creative and is a futuristic innovator. I listened to her a lot while in high school, and she definitely played a role in affirming my dreams of pursuing a career as a musician. I thought it was so dope that she was multi-talented and a producer. I’m still watching to see what she does next.

Photo Credit Ashley Gongora

Why do you think it is important to pay homage to the Black creatives that came before us?

Our job as musicians is to not only reflect the times but also to inspire others. Paying homage is an act of gratitude. Period.

Why do you think the world needs to learn about our Black History?

Black history is 24/7 and 365 days out of the year. Black History Month is needed because it is a time to learn, but that should be a daily act to undo the miseducation of our history.

What is your current studio and (when we get back to live shows) live performance set up? Is it any different? (Feel free to address one or both of your rig setups).

It’s rare that I play a gig using one instrument, but it does happen, and I’m always feeling like I’m forgetting something, lol. My usual setup is my 36 string Dusty Strings harp and my Epiphone Wildkat guitar running through my BOSS RC-1 loop pedal and WayHuge Aquapuss Delay pedal and one vocal mic.

What does it mean to be a Black womxn to you?

It means that I’m the original person, which also means that society has invested years into controlling the narrative of a Black womxn that created stereotypes that we deal with daily. Stereotypes that cause racist behavior, such as tone policing and body shaming in places like the classroom or corporate environments that ultimately can affect the way Black womxn treat each other. I’m grateful for opportunities like this where we are uplifting and building together through music.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to your eight-year-old self looking up to the adult version of you?

Speak up; your voice matters.

Follow Jess on IG @jes_jess