Perpetual Change — Michelle Garcia, Part 1

| Sep 24, 2012
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Michelle Garcia was first introduced to TGForum readers in August, 2006. At that time, she had sent me a demo recording of several songs, some of which had been previously released, and some that were still works in progress. Since then, Michelle has several other projects under her belt as well as a biographical film.

Michelle currently lives in the Nashville area, but has also been in San Francisco and is very well known in the music scene there, as well as up and down the entire west coast. When contacted for this interview, she sent me copies of some of her other albums, most notably San Francisco Queers (recently remastered, this project encompasses music from 2000 through 2009); Laughin’ In The Kitchen (2008); and the instrumental album Spanish Traveler (an older version from 2000).

Dead End Street is Michelle Garcia’s newest project, which will be released next month. She is planning a CD release party October 6 at The Rainbow Room, San Francisco LGBT Center, from 3 to 6 p.m. (Tickets available here online). A press release for this CD release states: “Gay or straight, this album has an audience far beyond the usual fare. Michelle Rocking Horse Garcia, once signed with Electra Records, gives us music from the generation that had a voice, that brought us legends like John Lennon, Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan, and Bob Marley.”

The autobiographical film on Michelle, Tipping The Scales: The Michelle Rocking Horse Garcia Story will be presented on Saturday, November 3 at the San Francisco LGBT Center, 3 p.m. (Tickets are $15, for more information visit the website.)

Michelle’s music doesn’t stay in one genré. It touches on rock, R&B, blues, Latin, jazz, and practically anything that she feels like doing at the moment. Michelle assures me that a fresh copy of the new album will be on it’s way and we’ll definitely post a review, and perhaps even touch on some of her other works as well eventually. Until then, she has graciously agreed to undergo our arduous interview process. She survived, and no songwriting ability was injured during the process.

(Author’s Note: The Michelle Garcia interview is actually quite lengthy, and we have therefore chosen to present it in two installments.)

TGForum: It’s been a while since we last spoke. During that time, you’ve been very active as a musician and have released some new material. What is the exact order of release for the following: San Francisco Queers, Laughin’ In The Kitchen and Dead End Street?

Michelle Garcia: I released San Francisco Queers to a small test market a little over a year ago and now we are ready to promote the album along with new auto-biographical documentary. It’s a film for the LGBT audience.

I remastered the San Francisco Queers album in Nashville with my engineer who has a gift for bringing everything to life. I can’t wait to showcase this album in the way it deserves. This body of work is the closest to my heart and the folks helped me in the studio, were all from the LGBT community. I feature several back up singers from the F to M trans community that had sung with me when we all sang in the Transcendence Gospel Choir. Camp Fire films released The Believers, a film about the choir, a couple years ago. I have a small feature part in the film. The San Francisco Queers album digs deep into my well of experience, each song has it’s own history and story.

There are a lot of issues we are fighting for in our community-same sex marriage and transgender rights need updating throughout the nation. Tennessee state will not allow transsexuals a drivers license with the correct identification of their gender. We have hate crimes the LGBT community lives with, and I hope San Francisco Queers can soften the injustice with this celebration of the human spirit.

It’s kind of insane but I’m actually working on three projects, the polishing of San Francisco Queers, and also Laughin’ In The Kitchen, my comedy cook book album. Every song is about food told in a funny story-like situation. Laughin’ In The Kitchen also features a recipe book from the days I spent cooking and baking natural foods in Los Angeles during the ‘70s at The Source Natural Food Restaurant, in Hollywood. I was also the baker at the legendary Earth Mother’s Restaurant in Venice Beach, CA, and I cooked and baked at the Inn of the 7th Ray in Topanga Canyon, in LA.

As if that wasn’t enough, I’m beginning to produce some booking shows, using my recipes, featuring a live performance from the Laughin’ In The Kitchen album during each L&K food show.

(The new album) Dead End Street will challenge your belief system. Although somewhat apocalyptic, the music is the best I’ve written and the strength of the music is evident in it’s modern approach to some classic rock, R&B, and Latin jazz. It’s about the coming of age. Realizing our way of life has been compromised with the greed for power, money, and oil. It offers up some great Latin Jazz, as well as some tough R&B and rock for loyal fans.

TGF: Growing up, what were your musical influences? And, what do you listen to now for your own enjoyment?

MG: I was playing rock and roll in a band in Los Angeles called The Tangents when I was a teenager in the ‘60s. British rock flooded the music scene and I grew up with The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pyschedelic and Motown music also had a great impact on my writing. However, I guess if I was influenced by any artist it would have to be a combination of folks like Sheryl Crow, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Santana, Jackson Brown, Steele Dan, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, the Funk Brothers, and Frank Zappa.

TGF: On the demo that you sent, I hear everything from straight up jazz, to Latin, to Santana influenced material, as well as pop. First off, is all this your original music? Secondly, how many instruments do you play? And, your voice is very feminine. Have you been taking any vocal instruction?

MG: I write all my own material. I am an ASCAP member and I have my own publishing company, Salsa n Chips. I was signed with Elektra Records when I was 19 years old. Currently, I am an unsigned artist.

I began playing music with a ukelele my folks gave me when I was 9 years old and I played that thing like it was the only instrument in the world until my brother accidentally sat on it. My dad bought my older brother a Spanish guitar and any time he wasn’t using it, devoured the thing, playing it any chance I got. My dad played the saxophone and my mom the piano. Neither of them played professionally. I loved listening to Latin jazz growing up.

My first guitar was a 12 string, a Mexican model and the strings were an inch off the fretboard! The first band I played in, I was the designated singer and I learned how to play the harmonica, rock and blues styles. I began writing and learning how to play the piano in my twenties. I had all my music theory from playing guitar and although the piano is world away from the guitar, I learned how to play by hook and crook on the piano. I took only one lesson, but watched and learned the hard way. It’s by far the most valuable instrument I’ve learned how to play.

I have six albums to my credit and every album has a few original piano songs. I also learned how to play the clarinet and alto sax a little. My partner plays several instruments including drums. Since his kit was always around, I picked up drums again and found out I can really play better than I thought. So I guess I play about 5 or 6 different instruments. There is a huge difference in the way you play an acoustic guitar compared to an electric guitar. I love how each instrument has a unique sound, and has it’s own set of rules to follow.

When I transitioned in 1994 I did not have a female voice I felt comfortable recording. I needed some time to develop this skill and in 2000 released Spanish Traveler, an all instrumental album. This gave me time to train my voice. Two years later I was singing in the gospel choir Transcendence as a soprano and I gained better control of my voice and finally was able to compromise the sound. Not a male voice, but a female voice closer to that of Sheryl Crow or Chrissy Hynde of The Pretenders.

Listen to Michelle Garcia: [mp3j track=”″]

TGF: Do you have a band, or a core group of musicians who record with you? And, what about live performances?

MG: Yes, I have a band and I have a few musicians I like to record with. Chuck Nelson is one the best drummers I have ever played with and he is on several of my albums — San Francisco Queers and Dead End Street. We met in SF and I was immediately impressed with the fact that Chuck owned 4 or 5 drum kits and had his own home studio for recording. He is a consummate musician I miss his sound living in Nashville. Larry Otis played lead guitar with me in The Messengers and he recorded on San Francisco Queers, Laughin’ In The Kitchen and Dead End Street. My partner plays all the woodwinds. His jazz influence and R&B style give my music the finishing touches it hopefully deserves. However, saxophonist Dale Carlson, Miss TGSF 1997, is featured on several tracks on Dead End Street.

TGF: Have you been gigging much? Also, what kind of promotion are you planning for the new release?

MG: I haven’t been gigging as much as I’d like to. My autobiographical film, Tipping The Scales, has been taking up all my time. But with its release this year, I’ll be gigging on the west and east coasts soon at LGBT venues. I want to make an impact and create a stir. It’s time we had a transgender artist available to promote at a national level.

Michelle Garcia can be contacted through her Facebook page and her music is available through several online sources such as, Reverbnation, iTunes, songkick, cdbaby and soundcloud. Albums can also be purchased through


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Pam Degroff

About the Author ()

Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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