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Rising Singer Angelica Garcia Keeps Her Musical Dreams Afloat in Richmond

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Angelica Garcia caught her first lucky break at 17.

The confident, blues-rock singer was performing with her high-school band at the House of Blues when a representative from Warner Brothers caught the set.

“They wanted to figure out how to work with us,” she recalls.

The group soon disbanded, but the label maintained its interest in Garcia, a native of eastern Los Angeles.

Three years later, on the opposite side of the country in small-town Virginia, the label connection led to her releasing an album in September on Warner Brothers Records and recently scoring a coveted opening slot for Lydia Loveless on a nationwide tour.

Garcia ended up in Virginia when her stepfather decided to leave behind his career in the music industry to become an Episcopal priest. The first congregation he headed brought the family to the Eastern Shore town of Accomac.

“It’s a very small, rural town that felt incredibly isolated,” Garcia says. “There are pretty landscapes and a few art galleries, but the music scene is pretty nonexistent.”

In the gothic brick house that the family occupied, Garcia found solace in writing songs. A mixture of indie rock, blues and folk, the demo recordings took a number of interesting twists and turns. Garcia recorded the sounds of creaking doors and crickets onto her MacBook and used shoeboxes for percussion.

Steadily, she began to craft the Parish House demos that encouraged Warner Brothers to sign her to a recording contract when she was 20. The label sent Garcia to Nashville to work with acclaimed producer Charlie Peacock, who’d worked with Switchfoot and the Civil Wars. Peacock’s intuition helped give the songs new life.

“The songs started taking on a more powerful presence,” Garcia says. “On something like ‘Woman I’m Hollerin,’ the demo was just handclaps and layered a cappella vocals. The song we ended up with after the studio has this huge blues feel with an enormous choir backing the entire thing.”

The results of their January 2015 sessions ended up being her debut full-length, “Medicine for Birds,” released last year. The record is a reflection of feeling displaced in an unfamiliar world.

The song “Bridge on Fire” tackles a relationship unraveling with an electronic backdrop and narrative flair. “Magnolia Is Medicine” takes the listener through a more floral, folk ballad about a piece of Virginia nature that comforted Garcia.

“This magnolia tree in Accomac always gave me this impression of how it represented the South,” she says. “It felt like it soothed me whenever I felt distraught.”

The NPR-acclaimed track, “Orange Flower,” is infectious. With witty lyrical interplay about the disasters of clueless suitors, the stomping, strumming country-blues number makes a strong case for why “Medicine for Birds” is developing a cult following and earning praise in the New York Times.

Shortly after recording it, Garcia made plans to leave Accomac. After a short visit, she was quick to decide on Richmond.

“I saw a lot of similarities to Los Angeles in how there was this creative energy bubbling in every direction,” Garcia says. “There’s also this feeling of these young kids that have this fire and passion for boldly creating music. It left me feeling inspired and it seemed like I needed to be in a place that fostered that type of scene.”

It took little time for Garcia to find a proper backing band. She found creative partners in guitarist and keyboardist Corey Axt, bassist Andrew Carper and drummer Andrew Sisk.

“We have been able to dissect the songs on the record and re-create them live,” she says. “It’s been a lot of work, but I like that the challenge has brought us all closer.”

It’s taken the band across the East Coast and currently has it on the road with Lydia Loveless. “That tour came together due to just discovering about one another and feeling like our sounds would be perfect fits,” Garcia says.

After the tour wraps up, Garcia says she’s ready to work on her next record. In the meantime, she sings the praises of inspiring Richmond groups with whom she has shared bills, such as the Wimps, Faceship, Hannah Goad and Camp Howard.

“I know that there are a lot of things to figure out on my end for how to approach recording the next record,” she says. “But I couldn’t really imagine being anywhere but in Richmond right now.” S

Angelica Garcia performs at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery on Saturday, Feb. 18, with Rikki Shay and Prabir.

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