Although the world favors right-handed people tremendously, we lefties get around pretty well. Blame science: studies have shown that lefties think faster than righties when it comes to tasks with multiple stimuli, including video games, sports and – in Malina Moye’s case – music. The guitarist/singer/songwriter has flipped the world of music just as upside down as her right-handed guitar, being the first woman to play the Experience Hendrix Tour and constantly innovating her funk rock sound. She talks to Soul Train about playing guitar lefty upside-down, her experience on the Experience and her new album Rock n’ Roll Baby.
Malina Moye: I’ve been playing for about 10 years, and lead for 6 years now. I really started professionally at 12 when my father first put a guitar in my hand. He gave me a regular guitar, a right-handed guitar, and well, I’m left handed. I tried to learn it the regular way, but I just couldn’t get it, so when he left the room I would flip the guitar upside down and play it that way.
ST: What made you wanna play lefty upside down instead of playing the other way?
MM: It just seemed natural and so comfortable. It’s funny because my father said to me, “Why didn’t we just buy you a left-handed guitar?” I’m like, “I was a kid, how was I supposed to know?!” Honestly, I tried to play it regularly but it just wouldn’t work for me because I guess my brain is so backwards that I just couldn’t get it. I’m just going with what works.
ST: I’m left handed as well, so I get what you mean when you say you feel like your brain is backwards– mainly because everything is so right-handed oriented.
MM: Right! As I got around experienced players, and developed my tone and style, I’ve learned that there are certain things a lefty can do that a righty can’t, and vice versa. That’s what’s so incredible about the guitar: No two people will sound the same – no matter how hard they may try to sound like someone else.
ST: Wow! I can see that because of just how the guitar’s strings are laid out like a spectrum, so a spectrum of sound comes with that, maybe?
MM: Yeah, I definitely agree. The guitar is a lot like a voice in that everyone’s tone is different. Maybe you don’t sing or play great in terms of measuring it according to another person, but you will find your own style and go with that. Who’s to say something is right or wrong? If it feels good and it feels right, that’s what you should do.
ST: How did you link up with the Experience Hendrix Tour?
MM: I met Janie (Hendrix), who is CEO of the tour, at another show. She saw me playing and knows how much I love Jimi Hendrix as an influence as well as a player, so she asked me to join them for a couple dates. I said, “Are you kidding me? Yeah!” Every one of those guitar players on that tour were the top guitar players in the world, even Rolling Stone tells you that. So to be the first female to be invited to play that tour, plus the experience, was incredible! You realize that, “Oh my God, this is my job! I’m playing with Kenny Wayne, Buddy Guy!” And, while you’re on stage trying to emulate them, they’re loving what you do. It was the most incredible experience, especially if you love Jimi Hendrix and recognize that he is the greatest guitar player of all time. As I looked at some of the pictures of the shows–because when you’re playing you don’t see the backdrop of never-before-seen footage of Jimi– that made it that much cooler. I also hope it opens the door for more women to be part of the Experience Hendrix Tour or to play guitar in general.
ST: What was it like going through the experience of seeing yourself in the Experience? Not necessarily the feeling of just performing his music, but seeing everything after, including the things you didn’t really notice, like the backdrop and the crowd?
MM: On the last night of the show, I was so excited that even though we had to catch a plane at 5 a.m. I didn’t even sleep that night. I laid in the bed looking up at the ceiling trying to replay the entire night in my head and thinking, ‘Oh my God, did I just really play Jimi Hendrix’s music with all the guitarists I ever loved?!’ You can’t get any bigger than that kind of tribute.
ST: What’s your favorite Hendrix song to perform?
MM: On my record Diamonds and Guitars there’s a song called “Sexxy Man,” which is my interpretation of “Foxy Lady.” I have an incredible time playing it, I have my wah going and it’s a time to let loose. People really love it when I perform it because they know I’m really just doing Malina Moye.
ST: So what’s next for Malina Moye, project-wise?
MM: We’re recording a new album called Rock n’ Roll Baby, and I get to experiment with a lot of different guitars to find a different tone this time around. It’s definitely more guitar-driven than my last album, but it’ll still have the same catchy hooks and melodics. As a singer, I want people to recognize that footprint and my style, and people will enjoy that. Bootsy (Collins) is on a song from that record as well as [bassist] Rhonda Smith, so I’m really excited about that because I love funk music. I’m like a cross between Sly & The Family Stone and Led Zeppelin but just a little commercial. I can’t wait to share the sound with everybody!
ST: How far along are you on your new album Rock n’ Roll Baby?
MM: We have just a couple more tracks to cut then we have some mixing to do. I’m really loving what I’m hearing and we should have a decision on the next released single by the end of April. You know how you get to a point in your life where you’re confident, strong, sexy and know what you want to do with all of your life? That’s where I am.
Starletta Watson is a freelance multimedia journalist perusing the world of music, art and entertainment. She regularly contributes as a writer, blogger, photographer and videographer to Frank 151, Examiner, SlapStik Magazine and a host of others media outlets.