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Tunes Tuesday Talks To GeeXella - Transcript

Maud Mostly: Hello and welcome to The Other Teams Tunes Tuesday, a weekly series that discusses music and matters with queer artists you love. I'm your host Maud Mostly, my pronouns are they/them, and joining me this week is Georgia-based singer, rapper and DJ, Geexella. It's so great to have you here. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Geexella: Yes, thank you. I'm trying to get used to the fact that I am in Georgia now, I just relocated from Florida. But my name is Geexella, I pronounce are they, them and theirs. Thank you so much for that introduction. Yeah, I do all the things, I'm a singer, rapper, DJ, facilitator, abolitionist, dreamer, wanderer, all the things, and just trying to use my art as a cultural tool to uplift all the things that's going on in the world right now!

M: I love that so much, and I love how much to just your work and values align so well with this series, it makes it such a delight to have you here, and I really want to jump right into your music and definitely talk about all those other aspects and identities, you hold later on as well, but in 2017, you released your EP Gee Things, and it has been a few years since then, time passes in a linear fashion, surprisingly. But what does that EP mean to you today? And what might exploring, creating and your releasing new music in the future look like for you?

G: Thank you so much for that question. Yeah, there was a lot going on in 2017. I was definitely a baby queer trying to figure myself out. Some of the first times I used music that used she/her pronouns in talking about my love interest, and since then, I mean, I'm just... I don't wanna be cliche, I'm a totally different person, but I am. I started therapy, I moved into more of expanding my gender thinking outside of my gender, I really gained a politic for myself, and so much of that music when I wrote it and when I was co-creating it, you know, it really resonates with me in such a different way, because when I'm on stage now, I cry when I sing a lot of this music, 'cause it came from such a vulnerable space. A lot of where this music was birthed out of was I was in a super bad car accident, I got hit by semi-truck, my car flipped three times, and nothing physically happened to me as far as broken bones or anything, some chronic pain, but you know, I did not realize at the time how much that was impacting so much of my life and other things that it brought up for me, like other past trauma, and so it was like me writing out like my feelings with the song, new life, 'cause I did, I felt like I truly had another life to live and things to experience, and now looking back at that Geexella and this Geexella, it's like, wow, how much I've grown to speak truth to power. So much I've grown and being real and being honest with myself, not being afraid on stage to show up as my full self, being Black, being queer, being southern, also being Hispanic as well, and not being afraid to be all those things at one time that that Geexella was super afraid of so.

M: Yeah. Yeah, that's really amazing. And I love, you know how much care you're extending to that previous version of yourself, I feel like so often when we feel like we've grown into a new person, sometimes it's so easy to look back and say, you know, Oh, what were you doing? Like, Oh, you had no idea yet, and especially look at things, we were creating then with a sense of, Oh, that's what you were making then? But it's so amazing to hear how much you cherish what you are making then because it's what brought you to where you are today it really sounds like.

G: Yeah, I mean, that music has brought me like across the United States, it's brought me to so many different spaces to meet so many incredible people, just because I decided to really get up on stage and really be myself, it brought me to DJ’ing, it brought me to curating dance parties for Black folks in the South, and so that music means so much to me, and now that the pandemic starting to, not that is going nowhere 'cause it's not, but now that I'm able to get back on stage and perform through a pandemic, it's just... I can't even think to imagine what's gonna come up for me when I get on stage next and I sing some of this music because yeah, I'm just such a completely different person now and...Yeah, I definitely appreciate what I was at that time, and I try to carry that with me when I'm on stage and into writing like more music, which I'm currently doing, so...Yeah.

M: Yeah, that's really beautiful. And it's really exciting to hear that you're working on new work, is there anything you can share in terms of what there is to look forward to as far as what you're hoping to express or maybe some themes you're hoping to bring up?

G: Yeah, definitely. So I wrote about or I was interviewed like a while ago, right before the...Well, no, was it during? It was during the pandemic, so I did release the name of the EP, so the next EP is gonna be It's Fine. And so I released a single during the pandemic, We Don't was on there, and a lot of it is exploring just me growing into myself to some of those same things, like me growing into myself, some of the just challenges I've had with other people telling me that I'm not good enough or I'm not able to do that, and how that impostor syndrome continues to go on through other aspects of my life, whether that’s school or showing up at work, and then also being real about me being a little sad boy and doing the queer thing and following people across the country and getting my heart broken, y’know? The gay thing that we do, that's doing that. And so talking about that y’know? Not dating fire signs, I'm just kidding. So yeah, just really felt so good, I got to write with one of my really good friends J. Maestro, my other homie, Nikki Dawson, who really supported me, with just kinda putting my style on it, you know? I'm classically trained as a singer from the time I was like in middle school until high school, so a lot of that shows up in my work where I'm not able to be free, like in DJ’ing I'm able to have fun and play and all those things, but sometimes when I'm singing, I can be really critical and wanting to over-think it and do the most, so Nikki was able to really support me and be relaxed in that and just do it and shout out to my produce, I would be remiss if I didn't mention him.

Willie Evans Jr. My mentor. I love that man. He's like the best cis man in the world, cis straight man in the world. Like, seriously, he's queer by politic, I'm gonna say that, but no, he's definitely straight, but he just is so good, and I really felt like in this project, we really were able to link and he was able to capture a lot of what I was feeling and what I was going through during that time, and it was really so much fun to get back into the booth, and record and do all the things during the pandemic. The EP is done! I just need to stop being a Capricorn and just put it out. My homies are like, ‘Gee, please, please put the record out,’ and I'm like, ‘I know, I know, I don't wanna let it go yet,’ so I'm trying... I'm trying...

M: Well, it sounds like there's so much to look forward to there, and it's also really exciting to hear how many deep connections were involved in the making of this, like how much you were able to bring in people that you're in community with and really work with people, that have a similar artistic vision to you and care about the music in a really same way that you do so that you can really see what you want to get out of it.

G: No, for sure, I respect J so much. J was in a band with one of my other homies, which we gained him as an ancestor so rest in power to Payton Lock, but the work and the music that he creates, it's just...His last name is my Maestro, his stage name J Maestro, but he really orchestrated the songs that we wrote together, and I was able to be like, ‘Okay, so this is my story, this is what I wanna talk about, I got this little line,’ and he was like, ‘okay, bih.’ And just like go all the way in, and same with Nikki, I've known Nikki since I was like in middle school, and she composed one of the tracks and again, I'm very big and really try to tap into the story of whatever the song is, and that's where I get caught up, so I was able to like really learn how to song write too. J really gave me that tool, so it felt really good to be able to show up as my full self and just be, ‘okay, put it all on the table. This is the actual story. This is my mess and so let's write a song about it.’ So yeah, very similar to my first EP that I co-wrote with Chi, we did a lot of the same things with that first EP.

M: Yeah, that sounds like just such an affirming creative process, which is really what you hope every artist can find, and I'm so glad that's what you have found through your music, and I also wanna say you mentioned a few times now that alongside your music, you also work as a DJ, which is just so exciting and so fun, so what do you find the main differences are though for yourself between these forms of art and expression, and do you feel like there's a certain way that you can creatively express yourself in one of those areas that maybe you don't feel like you can in the other? I know you are mentioning that that DJ’ing gives you a little more freedom then you sometimes feel like you have with the singing, but I just love to hear more about that practice and the differences you find.

G: Yeah, I think I'm really trying to pour myself from DJ’ing and singing into each other, how I approach the work, 'cause I know a DJ’ing, like I said, DJ’ing is really new for me. I started DJ’ing like four years ago, and I don't know how I've gotten this far with it, like finessing it, because I definitely self-taught myself how to DJ. Like I play every single time I get on the controllers. I don't know what's about to come out. I don't know what's gonna happen. I just know that I like to dance, I like to make people dance, I love being on a microphone and being crazy, if you ever…folks ever come to my dance party, Duval Folx, I am notorious for being like ‘what y’all doing on the wall? Come on. Let's get off the wall. Let's dance. Make space for people. Like if you need some water. Please go drink some water.’ I'm also an abuelita in that way. I'm like, please go take care of yourselves. State your needs, do what you need to do, but yeah, I really just play. I just have fun. I feel like I'm on a playground. When I first got into music as a young person, just being excited to touch all the things and do all kinds of crazy stuff, whatever, but I still don't feel like with singing, I'm so vulnerable and I don't feel like…I'm strategic with it, I practice, and with DJ’ing, I don't do that, I just like wing it.

So I think it's pouring some of that, that playfulness into singing, but then also some of the more strategic practice like...I don't wanna say rigid-ness, but just having more care and just taking time to dedicate to DJ’ing, I want to do... 'cause I don't, I just kinda wing it, go after it, you know? But I wanna keep some of that, but just like practice more is really what I wanna do and invest in myself in doing that, and so that's some of what I'm doing this year is linking up with other DJs, trying to take classes. Shout out to Femme House, they're an amazing organization. I went to an Ableton class this week, so that was really dope to be able to learn about my craft 'cause I haven't been able to do that since I was in middle school and high school, 'cause I went to art schools, and so I miss that. I miss going to class, like learning about music and tapping into stuff, and so I wanna be able to do that with my DJ’ing.

M: Yeah, I like that you've really had these kind of two seemingly independent outlets for yourself, but then naturally as one person doing both those things, you've been able to take positive aspects from each of them and kind of meld them and let them inform each other in some of the ways that you want them to.

G: Yeah. For sure, for sure. And I also want that confidence of when I rap too, 'cause when I rap it's like, ‘listen, Geexella is here and they're in your face, like they're doing all the things,’ so I wanna be able to also bring that aspect too.

M: I love that so much. And gosh, you just have so many hats, because on top of being a singer and rapper and DJ, you mentioned this at the beginning too, you're also a facilitator, you're a mental health worker, so how do you feel like those worlds come together to inform each other? Do you feel like that area of being a facilitator, being a mental health worker comes into your arts practice?

G: For sure. My job is amazing. Shout out to the Black Emotional Mental Health Collective, that's where I work. And I really, really appreciate, you know, Yolo is my CEO, Yolo Akili Robinson, and I respect him so much and how he really like grounds us in the work and really allows me to show up as my full self, you know? And also my amazing direct supervisor, L’Oreal, I love her so much. She also is a DJ. And we always are like, ‘Oh my god, we’re both DJs!’ And both moving through sobriety too, and so it's such a perfect fit, and it just reminds me to make sure I take care of myself and make sure I take care of my people when I'm in a space too. I’m a movement worker too, like I've been doing movement work for a very long time working with families who have been unfortunately, a part of state-sanctioned violence, and so I be in these streets and I be like with these people, and I also like an HIV advocate. I've worked in LGBT centers with people and have been doing this work for such a long time, and using my music as a way to highlight what's been happening in my community and the pain that has been happening in my community, and I think doing that healing justice work and facilitation work like I've been doing that, that's what I do on stage, by letting people know like, Hey, this is who I am, this is what I do.

When I'm singing a song, like I'm explaining it by letting people know what's going on, like getting people hyped, making sure people are okay. And I think it's just so much of what I naturally do as an artist because I care. I care about my people and I want my people to know what's going on in the city. Do y’all know that our young people are out here not being able to eat? Do you know our young people are suffering in the south? Folks who have already been through a pandemic, we've had an HIV pandemic going on for years, and so making sure to speak truth to power every time I get on a microphone is something that I definitely have always incorporated in my work. And I love facilitating, facilitating is so fun and so necessary too, for like the make-up of who I am. I feel so rooted in this work. I feel so called to the work too. Just because of how I was raised as well, my mom was a migrant worker and always was telling us about how we care for one another, we need to show up for one another, when I was a young person, she'd always give us extra supplies to make sure our classmates had extra stuff, and so I definitely carry her spirit in the work that I do and everything that I do, and so yeah, I definitely feel like facilitating and Mental Health work just shows up in every single thing that I do.

M: Yeah, that's all really powerful. And I know you briefly mentioned this before, but I feel like I just wanna highlight it is such a wonderful example of everything you just spoke to, which is founding Duval Folx for that dance party, but also doing that in the face of such high rates of transphobic violence that was happening, especially locally, and still creating and cultivating a space for joy and having that experience, I feel like really just is such a tangible act that just speaks to everything you just said, but also is there anything you wanted to add about Duval Folx, because I know you've moved away, but I feel like everyone is probably still thinking of you and your work.

G: Well, Duval Folx has not ended yet. I'm still planning. I actually have a party coming up in the works, and I don't...My people know I don't give no dates out yet, they know when it's gonna come, it's gonna come, they know to wait on it, and so...Yeah, I mean, it was a scary, scary time in 2018. Just to be like real talk for a moment, are people like if folks don't know, in 2018, Jackson at the time was an epicenter for trans violence. We had the most Black trans murders in the United States, and it was just so horrendous because the cops were misgendering these women, the violence was like...Compared to some of the other women, rest in power, that were taken away from us. It was very violent, and I at the time, that's when I started DJing. So I was DJing in the “gay clubs” and nobody was speaking about it, there was no money raised for the funds for funerals and things like that, and I was like, ‘this is whack as hell, and also y’all racist and also I hate it here. Why am I doing this?’ And I was just like, you know what? I'm about to carve out my own space. I'm about to make my own thing because this is whack as hell, ya'll tell me I can't play rap music because that's for urban night. I can’t play reggaeton 'cause that's for Latin night, and it just was so segregated still, you know?

And we know as queer people, there’s such a big difference between queer spaces and gay spaces, and that's what I wanted to make. I wanted to make queer space that was accessible, that my homies could pay zero dollars and still come in and have fun, that they were able to get there because Jacksonville is the largest state land-wise in the United States. So traveling around Jackson is trash, and so I wanted to have all those things like available, y’know? Like white people, if you wanna come up in here, you know you paying some money, and we're able to have a good time and take care of each other, and then also have sober spaces. So much of like when I entered into queer space, I was a little bit older when I entered into gay life, and so the first place is I could go was to the club, you know? And I wanted some young people, 'cause I also do work with young people, I didn't want their first time to be in a club. Like let's have a fun dance party that centered around dancing, like checking in with each other, making sure we’re taking care of each other, asking each other our pronouns, respecting space, like ain’t no bathrooms that got gender stuff on the wall. Let's take over this and take it up, and that's exactly what happened from the beginning when we were in the venue, over 300 people showed up.

Obviously, we can't do that now 'cause pandemic, but we were able to show up together and be there like the straight boys were cheering on the queer boys, and queer boys are pulling the Black fat femmes up on stage, the femmes were cheering on the butch queens, vogueing on the floor. And that's how every single party was, and I really think it's because I really came to the community and I was like, ‘listen, I see this need, I see this gap, and let's build this together.’ And I’d be remiss and not like mention all the people that volunteered, that supported me. Shout out to my best friend, Ari, who was my right hand, it really supported me because like we said, not only was Geexella the talent, but Geexella was facilitating, getting the volunteers together, sending all of the emails out, coordinating with the venues, and then I was a talent on top of that, and I was like, Okay, how I did that? Listen, speak to my sun sign Capricorn, alright.

So that's how I was able to do all that. But yeah, I'm so thankful because I was able to coordinate that for the community, but the community was able to also pour into me and made me realize that like, yeah, this is what I'm meant to do, like I'm meant to curate space, I'm meant to facilitate space, and I'm just so thankful that Duval Folx is that and will continue to be that, and I'm thankful and I'm excited for the next one, 'cause like I said, I have some things up my sleeve that we're doing, and I'm not forgetting about Duval Folx at all, like Jacksonville, that's my home, and I love my community there, and Atlanta’s cute or whatever, but it's not Duval, and so I'm excited to give back to Jackson, scheme and do some stuff.

M: Definitely, and I mean, facilitating those kinds of spaces, I think we both know just how life-changing that can be for people that enter that space, especially if you know that's their first time coming into spaces like that, that can help them explore themselves, find themselves in ways that they may have not been able to do otherwise. So I hope you just feel the gratitude that exists for just doing that work and the support that I hope you get in return for it and...Yeah, it's just amazing to hear that that exists, and unfortunately, I'm not in the area, but... my gosh, I hope if you're local, if you're close, this is something that you can go check out when it is around, definitely keep your eyes out for it, and definitely also check out everything else we have talked about today, the music that's come up, the work that's come up, you can find all of that at the links below regarding any of the topics we brought up, and just thank you so much for joining me this week on Tunes Tuesday! It was such a pleasure to speak with you and Geexella will be playing us out.

*We Don’t by Geexella begins playing*

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