Guitar Girl'd: Interview with Malina Moye, When Left Feels Right

With an upside-down, left-handed style that can’t help but evoke Jimi Hendrix, Malina Moye straddles both rock and soul.

Her enthusiastically funkafied spirit is contagious. She gorgeous. She’s talented. She can rock her ass off.

Moye has performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and stakes the claim as the first African American woman to play the National Anthem on electric guitar at a major sporting event (the Vikings vs. the Cowboys). She’s now appearing in an ad for Black History Month on BET.

Although Moye has been tapped to strut her stuff in Victoria’s Secret and Steve Madden ads, with guitar in hand, of course, she’s not just a pretty face. I recently had the pleasure of seeing Moye take the stage with Bootsy Collins during the 2012 Winter NAMM show, where she presided over a crowd of industry luminaries.

Moye has toured in support of her 2009 release, Diamonds & Guitars, opening for Boys II Men, Journey, Robin Thicke and others. Now Moye is putting the finishing touches on her sophomore album.

Here’s her take on what’s coming soon.

Tell me about the new album you’ve got in the works.

Yeah! I’m pretty much putting the finishing touches on my new record, which I think I wanna call Rock and Roll Baby. I’ve got some great artists who have come on board: Rhonda Smith, who I love -- an incredible bassist; and then Bootsy’s drummer, Frankie “Kash” Waddy, he’s incredible. And, of course, I’ve been talking to Bootsy.

I saw you play with Bootsy Collins. Tell me more about your gig there. There were like 20 people on stage!

It was the whole Funk Unity Band. Obviously, Bootsy, as well as Divinity Roxx and Judith Hill. I’m part of their movement, The Bootsy Girls. Our goal is to inspire young girls in the community to become leaders.

Let’s step back a little and talk about your background. I read somewhere that you seriously got into guitar when you were around 12. Did you take guitar lessons?

I come from a musical family. So my mom, my dad, my brothers – we were all in a band. And my parents – my dad is George Moye. He plays the bass right now with Bernard Allison. My mom sang background with Tina Turner. And they just always had their own group. And then my brothers and I, obviously, we just fell in line.

My dad, I’ll never forget, he gave me my first guitar. I think I was like 6. And I was like, “Y’know, I don’t get it. I don’t like it. I wanna do some more singing and be up front.” And then, I’d say maybe around 9, I picked the guitar up. And he’s like, “It’s backwards.” And I was like, “But this feels right.” And he kept trying to get to play it right-handed. But I’m truly left-handed, and it just wouldn’t work. So every time he would leave the room, I would flip it upside-down.

And then I started playing that way. And he was just like, “Well you know what, Malina, that’s crazy but Jimi Hendrix plays this way.” And then we just started going at it, and it just worked for me. So I kept playing upside-down. I just fell in love with the instrument and that’s the only thing I want to do. Completely.

So when you were learning, did you have to work out all the fingerings yourself or was somebody able to help?

My dad. And again, we always had great players around the house, so they would show a few chords. You know, everybody starts out with a few chords and then you start using different color tones and different inversions. And then all of a sudden, you’re doing all the scales.

To me, some of the best teaching is experience, and then just getting together with players who are way better than you and learning from them. I’ve been so fortunate, People like Hubert Sumlin and Eric Gales. Eric and I play the same way, so it was the best, ‘cause then you pick up so much. Buddy Guy. The real blues guys, like you are really learning right there. You’re getting it. You’re seeing it.

And then of course, you got your funk side, just how we grew up. And that was my parents’ whole thing. And you got Larry Graham. And then suddenly, you start to really, really hone in on it. I’m always like, “No matter where I am. Let’s just jam.”

These guys are the pioneers. I’ve been so fortunate to really learn from the people that actually created the blues. Pinetop Perkins, David Honeyboy Edwards. And it’s just so sad because all these guys have just passed. I was very fortunate to have a chance to at least jam, and play, and pick up from them. And then the same thing going over to rock. It’s just been incredible.

Tell me about your guitar.

  • Well, I’m a Fender endorsee, which is so great! I can customize whatever I want.
  • I always think, man, this would cool. How come I’m getting this tone? What if I actually took this pickup and if actually switched it out and added this particular pickup? How would that sound? Or what if I messed with strings and maybe mixed them up a bit? Or if we added now the Floyd Rose?

You really start to realize that means that you’re becoming the better player because you’re starting to realize what you need in order to get the voice that you’re looking for.

So, as a Fender endorsee, what’s so great now, I say, “Hey, you know what? Let’s stay custom. I would like this, this, this, this, this and this.” And then we try it. And then you come back and say, “Great. This is cool. Let’s try this, this, this, and this.” I would love to have a Malina Moye signature Fender one day!

How about your amp and other gear?

Amps? Fender. I love tubes. I love the Hot Rod DeVille 212. I always request that. No matter where I am. Or any Fender tube, but definitely the 212. As far as pedals go, I like the Dunlop MXR, the ’78 Distortion, I love that. And also, signature, I would say I love that Blues Driver. And as crazy as it sounds, I really do. The Blues Driver with the wah. And when I tell you, I’ve been through so many different pedals and so many different Cry Babys. Bottom line, I just always come back. It never fails. I come right back to the original Cry Baby and I go right with the Blues Driver.

What have you found being a female musician? Has there been any bias or negativity that you’ve had to overcome or have people been really open about it?

In the very beginning, yeah. You can walk into a music store and then people want to take you somewhere else. You’re going to have to prove yourself. But once that starts to happen, then obviously people start to recognize who you are. Then it becomes a different level.

When we did the Diamonds & Guitars record, Robin Thicke was just so kind. We were doing sound check, and once again, it’s going to be shocking to some people, I guess. You take your guitar out and people are just like “What?” And then all of a sudden, you start to tune up and sound check, and they’re just like, “Holy shit!”

And it was the best. And LB (Lawrence Breaux) is Robin’s drummer, I never forgot. He was so impressed. He just came over and gave me a hug. He was like, “Oh my god! I’ve never seen a female guitar player play like that.” And then, you think, “Oh, okay.” ‘Cause you don’t look at it as a female guitarist, you just think that you’re just playing like anybody else would play.

I think of you as a role model for young female players. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Thank you! I appreciate it in many different ways. First of all, as an artist, I think that’s it’s important that you be unique. The more that you do who you are, and no matter what that is, no matter who that is, that is how you truly will shine. The most important thing I would say to anybody is really do you. And if you are doing yourself, you are gonna find the people who totally get you. I promise you this. And it’s going to feel right, and it’s gonna be right, and it’s gonna move mountains.

And I also would say, you should treat people the way you really want to be treated. No matter how anybody else runs as a business aspect, you always be fair. And always stick to your ground.

And I’ll say something else. I know we also get a lot of attention when I look at people like Orianthi. We are female, this is true. But I was still have to say that these girls, I know they have worked their craft in and out. In and out, everyday, probably more so than the guys simply because we are females and you really want to be noticed for that the fact that you’re bringing a certain style or tone to the table. Look at what they’re really doing. Look at the expression they’re really stating as artists. To me, that’s what I want to bring with this new record. And that’s what I’m hoping that I can bring in.

Do you have a sense of a release date for the album?

In April, and I cannot wait. So much good stuff is happening right now. It’s incredible. You know how you just work your butt off? And then all of a sudden, everything just starts to happen? That’s my life right now!

Find out more at

Here’s Malina at her historic pro-football National Anthem performance:

Here Moye performs “Black Cat” at the Bospop in the Netherlands:

Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents 65amps, Acoustic Bass Amps, Agile Partners, Guitar World and many more. Laura was instrumental in the launch of the Guitar World Lick of the Day app. She is the lead singer for the rock band, Summer Music Project. More at

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Laura B. Whitmore

Laura B. Whitmore is a music industry marketing veteran, music journalist and editor, writing for, Guitar World, and others. She has interviewed hundreds of musicians and hosts the She Rocks Podcast. As the founder of the Women’s International Music Network, she advocates for women in the music industry and produces the annual She Rocks Awards. She is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Positive Grid, making the world safe for guitar exploration everywhere! A guitarist and singer/songwriter, Laura is currently co-writing an album of pop songs that empower and energize girls.