The Queen of England, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a pro football game don’t seem to have anything in common, but they’ve all experienced the electrifying, Hendrix-esque performances of lefty Strat-slinging guitarist Malina Moye. In 2010, Moye appeared in front of 80,000 football fans at a Vikings/Cowboys game, and became the first African-American woman to interpret the National Anthem on electric guitar at a professional sporting event. Two years later, she joined the Experience Hendrix Tour, played Chuck Berry’s “Stop and Listen” at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tribute concert to the legend, and performed “God Save the Queen” for Queen Elizabeth’s 60th Jubilee celebration at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The hard-working guitarist has also had a lot of red-carpet moments (including several “Best Dressed at the Grammys” nods by various media), been sought out for music documentaries (such as Stratmaster: The Greatest Story Ever Told), and was named “Queen of Funk Rock” on the January 2015 cover of Asia’s top guitar magazine, Gitar Plus. Her latest album, Rock and Roll Baby [WCE/BDG/RED], features an impressive take on Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady,” as well as a funkified collaboration with Bootsy Collins entitled “K-yotic.”
Quite literally born to a musical family, Moye fought early to play the guitar in a manner that felt comfortable and right.
“My mom says her water broke when she was performing onstage, and I was born soon after,” says Moye. “Then, when I was six, my dad put a guitar in my hand, and I totally wasn’t feeling it. So when he left the room, I took that right-handed guitar, flipped it upside down, and said, ‘Now, this works!’ He said, ‘Malina, that is so backwards.’ But it just felt right, and I started learning to play that way.”
What’s your current gear setup?
My main axe is a custom Fender Strat with a left-handed body and a right-handed headstock. I use really light Dean Markley strings—an .008 set—because I really want control of my attack and dynamics when playing lead. But I have to compensate with certain pickups so that the strings don’t sound too thin. I currently have a DiMarzio Virtual Vintage Blues in the bridge position and a DiMarzio True Velvet in the neck. Those pickups make the sound warmer. I use a Fender Hot Rod DeVille 212 amp, because I like clean, simple, and crisp sounds—especially when it comes to my rhythm playing. That amp kicks and stays true to the sound. It’s just an amazing amp.
How do you approach songwriting?
I think good songwriting comes down to being real, simplicity, and great stories. You can’t just go, “I’m going to write this hit.” It’s more like, “I have to get this off my chest. This is what it is.” I like to write about the truth—whether it’s my truth or someone else’s truth. I’m both a teacher and a person who learns from life. My job is to pay attention, and to be a vessel to write it out.
What moves you musically?
It’s when you hear a vocalist, and you say, “Oh my God, that’s Michael Jackson!” It’s having that instantly recognizable signature sound. So for me, as a guitar player, I want people to say, “Yeah, that’s Malina. I can tell from the way she’s playing that lick, because no one can play it like that!”