When guitarist and songwriter, Malina Moye, first moved to California from Minneapolis to pursue her passion for music and performance, she had just $20 in her pocket. She washed up in gas stations. She slept in her car between the front and back seats with clothes covering her so no one would notice her face. These were the early days before the Billboard chart-topping record, Bad as I Wanna Be, and recent viral single, “Enough.” For Moye, it was a good thing then that she wasn’t seen there in her car. But she’s come a long way since then. Now people can’t help but notice Moye. And she’s using that newfound attention to help others gain the notoriety and consideration they deserve, too.
“We’re in an era of discovery,” says Moye. “Long gone are the big budgets, now people are sharing artists like a good book. With rock music, people are always saying it’s ‘dead’ but perhaps they’re not looking in the right places.”
Moye, who plays electric guitar left-handed and upside down, was born into a musical family. Her parents were musicians and knew people embedded in the business like Tina Turner and Babyface. Moye received her first guitar from her father before she was 10-years-old and she’s been investigating and manipulating it ever since. One of Moye’s favorite sayings is that everyone is given the same set of notes to work with and the art is, therefore, dependent upon style and how one puts those sounds together.
“We all have the same seven notes,” Moye says. “It just matters how you execute.”
Moye gained a great deal of experience playing her instrument and performing in bands growing up. But she wanted to test her skills outside of her hometown. So, she hit the road for the west coast. She survived, she says, on two tacos a day. And she hustled. Eventually she found source of income. She put together a 12-month calendar of herself looking pretty and got it in the hands of customers through a deft telemarking plan. Money followed. Now, capable of financially investing in herself, Moye began to let her creative passions loose into the world.
A year ago, in 2019, Moye released her most recent record, Bad as I Wanna Be. The album skyrocketed up the charts hit number-one on the Billboard Blues list for two straight weeks. When the record got to the top, Moye says she remembered the nights long before, sitting at home on her porch with her grandmother, telling her, “One day I’m going to make it!”
“I look at it now so deeply,” Moye says, choking up from the memory. “When I’m gone, they can look at Billboard and be able to see on that date that album went number-one. That belongs to Malina Moye.”
This year, Moye has continued her success. Her single, “Enough,” recently experienced a viral resurgence after Moye launched the social media campaign #IAMENOUGH, which was meant to highlight the fact that goals are important but they don’t define a person; aspirations are important but you are enough. Moye posted a picture of herself with the track, passed it along to some (famous) friends and when she woke up the next morning, her reach had far surpassed her initial thoughts for the message.
“When you’re real, I guess that’s what happens,” Moye says. “The idea is meant to celebrate who you are right now. Not who you want to be – who you are – and to be appreciative of every moment you have.”
The tantalizing track was also inspired by a lack of representation in the music world. Black women who play guitar haven’t historically received a lot of attention in the past from mainstream media bespite the fact that rock ‘n’ roll, in many ways, was invented by a Black woman, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Without representation, Moye says, young people have little to no examples of how to live or progress in the world. So, Moye, who has spent time collaborating with artists like Prince, wants to help change that when it comes to Black women and the six-string. And she does it with her own particular flare.
“I will absolutely wear tiny shorts with fishnets and wear red lipstick,” Moye says. “There’s a new generation of players and we can be sexy. We have a woman as Vice President finally! Be yourself!”
Moye, who doesn’t lack for drive or confidence, is able to push forward, gain support and give it back, because of her abilities as a musician and songwriter. Music is the key and music is often the through line that holds her together amidst her many efforts and achievements. For Moye, who is already working on new music and a new documentary named after her chart-topping record, music has given her the chance to thrive and flourish in ways she might never have thought possible.
“If you take away someone’s hope, you take away everything,” Moye says. “Music gives me hope. It has taken me all over the world. I feel like I’m just getting started. The world is finally opening up.”
If you dig Malina, swing over to her online story and consider a purchase.