On Creative Rituals And Self-Care: Experimental Harpist Jess Garland

As we prepare for BABES FEST 2019, we’re sharing interviews with some of the creatives on our lineup. Today, we’re featuring words from experimental harpist Jess Garland. You can catch Jess performing on Day Two of the fest during our music showcase at The North Door.


Photo by Ash Gongora

Photo by Ash Gongora

who: Jess Garland

Jess Garland is a Dallas based singer/songwriter, recording and performing artist. She is a multi-instrumentalist, using a combination of harp and guitar loops evoking elements of ambient folk and celestial tones. Jess most recently received a grant from The Nasher Sculpture Center to record her single "Live Again" and create a music video on Fair Park grounds. The setting for the music video will be at the Women's Building focusing on The Spirt of Centennial sculpture.  Jess most recently performed in Austin on July 5th for New Media Art and Sound Summit sponsored by Church of The Friendly Ghost. Jess received a grant from the City of Dallas' Office of Cultural Affairs for her performance "Take Me Oya" in April 2019 for Dallas Arts Month at South Dallas Cultural Center.  Jess also received a grant for Aurora’s 2018 Future Worlds theme for her performance "Resurrecting Gaia" in October 2018 at Kettle Art Gallery.  "Resurrecting Gaia" was featured in New York’s Vulture Magazine and also listed as a top pick of events to see by KERA’s Art and Seek and D Magazine.  In July 2018, Jess opened for The Academy member, Gingger Shankar for Fortress Fest Presents Modern Music Series at The Modern Museum of Ft. Worth. Jess is also an educator and has a non-profit free music education program, Swan Strings that has been recently featured in Advocate Magazine and D Magazine.


How does the idea of relational needs and human interaction fit into your practice or way of life in general? Do you feel invigorated by working with others in a collaborative way?

I think that creation is at its best while working with others because that is the way that the universe works. However, I have worked with many artists and musicians over the years who were repeatedly not dependable or unprofessional.  So, collaborating with other musicians inspired me to focus on my craft as a solo artist and multi-instrumentalist and to start using looping effects.  

What excites you about performing in a festival that celebrates and amplifies women and nonbinary artists so intentionally like BABES FEST?

I am excited about performing at BABES FEST to share my music because it is a practice in self-love and healing. My songs are stories that everyone can resonate with and we all need some relaxation. I play harp to heal myself and hope that it can heal and inspire others.

What is your ideal gathering for a meeting of minds? (And it doesn’t necessarily need to be rooted in reality.)

A perfect roundtable meeting would be about how healthcare insurance covers music and arts as medicine.  I would invite Beyonce', Michelle Obama, Janelle Monae' and Erykah Badu.

What propels you to live in and make work in Texas?

I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas.  All of my education, including undergraduate studies was in Dallas. I went to Southern Methodist University and studied Political Science and Psychology.

In your recent work “Resurrecting Gaia” in collaboration with James Talambas, you demonstrate throughout the performance the cyclical nature of relationships and a series of rituals for self-care and healing that move a person through such cycles. What are some of your creative/self-care rituals?

I practice many rituals for self-care but here are my top five below:

  1. Chanting feels great for the soul and is a natural healer from using your voice to create a vibration for good energy flow.

  2. Being in nature, I love going to the lake. It is grounding and cleansing.

  3. Reading a book. There is magic in reading as it is a source for inspiration. 

  4. I love wearing my favorite color, yellow.

  5. Buying myself sunflowers; they are my favorite.

MUSICIANS + SONGS I FIND INSPIRING:

  1. Journey in Satchidananda (feat. Pharoah Sanders) - Alice Coltrane

  2. Come Live With Me - Dorothy Ashby

  3. Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar) - Flying Lotus

  4. Come Meh Way - Sudan Archives

  5. Shades of Blue - Kelsey Lu

  6. Borderline (An Ode to Self Care) [feat. Q-Tip] - Solange

  7. River - Ibeyi

  8. Change of the Guard - Kamasi Washington

  9. Mansa Musa (feat. Dr. Dre & Cocoa Sarai) - Anderson .Paak

  10. The Turn Down (feat. Pharrell) (Chopnotslop Remix) - Thundercat, OG Ron C & DJ Candlestick


BABES FEST is an ~ annual convening of minds ~ in Austin, Texas, celebrating and amplifying women and nonbinary artists. As a weekend-long exhibition, our performances, panels, pop-up markets, film screenings and networking hours span music, film, art, creative education and comedy. Our daily schedule, 3-day passes and one-day passes for BABES FEST 2019 are available now.

~ everybody’s welcome. ~

Jane Claire Hervey