Graciela “GeeXella” Cain wears many hats: co-organizer of Jacksonville’s Girls Rock chapter, celebrated local MC, exuberant advocate for LGBTQ youth, and one of the integral pieces connecting Northeast Florida’s many up-and-coming female acts. Describing herself as a “bleeding heart, rainbow-fueled passionate nightingale,” GeeXella is the definition of ebullience, giddily recalling her artistic ascent under the wing of hip-hop heavies Paten Locke and Willie Evans Jr., simultaneously speaking up for the importance of intersectional feminism and using art as a platform to directly affect culture.
Folio Weekly and the LaVilla School of the Arts and Douglas Anderson alum spoke before her June 24 performance at The Hourglass Pub’s No Genre Showcase, GeeXella’s last local show until Girls Rock Jacksonville holds its July 24-28 camp at Unitarian Universalist Church.
Folio Weekly: Give us a little of your background, GeeXella.
GeeXella: I’ve been playing music since 2012, first with some groups and then, in the last three years, more solo. I do mostly R&B and hip-hop with my producer and DJ, Willie Evans Jr., but I’m also a huge fan of Avril Lavigne and Fefe Dobson, so playing shows in Jacksonville with indie bands has been really fun. Getting the chance to be super-emo is dreamy for me. Lately, Willie has been doing a lot of processing and echoes for me, which I want to get more into. He’s my homie, so he taps into everything I want to do—he knows exactly what my mood board is and the exact kinds of sounds I want.
A Tribe Called Quest is my favorite hip-hop group—I have them tattooed on my arm—so the echoes, cuts and skits are what I’m moving toward.
You also mix in bachata, a form of Dominican dance music, right?
Yeah! I’m half-black and half-Mexican, so whenever you see me live, I’m always dancing and jumping all over the place. I’ve always been like that, ever since I was a kid—my mom is one of nine kids, so any time we have a family reunion, it’s a huge dance party. Even if you don’t want to dance, you’re going to dance. One of my tias will be, like, “Don’t sit down—it’s time to dance!”
Other than Willie, what local artists have you collaborated with or been inspired by?
Paten Locke is the reason why I started music. In high school, he was teaching me how to DJ, and I wanted to learn how to sound engineer, but he was, like, “You’re an artist—that’s what you need to do.” When Paten tells you to do something, you do it. Cheech Forreign helped me co-write—she’s an amazing lyricist, and everything she stands for is beautiful, hands down. Tough Junkie is real sick, too, along with TOMBOI and LANNDS. The women in those two bands have taught me so much, and they also appeared on my EP, Gee Things.
Do you have plans for more recorded material in the near future?
I’ve been busy preparing for the July Girls Rock camp. Willie just finished up all the beats for a new album, and we’re going to start writing and recording after I go to Los Angeles to do a couple of shows and volunteer with a Girls Rock organization out there. Then we can hopefully do an East Coast run by the end of the year.
How did you get involved with Girls Rock?
Three years ago, I got in a gnarly accident—I was hit by a semi-truck and my car flipped three times. Nothing happened to me, though, which inspired me to write my first song. Shortly after that, I did my first season of Girls Rock camp, and seeing all those girls and non-gender-conforming youth being proud of who they are without holding back was awesome. They’re breaking through so many social and emotional boundaries, even coming from troubled economic backgrounds. To overcome that, learn how to play their instruments, and write songs with people they don’t even know is inspiring. Most people think it’s me inspiring them, but it’s the other way around. They cheer for me and tell me they want to be like me and I’m, like, “Be right back, I’m just gonna go cry right now.” It’s a beautiful thing that has helped to motivate me.
How have you seen the broader Jacksonville scene develop over the last few years?
Recently, I’ve been doing a lot more collaborations with other artists. Last month I did a show called Queens of the Night with an all-female lineup, and it was super-successful. That whole DIY collective thing with bands and artists coming together … all that does is spark creativity. I’m always helping out my artist friends with skill share, because that’s how I got put on to everything. And there’s no reason I should keep those tips locked away.