By Lisa Lynn Morgan
She was told that she was too old to make her mark in the music industry, and that her songs were too sad. She pushed forward. She built her projects and watched them fall apart more than once. She persevered. Writing original songs and performing in English and Spanish, she carried the torch for her roots and the underrepresented Chicano music genre in the desert she was born and raised in. Today, after over a decade of perseverance and intention, local artist, Giselle Woo, is blooming. She and her band, The Night Owls, performed both weekends of this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival to flooded Sonora tent, and she’ll be coming to Joshua Tree this month.
Photo courtesy of Coachella, Pooneh Ghana
Following her first spectacular performance at the world-renowned Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Joshua Tree Voice caught up with the busy front woman for Giselle Woo and the Night Owls. As we reminisced about our first conversation and resulting article back in 2012, it became clear that while it may seem like only yesterday, the climb to Coachella was a steep one for this musician, with many detours and a few cuts and bruises along the way.
The first words out of her mouth were about her support system. “I would never be able to do this without the ones who raised me, loved me, encouraged me, who gave me a home and fed me when I didn’t have money.” She adores her family, each member, highly gifted, with talents of their own, who have graciously supported her career.
Asked if, during the most difficult times, she felt she had the option of just laying down her guitar and walking away from music, her answer was firm: “I don’t think I ever had that option. When you feel a calling this strong, it’s for a reason. I grew up believing that life is a spiritual journey, that we were all created equal, perfect, and God-like, with God-given talents. I may not have felt this as strongly in my teen years, but by my mid-20s, I began to find my way, to eventually understand it, and find meaning. It got easier after that. My mom always says, ‘Si no lo hago yo, nadie lo hace.’ If I don’t do it, nobody does it. If not me then who. Am I going to step up to the plate, or be complacent? Am I going to build that bridge for other people? Fuck yeah!”
Woo describes the past decade as an era of “maturity and growth, along with some growing pains… Along the way, you learn that you have to let some things and some people go. Not everybody wants to roll with you. Look – people who are your enemies will try and stand in your way; you can see that coming. But sometimes, even the ones close to you can discourage you or hurt you, whether they mean to or not. You don’t ever see that coming. No matter what, you have to stay focused in your passion. Believe the ones who love you and who’ve stood by you as you grow. Believe in your calling. Surround yourself with the right people.”
Woo would be the first to acknowledge, that when it comes to her band, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. She surrounds herself with some of the desert’s most passionate and skilled artists: Christian Colin (lead guitar), Marco Murrieta (bass), Jose Ceja (drums), and Janine Rivera (vocals, percussion). The tribe hunkered down for months to be ready for Coachella, and their performance solidified their worthiness to play the big stages. When asked what it felt like, she answered as she admittedly got chills, “This feels like the last piece of the puzzle. It was a deep feeling of satisfaction – like a door opened. It felt like home because this is my home. I was born here. I can sing about Coachella because I know what I’m talking about! We know what we have here, and we know we’ve struck gold – ‘Coachella Gold.’ It just feels right – like we belong.”
This may be the last piece of this particular puzzle for Woo and her transcendent troupe of musicians, but rest assured, it will not be the last of their upward spiral.
Woo will be performing at the Joshua Tree Music Festival. It will bring her full circle to her organic beginnings – just a girl, her guitar, and a heart full of songs.
Photo by: Chris Miller
Check out the award-winning Giselle Woo and the Night Owls’ album, Everything, on all streaming services, and follow them at gisellewooandthenightowls.com. Be one of those who can say, “I knew them when…”