Zandy Mowry: Music as a Universal Language

Photo by Isaiah Beiser

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Special Edition Summer 2021 – “I Belong: Highlighting Women and Non-Binary Rockstars of Color”

Read the entire issue HERE.

Zandy Mowry has not always known that she wanted to be the guitarist that she is today. Growing up, the Nashville native went through many ideas of what she wanted to do with her life—from interior designer to lawyer. Now, she is the guitarist in a band that she started a decade ago with her best friend, Jasmine, called the New Respects.

In her interview, she talks about how she got into guitar, her musical influences, and starting the New Respects. In addition, she discusses the need for diversity in the industry, using music to bridge the gap between different cultures, and what it takes to be a killer artist in today’s music scene.

Tell us your name, where you are from, and what you always wanted to be when you were growing up. 

My name is Zandy Mowry, and I’m from Nashville, Tennessee. Growing up, I wanted to be so many things. I wanted to play in the WNBA; I wanted to be “the next Missy Elliott”; I wanted to be an interior designer, a counselor, or a lawyer. Now, I’m a full-time guitarist.

How long have you been playing guitar, and what got you into playing? 

I have been playing guitar for 11 years now!! My twin sister and I used to want to be like “Aly & AJ,” so one year my parents got both of us our first acoustic guitar as a Christmas gift, and I’ve never looked back.

Photo by Isaiah Beiser

What does music mean to you? And, how (if at all) do you think music helps to bridge the gap between people around the world? 

Music means so much to me. It gives me a whole other means of communication when words fail. It is truly a universal language. I watched it happen in 2018 when we were playing in Colombia. For all of our interviews, we needed a translator because we didn’t speak Spanish, but the moment we started playing songs, it was as if we all spoke the same language. Music dismisses our differences and gives us common ground to stand or dance on. Music is so open and inviting that anyone who’s listening may feel a connection or be enticed to love. 

Let’s shift gears to the New Respects. How did the band form, and how would you describe your sound? 

My best friend, Jasmine, and I started the band back in high school, and we have put our blood, sweat, and tears into it over the last 10 years. We found the best way to describe our sound is “pop-soul / rock and roll.” It’s a blend of it all that we love and is always evolving. 

What are some qualities that you believe young women need to have as they enter into the music industry? 

An important quality I believe young women need to have as they enter into the music industry is a sense of identity! Know who you are and never forget it. 

How important do you think diversity and inclusion inside the music industry are? 

Diversity and inclusion inside the music industry are very important! There would be no music industry without the very diverse people who contributed to making it what it is today. People of color, specifically Black women, have paved the way for many genres, artists, and guitar players that we know and love. 

Photo by Isaiah Beiser

Let’s talk about your 2017 breakout EP, Here Comes Trouble. What was your favorite part of making that EP, and how would you say your fan base received it? 

Wow! That album process was a whirlwind. I think we had two weeks to record that entire project because we were in between tours, so everything had to be done fast. We still work with the same team who helped us with that album to this day. We call ourselves the “LIT FAM SQUAD”! I’m thankful to be blessed enough to make music with people who listen to our vision and then make it better than we thought it could be. Our song “Trouble” was on that EP, and it’s still our most-streamed song yet. We couldn’t have asked for a better response from fans. 

What do you want the listeners to take away from listening to the New Respects? 

When the listeners hear the New Respects album, I want them to feel joy, a sense of belonging, hope, and their best dance moves!! We put a lot of prayer, laughs, time, and joy into the music so that each song is packed full of it when it gets to the listeners’ ears. 

Who are some of your guitar influences? 

Some big influences of mine would be John Mayer, Nile Rodgers, and Brittany Howard. I wasn’t exposed to a lot of the great Black female musicians until much later, but I also love Elizabeth Cotten, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Memphis Minnie. I remember I was on tour and walked into a library because I had time to kill before our soundcheck. I chose a random book about guitar players and started flipping and saw “Memphis Minnie” a few pages in and was mesmerized. I saw someone who looked like me doing what I love, and it made me feel that if she belonged, so did I. 

What is your go-to guitar that you currently play, and the rig setup to go with that? 

My go-to for electric guitars is my Strat from Elliott Guitars; I play it every single show. It’s a one-stop shop for all I need a guitar to be, and it’s a beautiful instrument. I feel very fortunate to have one of their guitars. I play on an amp called the JT-14 from Tyler Amps, which is amazing, and, of course, I have a whole lot of toys on my pedalboard. My three favorite pedals on my board are the Julia from Walrus Audio, which is a chorus/vibrato; the Flint by Strymon; and the Protein by Browne Amplification. The Protein is an overdrive pedal that has a low gain and high gain that you can stack for a really huge dirty yet warm drive. It’s awesome!

What are a few qualities that you believe all artists must have as they enter into the industry? 

I believe any artist entering into the industry should have a passion for what they do. You need a reason to stay when it gets difficult. You need joy, community, and a good work ethic. Be kind to everyone and trust the process. What is meant to be will be. 

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Gabriella “Guitar Gabby” Logan is an Atlanta Native and proud graduate of Spelman College and Vermont Law School. Her background in environmental and music law fueled her desire to start and manage the international all-women touring collective, TxLips Band, LLC. Logan believes it is important for artists to be well rounded and versed in many areas of the music business, thus inspiring women worldwide to be an unstoppable force. She is the Diversity Editor for Guitar Girl Magazine and the Board Chair for Girls Rock Asheville.