Nine-time Austin Music Award winner Gina Chavez recently returned from a 14-country tour and has been hard at work creating more and more of her passionate, bilingual, Latin fusion Americana tunes. After taking a break from a life of travel, Chavez decided to let go of all boundaries and let her heart and mind speak through her songwriting.
A musical journey of twelve years in love and a celebration of marrying her now wife, Chavez’s new EP Lightbeam was released on September 14, followed by a release party and benefit concert at Antone’s in downtown Austin. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Chavez about her experience crafting this EP, her evening at Antone’s, and what music means to her personally.
To begin, can you share your story? How and when did you get into music?
Gina: Gosh, that goes way back. I’ve always played music, I’ve always sung. Ever since I was a kid I loved to sing. I was in choir in middle school and high school and I guess the long story short is that I picked up a guitar in college and it came pretty naturally to me to start writing my own songs. From there, doors started opening, and it felt like the world telling me to go that way.
If you met someone who wasn’t familiar with your music, how would you describe it? What’s your own, unique sound?
Gina: That’s a tough one for me. I usually say something along the lines of, we play anything from an indie songwriter to a Latin dance band. I feel like my music is, if Americana really means music of the Americas, then that would be my music – the idea that it incorporates all of the Americas, so it’s in English and Spanish, and we use instruments from all over the entire continent. It’s a true fusion music, a blending of cultures, and that’s where I personally come from too, myself being a blend of Swiss-German with Mexican roots, fully Texan, and having had the chance to travel the world. I feel like my music represents all of that.
So you just had your release party for your new EP, Lightbeam. Can you tell me about what inspired this EP?
Gina: There’s two things. I took some time to write, and the past few years I’ve done a lot of work with the U.S. State Department and been all over the world with my music. I also wanted some time off from a lot of shows, so I took a little bit of time to write and dive into the craft of songwriting. On some level, that was literally the purpose. I wasn’t trying to write any particular music. I was just writing. So there was that piece, and then I think what kind of bubbled up and what was cool was that it ended up turning into an album about my relationship with my wife.
We’ve been together for about 12 years, but we got married last September. I think what started to bubble up while I was writing this album was essentially these love songs. It was fun to write without intention. I wasn’t trying to write a specific type of music or a love record, but that’s kind of what came out. I think it’s really beautiful how when we give ourselves some time to reflect and be thoughtful, that you can figure out what your heart is working on. Our country has a lot of work to do, but I feel very fortunate to live right now, and I feel very fortunate that my Catholic wife and I can get married in Texas. That kind of ends up being what a lot of the themes this record is dealing with – faith, faithfulness, love, being your best self, and being who you are and not hiding. In a lot of ways, that’s our story too. It’s time to stop hiding. It’s time to shout this love from the rooftops and not have to worry about what people will think.
Relating to that, what do you hope people take away from your music and your EP when they listen to it?
Gina: I love the sound of it. I think one piece that was kind of surprising to me is the R&B sound. I don’t know that I would call it an R&B record, it’s not fully there. Again, I think most of my music is fusion. On a basic level, I hope people enjoy the sound of it. On another level, a beautiful thing about being an artist and about creating is that you create something with one intention, and when you put it out into the world you’re letting it have its own life, depending on who’s interacting and who’s engaging with that art. I basically want people to enjoy it and get what they want out of it. If there’s any intention that I would like to put out there, it would be to be yourself, to love who you are now.
And how was your release party? What was your favorite part about that evening?
Gina: Oh, it was awesome. The release party was also a benefit concert for Young Women in El Salvador, it’s a college fund that my wife and I started. So we kind of coupled those two things together. One of the things I love about those shows is that over the past seven years we’ve developed a following for that particular show. It’s one of the most intimate crowds we have because they’ve come along this really cool journey with us, and many of those people followed our journey through El Salvador which was eight years ago.
It was an amazing night. We had some other acts on the bill, we got to share our new music, and we got to celebrate our first four graduates of this college fund. I even did a tribute that I had sung at my wedding for my wife, it was a Hamilton tribute. I wouldn’t do that at every show, but I feel like it was that kind of that particular audience because they know who we are, so I could share that intimate moment. It was a bit of a mixed bag, but in the best way.
Another piece that we did was a little bit of a tribute to some of the places that we’ve been when we traveled the world. We sung this melody of music from Kurdistan, Jordan and Uzbekistan, in those native languages. People really liked that, and again, was something that I don’t necessarily do it at all of my shows. We definitely tried to make it a really special night, and I was just thinking about it today that the only thing I wish about those concerts is that they could lasted longer. I like the idea that we could soak everything in because everything goes by so quickly. I feel really grateful for our community and for everything they’ve allowed us to do and be.
Thinking about your music now compared to back when you started, what would you say has been the biggest change for you? What areas have been the biggest area of growth for you?
Gina: I was listening to some of my first songs that I ever put out not too long ago, and I was like, “Wow, I’ve come a long way.” So much growth, so much road. It’s something I’m really thinking about these days. Again, just accepting who you are and where you are. I feel like I’m almost coming full circle, in the sense of when I was a young songwriter and barely had picked up guitar and kind of didn’t know what I was doing. There was a lot of freedom about that, and now that I have some awards under my belt and a bit of a name, there’s pressures that come with that. I think I’m just now getting back to the place where I realized, “You know what? Those things don’t matter.” Follow your bliss, and try not to worry about those kinds of pressures. The thing that people love about you is you. When you try to mold that and make it perfect, it stops being authentic. When I listen to older music, I listen to it and one part of me kind of cringes, and the other part of me is really proud of myself. We were putting it out there at that moment in time for what it was and realizing “Wow, that was actually a really great thing.” I need to learn from that version of myself. Maybe ignorance is bliss. Maybe it was fearlessness. Maybe those are the same thing. I’ve definitely grown a lot in the industry, working smarter not harder. I do still think I have a lot to learn in the ways of really listening to my own creative voice and not editing it.
What’s next for you in your musical journey? What you’re looking forward to most?
Gina: I think one thing I’m looking forward to putting out music more often. This is my first album in four years, and that’s way too long. The music industry has kind of come full circle in the sense that the single is back. So I’m just really excited about putting out content regularly. I’ve also discovered that a Gina in motion, stays in motion, meaning that I have a tendency to make things perfect before I really I put them out there. I’m really seeing the value these days in just moving. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got. It’s mostly about engagement. Our world needs a lot of positive messaging right now. I think that’s one thing I’m really excited about, having ideas and moving on instead of having ideas and sitting on them forever until they stopped being ideas. I have a booking agent now, so we’re actually getting out to all quarters of the U.S. After having traveled to some far flung places in the world, I’m really excited to get out to get out to the U.S. and explore this country even more than I have. So that’s very exciting.
For more information on Gina Chavez, her whereabouts throughout the country, and to listen to her new EP, visit https://www.ginachavez.com.
Featured image courtesy of Gina Chavez