Often an artist discovers music before they find nearly anything else, but sometimes music finds them. That was the case for award-winning singer-songwriter Gina Chavez. After attending a Toni Price concert at the age of 19, she discovered that making music was what she was meant to do herself; call it Price’s voice or simply destiny finally revealing herself, but Chavez’s life hasn’t been the same since. Now she’s back with her recently released sophomore album Up.Rooted, which sees Chavez marrying pop with Latin folk. This delve deeper into her eclectic roots is garnering her widespread critical acclaim.
Chavez took a moment out of her tour to chat with me about finding a new musical path in Argentina, embracing her lovely gifts, and connecting people through music. Don’t miss your chance to check her out today. (Click ‘Showtime’ above for details). Chaka V.
TWM: Being a musician wasn’t an early aspiration for you. What did you want to be as a child? And what do you believe it was about that Toni Price concert that inspired you to become a musician?
GC: You’re right in that being a musician wasn’t an early aspiration for me, but if I’m honest, it was a hidden dream that I didn’t allow myself to embrace. The furthest I got was thinking I’d be a backup singer, or sing jingles on the radio, but never a band leader. That’s why Toni’s performance at the Continental Club that December was so important. Not only was I captivated by her voice and stage presence, but it was the first time I’d seen a woman fronting a band with a packed house there just to see her perform. Something in me said, “I can do that.” But I didn’t want to have to wait for someone to accompany me, so I picked up the guitar that night.
TWM: You’ve just released your sophomore album, Up.Rooted, and in it you explore your Latin roots more than you did on your debut. What inspired you to take this route on the new album?
GC: I’ve lived in Austin all my life. As a college junior in 2004, I took my first solo flight across the U.S. border for a semester abroad in Argentina. The sights and sounds that filled my senses during those four months became the seeds to a new musical journey. Hearing the Chacarera — a folkloric six-count rhythm from the Northern Province of Argentina — and the way the crowd responded with synchronized clapping just did something to me. That rhythm still moves my soul, as do many rhythms from Latin America, and it’s those beats that have brought down the walls separating me from my Latin roots. Music is my vessel and Up.Rooted is the soundtrack to my journey.
TWM: Exploring our roots can be exciting and definitely rewarding journey, but it can also be an emotional experience. Did this album change you in anyway? Or reveal sides of you that you may have never explored before?
GC: Well said. Creating Up.Rooted and putting my all into a music career has been a very blessed, but also bumpy ride. The hardest part for me is accepting that I’ve been given a gift and that it’s not only okay, but necessary, to share that gift. I am very aware of how privileged I am, and how rare that is in this world. It’s a daily battle for me to embrace that gift of love; to allow myself to be loved that I might share what I’ve been given with those who are not so fortunate. I long to be a voice for those who struggle and a bridge for people of all backgrounds to come together.
TWM: What is the most exciting part of music for you? Writing, recording, or performing?
GC: Performing and recording are right up there, but performing may take the cake. I love working in the studio and feel right at home behind the mic, but performing is invigorating. I’m my best self when I’m on stage because there’s no time for second-guessing, no space for fear. Writing is the hardest part for me because there is no audience, no one to keep me on my toes; just me and my guitar, hacking through weeds of words and endless melodies.
TWM: What is the worst gig you’ve played so far in your career?
GC: Haha, I’m pretty fortunate that even my “worst” gigs really aren’t that bad. It’s mainly if I’m feeling “off” and can’t fully give myself to the audience, but there are a couple that come to mind. I was invited to sing for a private audience at a beautiful theatre in downtown Austin. I would only sing three songs, so when I lost my voice a week before, I thought surely I’d be better by show time. I was pretty freaked when I woke up and could barely speak, much less sing. I couldn’t back out, so I dropped the key of each song two or three whole steps and rasped my way through with a throat lozenge tucked in my cheek.
TWM: Tell me about your dream gig or the best show experience you’ve had thus far?
GC: I cannot wait for the day we play Red Rocks in Denver! I’ve never seen a concert there, but I’ve been to the amphitheater, and can just image what it must feel like to play to a crowded audience nestled in the ancient rock formations underneath a star-filled sky. My other dream gigs involve travel outside of the States. One of the most moving experiences I’ve had to date was playing at a community center in rural El Salvador; a place that had been hit hard by the civil war in the 80s. The audience (ages 5 to 75) had been extremely quiet the whole show and I was worried we weren’t connecting with them. But when we asked them to join us on “Todo Cambia” — a Latin American anthem of hope and change — their voices blasted us with so much sound that I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
TWM: Any hints for fans—and newcomers—about what vibe we can expect from your upcoming NXNE show?
GC: Bienvenidos! Get ready for a lyrical and sonic journey through Texas, Central America, Argentina and back. At every show I aim to move hearts and hips, and all are welcome. Nos vemos en Toronto!